Fact: dogs are amazing. They guide the blind, they outperform Oscar winners, they sniff out drugs. The last of these talents might be an added bonus in some schools, but it’s the soft skills I want to focus on.
Anyone who’s been forced to sit through painful lesson feedback will vouch for the fact that our four-legged friends often have better people skills than their Homo sapien masters. Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READs), non-judgemental reading partners who will sit enthralled no matter how monotone or mistake-ridden the storyteller, have been a thing since the turn of the millennium. In recent years, increased awareness of mental health has led to an increase in dogs-as-therapy practices, yet such methods remain the stuff of special educational schemes rather than the mainstream. Just as it’s said that every home should have a pet, I would argue that so should every school and – sorry, cat lovers – dogs are the nation’s favourite!
Why dogs? Well, a waggy tail has the power to lift the spirits on even the darkest day. Stroking a dog is one of nature’s greatest stress-relievers, though cleansing the education system of concern is a stress-busting job so big that the amount of stroking involved could even send a breed like the Bichon Frise bald! Imagine being able to assuage a bad lesson with ten minutes of playtime – in this joyful scenario I picture teachers jostling students for space in the schoolyard. And given how contagious canine enthusiasm is, just imagine how good the next lesson would be!
Rigorous vetting would, of course, be required, a doggy DBS to check temperament, pedigree and past behaviour, so as not to have snarling hounds at the school gates (although such mongrels would not be without their uses). And training would be required both ways, although given how gooey even the toughest high school delinquents tend to go over a super furry animal, anyone who so much as considered an act of animal cruelty would quickly become a social pariah. The worst fate that awaits Fido is probably gaining a few too many pounds from hoovering up discarded titbits.
Here at Twinkl Towers, our resident dogs Loki, Sully, Chico, Jarvis, Roscoe and the brilliantly-named Albus Dumbledog brighten up the office on a daily basis. The company of mini-wolves is highly recommended. Even Education Secretary Damian Hinds is a fan, commenting recently to the BBC, “This is one of those things that wasn’t around when I was at school, but actually it’s a great thing. For the kids it can be really uplifting, particularly those that have different ways of expressing themselves and coming out of themselves – and the dog or the pets can really help.” They put a whole new spin on the role of caretaker, and not just because traditional caretakers presumably don’t defecate on the school field! If dogs doing their business raises concerns of health and hygiene, there’s always goldfish instead; apparently, they’re good listeners but they’re not much good at catch.
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