Commencing high school can be a nervous time for students. At Coodanup College we have adopted a therapy dog program providing social and emotional support to students. Justus and Charlie are ‘Educational Support Dogs’ and have both been fully trained and accredited through Assistance Dogs Australia.
Research has shown therapy dogs can reduce stress in physiological ways by reducing the stress chemical cortisol in the brain and triggering the release of oxytocin, which plays a positive role in social bonding (trust in humans). Research also suggests using therapy dogs to reduce the effects of traumatic events including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. This phenomenon, known as the ‘Human-Animal Bond’, describes a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals.
The presence of our Educational Support Dogs can also be linked to:
- Improvements in school attendance
- Increase in student confidence
- Increase in student motivation
- Increase in student participation
- A sense of connection in difficult situations
- Increase in pro-social skills
- Teaching empathy, understanding & commitment.
Perhaps most importantly, Justus and Charlie help to teach our students mindfulness. Charlie & Justus have the ability to listen to our students without judgement. They help them to focus on the moment (mindfulness). Perhaps one of the greatest psychological benefits of interacting with a dog is the opportunity it provides for this mindfulness and to focus attention on the present moment.
Justus and Charlie’s Facebook page: “Justus & Charlie the Education Support Dogs”
Charlie came to us in 2014 at 8 weeks of age and a school community involvement saw him complete his puppy training here at Coodanup College. He then travelled to the National Training Centre in Sydney where ADA (Assistance Dogs Australia) fine-tuned his skills to return to us a fully trained Educational Support Dog.
One of Charlie’s most important roles is that of providing emotional comfort to students. High School can be a hard place to be when you’re having a tough day emotionally. The benefits Charlie provides is a circuit breaker to feelings at a particular moment that can change the day for the better, or provide some relief from stress. Students interact very positively with Charlie and this enhances mood and behaviour rather than detracting from it.
Justus has the best job in the world! Imagine waking up each day with a spring in your step, eager to start work. Justus looks forward to his job at Coodanup College, but first breakfast! Once he has arrived at the college the magic starts!
Justus’ role at Coodanup College is to work as an Educational Support Dog in the Year 7 CLAN classroom. He provides academic, social and emotional support. Justus assists the teachers to engage and implement various literacy and numeracy activities for the students.