Tuesday 12th April, 2022
Author:   Bianca Bassett

“The dog ate my homework” could be an easy out for any of the students at Buchan Primary School, but the newest four-legged student Marley the therapy dog, has been a much loved and welcomed addition to the school.
Following the 2019/2020 Black Summer Fires it was identified the students at Buchan Primary School may benefit from having a therapy dog. Marley, a very cute and fluffy Cavoodle joined the students at earlier this year.
It has been suggested that communication between dogs and people is easier than communication with other people. This is because dogs, unlike people, communicate through body language alone and not a unique and often confusing mix of verbal, subtle facial and body cues and underlying social rules. Dogs also have the unique ability to provide immediate feedback regarding a person’s mood, behaviour, and method of communication.
Because of the many positive effects that dogs can have, they are being incorporated into schools all over the world. Many people ask, “What does the dog actually do?” which can be a tricky question to answer, as this is different depending on the dog’s abilities, the handlers’ abilities, and of course, the working environment, in this case a classroom. Students at Buchan Primary School have reported Marley has helped with making them feel happy when they are sad, she cheers calms them when the students may be feeling anxious, as well as helping them feel less stressed overall. It was evident to the Connect Well team on a recent visit to the school that Marley, is having a positive impact on the mental health of the students. During the day Marley roams the classroom, spending time with the students, and gets lots of pats and cuddles. The students noted they love the ‘kangaroo hop’ she does when she’s excited to see them.
Studies have shown therapy dogs improve the learning capacity for children. By focusing on the dog it helps the students to relax, they increase motivation to participate and builds confidence. Research has also found the presence of a therapy dog improves student attendance. It gives them something to look forward to and teaches them the responsibility of caring for an animal.
The Connect Well team appreciated the time Buchan Students and teachers took to share their experiences with Marley, it was an encouraging to see the joy she brings to the school community.