Bev and community dog Bertie at Round Oak School in Warwickshire
Our Community Dogs work in a wide range of community settings including adults with autism, children with brain injury, in special educational needs schools and older people. Over their working life a community dog may work with dozens of children and adults to help them to achieve specific goals – anything from helping to improve outcomes during a physiotherapy session to supporting people with communication difficulties to develop good social interactions or helping people to increase confidence in public places.
Dogs for Good is currently providing School Dogs in two special educational needs schools helping students aged between 11 and 18. School Dog Bertie works with his handler Bev at Round Oak School in Warwickshire. Bertie and Bev have quickly become part of the fabric of the school and known and loved by staff and pupils alike.
Bev explains: “Everyone at the school knows Bertie and me; we’re very much a team, each week we’ll be working with a number of students or helping a class as a whole, but Bertie’s influence goes much further, because he’s in the school nearly every day, we’re able to use him to help educate and motivate all the students. Several teachers have commented that the school is just generally much calmer since Bertie arrived, it’s wonderful to see the impact that he makes.”
By closely working with teachers and the specialist staff at the school, Bertie and Bev are helping planned regular sessions with Bertie, he’s been able to support students with a range of activities from helping students to feel less anxious about attending classes to greater road safety awareness and new found confidence in visiting new places. For Bradley, a student with autism and dyslexia, time spent reading to Bertie helped him to reduce his anxiety about his literacy lessons and saw huge improvements in his abilities.
Says Bev: “Bertie is incredibly calm and focussed when he’s at the school and we use a number of different techniques to help students engage with Bertie. Bertie also has a range of clever ‘tricks’ that help students to engage and find the extra motivation to do something that perhaps they have struggled with previously.
In addition, Bertie has his very own range of rewards to give to students. Bev has created a range of Bertie book marks and badges that students receive for good work. He also has his own display in the corridors which carries messages about healthy eating, personal care and being safe. Bev explains: ‘We use Bertie’s Board and his blog to help emphasize important messages and develop good positive healthy living. Bertie has a weekly blog that also goes in the school newsletter. We’ve found that some of the parents find that Bertie is a really helpful way to talk to their children about what’s going on at school. If students are finding school stressful it can be much easier to talk about something involving Bertie than other things.
Last year, Bev and Bertie worked with the school nurse to help a number of students who struggled to receive their immunisations. The process started with Bertie being filmed receiving his own immunisations which the students, many of whom had not been able to have their vaccinations for a number of years, were able to watch and discuss with the school nurse. This year, with Bertie sat by their side all the students successfully received their vaccinations in a much more relaxed and stress-free environment. Everyone was delighted with the results.
When Bertie’s not at school, he lives at home with a staff member from the school and is just like a regular pet dog, enjoying long walks, playing in the garden and sleeping in his favourite dog bed.