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Dogs in the Classroom Improve SEL, Cognitive, and Even Reading Skills

May 06, 2019
By Tate's School

*This article, written by Elizabeth Mulvahill, originally appeared on WeAreTeachers.com and has been re-printed here with their permission.

Welcoming four-legged friends into the classroom is a growing trend across the country. And research shows that therapy-dog programs provide significant benefits for students. According to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, “Therapy dogs have been called ‘miracle workers’ because of their calming effect on students and teachers.”Therapy dogs help with everything from trauma to reading interventions to a positive school climate. In addition, they provide particular benefits for autistic children.

Therapy Dogs vs. Service Dogs

There is a distinct difference between service dogs and therapy dogs. Service dogs help individuals with specific disabilities, such as visual impairment or seizure disorders. Therapy dogs provide comfort and support. They are trained to use their social instincts and learned social skills to provide health, social-emotional, and cognitive benefits.

Health Benefits

Dogs in the classroom provide both physical and emotional health benefits for students. According to one study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), having a dog present in the classroom promotes a positive mood and provides significant anti-stress effects on the body. In fact, the simple act of petting a dog has the effect of lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Pet therapy also lowers stress hormones, like cortisol, and increases oxytocin. In other words, just being in contact with a therapy dog calms kids down when they’re upset and helps keep their anxiety at bay. And reducing feelings of anxiety and depression enables them to focus on learning.

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