With a surge in mental health cases in education centres, schools are looking for how to support their students. At Townley Grammar School, an innovative approach has been taken with a cockapoo called Dot.

Dot is a therapy dog in training and works with the Student Hub team to provide emotional support for pupils. Being a therapy dog means being trained in providing affection, comfort, and support to people in various settings, one being education settings.

When asked what inspired the idea, Inclusion and Support officer of Student Hub Ms Payne said, “Schools are becoming more aware of mental health and just looking at different resources and methods to support the students is how we found the idea of introducing a therapy dog”. There have been various studies, both social and scientific that have reported the increasing use of therapy dogs to decrease many negative behaviours and promoting healthier one: reducing stress and anxiety, providing a diversion to unpleasant thoughts or situations, promoting positive interactions, gives a sense of belonging in school, promoting engagement in learning activities and so on.

So how is that incorporated into a school setting? Well, if a pupil is anxious, stressed or feeling any other negative emotions, they can arrange an appointment with Dot. The frequency of appointments varies, some occurring every day, others random. The student would come in in the space of the whole school day to be guided into a private room, where their appointment would commence. “It just gives them that extra boost through the day. She’s cute, students love her, and when students come in, she is there to support them. She definitely meets the expectations” Ms Payne adds.