‘The dogs take 18 months to train, and are chosen for their temperament from her puppy training classes. They are either “visiting dogs”, owned by individuals willing to visit schools regularly, “attending dogs”, owned by teaching staff, or “educational dogs”, taken into schools to help teach specific skills, such as literacy. They include Winston, a West Highland terrier working in Yeo Valley and owned by head Jan Reid; Teazel, a talented “labradoodle” (labrador/poodle cross) working at Southmead School in Braunton; and Dexter, a “shoodle” (Shih Tzu/poodle cross), who works in Pathfields Special School near Barnstaple.
Tracey has worked in nearly 50 schools, and with library reading groups, but started the charity after being invited by a teenage behavioural unit to take her own dog, a lurcher cross called Princess Laya, to work with violent adolescents. “Spending time with Laya improved self-esteem and confidence, which had a remarkable effect on behaviour. It inspired me to continue, even though people thought I was loony when I talked about taking dogs into schools in the Nineties.”’
So why do kids benefit more from reading to a dog then reading to a person? Simple: dog don’t judge. They don’t correct mistakes, don’t tell you off and don’t care if you have dirt on your face. For any kid struggling with learning this must be a wonderful change from the usual.
I say, let’s have more dogs in schools.