The very sight of a dog sitting in a classroom can add a sense of security and warmth to children.
“It is something about the dog which reminds the children of a family environment, a child will connect to a dog and the relationship provides huge emotional benefits,” Grant Shannon said.
Mr Shannon runs the The Dogs Connect program which involves introducing a dog as a permanent member of the school’s learning community to meet the specific needs of the students and staff .
“The needs which we address have a strong emotional and social basis,” he said.
“This could be anything from a child feeling sad and anxious, to not wanting to go to school. A child can also experience hyperactivity, tantrums or being easily distracted.”
A former teacher, Mr Shannon said he became passionate about how dogs can make such a difference in classrooms through research and experience.
“Program data shows a significant decrease in anxiety and stress, and improvement in school attendance,” Mr Shannon said.
“Other results indicate an increase in engagement, attentiveness towards teachers, and a general calming effect for students and staff.”
Mr Grant currently works with Sonny, a labradoodle who he takes around to schools to demonstrate the effectiveness of having a dog as part of a learning program.
As an example of how this can work, Mr Shannon will prepare a small group of children to train or instruct their dog.
In order to do this they have to emotionally and socially connect not only with the dog, but with each other.
It takes some two terms to integrate a dog into a school program.
There are five schools using the Dogs Connect program, and enrolments are open for 2019.