Junkyard Dog, Snoop Dogg, School Resource Dog
Which of these sounds like something you want to share at your school? I hope the answer was easy: School Resource Dog (SRD). Since 2014, the Lakeville Area Schools have been hiring School Resource Dogs dogs to play an important role working with students. Although the work of each School Resource dog looks slightly different at each site, the results are pretty clear – students enjoy working with this unique instructional tool.
In Lakeville, we have five School Resources dogs. All of our dogs were trained for 2+ years as service dogs by Pawsitive Perspective Assistance Dogs (aka PawPADs). They were dual trained to be mobility assistance and diabetic alert service dogs. For different reasons, each dog was seeking a career change and were placed with ISD 194. Similar to police K-9 officers, all of Lakeville’s School Resource Dogs are owned by the school district, assigned to a primary handler who feeds and cares for them as well as lives in that person’s home. Three of our dogs have a principal as a primary handler, one is with a school psychologist and another lives and is cared for by one of our an elementary school counselors.
We see each dog as an instructional tool for our students. The work of the dog is differentiated based on the needs of the students or the school. Of course, unlike most instructional tools (such as iPads or pencils), these tools have tails, heartbeats, and wonderful personalities. With five full-time School Resource Dogs there are lots of stories to tell about their work and the connections they make. The connections our dogs make range from being the school tour guide/ambassador for new students and families, supporting specific students in the academic and social venues or simply help change a bad day into a great day by interacting with a student.
Starting the School Resource Dog program in ISD 194 wasn’t incredibly difficult, but we did encounter some resistance. That small amount of resistance and anxiety about a dog in a school on a regular basis would be nothing compared to what would happen if we tried to end the program and remove the dogs from Lakeville schools. How many students have easy access to the dog depends on the setting that the dog is placed in. In both of our cases, all students have access to Seamus and Hero. Some students have more consistent access to the dog leading to integrated regular connections between the dog and students. Other students may occasionally seek out a dog for a little canine love. The power of the dog is amazing as some students will work tirelessly towards meeting all of their daily goals in exchange for spending time with Hero, others find time for a quick visit with Seamus to help them return to class and re-engage in their work, and it doesn’t stop there as adults also have strong positive connections with their School Resource Dog.
Adding a School Resource Dog is a commitment. Having a team of handlers makes the difference. Providing training for teachers, parents and staff members is the critical component to maximizing the use of your dog. The possibilities are endless!
If you want to know more about how we brought School Resource Dogs to Lakeville or have questions in general, please do not hesitate to reach out to either of us.
Taber Akin Taber.firstname.lastname@example.org
Bret Domstrand email@example.com