Near the end of the school year, our Pre-K classroom became the foster home for Cooper, a therapy dog in training. We made it official and Heights Cooperative Preschool has adopted Cooper, and she will have a very important job on our team when school starts in September.
Cooper came to us from the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter, where she was taken after being found abandoned in a park with her siblings. Unfortunately, none of her brothers and sisters survived, and Cooper was in need of a lot of cuddles, love, and compassion. Our PreK students were more than happy to deliver an extra large dose of puppy love!
Similar to a service dog, Cooper is working in our school. But she’s also here to be our friend! While a service dog is trained to support an individual person, Cooper is here to help all of us feel better at school.
Cooper is still in the process of her therapy dog certification program, and two of our students have volunteered to train with her so that they know her commands and have a strong bond. They are our Cooper Captains and will help the other students learn how to best interact with Cooper.
We’ll be keeping things safe and clean in the classroom – Cooper gets regular breaks to potty outside and we wipe her paws so that she does not bring dirt inside. We also practice hand-washing if Cooper happens to give kisses while she’s still in training.
Benefits of Therapy Dogs in the Classroom
Therapy dogs provide support for students’ growing social and emotional skills. She has already been helping our students feel more confident, motivated, and relaxed!
In addition to social and emotional benefits, therapy dogs have been shown to have a positive impact on attendance rates. Research indicates that students who have regular interactions with therapy dogs are more likely to attend school regularly. This could be attributed to the fact that these furry friends provide a sense of comfort and security, making students feel safe and motivated to come to school.
Therapy dogs can also improve executive functioning skills. Tasks like planning, organizing, and prioritizing may become easier as students engage with these animals. The presence of therapy dogs has been found to enhance cognitive abilities and increase attention span in students of all ages from elementary school to college!
Additionally, reading skills can greatly benefit from the presence of therapy dogs. Many schools have implemented programs where students read aloud to these non-judgmental and attentive companions. This practice not only helps build confidence in struggling readers but also creates a positive association with reading.
Lastly, problem-solving skills tend to improve when students interact with therapy dogs. These animals offer unconditional love and support, providing a safe space for students to work through challenges they may be facing, like big changes at home or moving up to a new grade in school.