Work settings across the world (including our own!) are cottoning onto the fact that dogs are great companions in all kinds of environments.
Kevin the Wellness Dog began his mission to support the health and wellbeing of students at Trinity Anglican School (TAS) last year and has quickly become the students’ best friend.
Building on the school’s reputation for innovative learning, the four-year-old dachshund’s recruitment was underpinned by research recognising the positive impact animals have on health.
Both Kevin and school counsellor Amanda Ferry learned new tricks through specialised training to become a certified Wellness Dog Therapy Team.
According to Ms Ferry, human-pet interactions develop the Human Animal Bond (HAB), which has been found to reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels while increasing oxytocin, among other physiological and emotional benefits.
“Animals are non-judgmental and provide unconditional love, therefore acting as an intrinsic motivator to support school attendance and participation,” she said.
“He engages with students in a variety of ways including individual, small group, and class interventions and across a range of school events.”
As part of his therapy dog training, Kevin was required to demonstrate a high level of obedience and good impulse control to be deemed suitable to work with children in a school environment.
Principal Paul Sjogren said it’s completely voluntary for students and staff to interact with him and he is closely monitored and managed.
“The role of our TAS Wellness Dog is to react and respond to people and their environment, under the guidance and direction of his trained owner, our school counsellor,” he said.
“Recent studies have shown that the presence of Wellness Dogs can improve the wellbeing of children and lower anxiety levels, simply by making the environment happier and more enjoyable.”
Kevin is also required to comply with the school’s strict uniform policy.
The sight of him proudly wearing his bespoke TAS vest is enough to bring a smile to anyone’s dial.
Benefits of interacting with a therapy dog
Physical: Raises oxytocin levels, lowers cortisol levels, triggers dopamine release, lowers blood pressure, assists with pain management, increases activity levels.
Social: Teaches empathy, encourages communication, promotes greater self-esteem and improves interpersonal skills, including responding to social cues.
Cognitive: Stimulates memory and problem-solving skills.
Emotional & mental: Lift moods, soothes and comforts, decreases feelings of isolation or alienation.