Therapy Dogs and Early Learning

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Today we welcomed a new friend to the South Side Learning & Development Center. Full of love, excitement, and eager to play. Our new furry friend, Ivy, will be making visits to SSLDC for "snuggle therapy."

Ivy was bred for a program that trains service dogs for children with disabilities. While she completed her training, she fell just short of graduating to full-service status--Ivy loved kids so much she sometimes wanted to snuggle instead of staying on task. Ivy and her handler (who will accompany her at SSLDC) are now working with a master trainer as a therapy dog team-in-training.

What is a Therapy Dog?

To answer this question, it is important to note what a therapy dog is not. Therapy dogs are not service dogs like those who provide assistance to their owner with tasks such as visual or hearing assistance, seizure detection or mobility aid. 

Instead, a therapy dog works with their handlers to provide comfort and affection to individuals in schools, retirement homes, nursing homes, hospices, hospitals, and disaster areas. Schools across the country like SSLDC are incorporating therapy dog programs into their curriculum for the many benefits they provide to students.

Benefits to Students

A recent review of research looked at 30 articles, book chapters, and other resources discussing the benefits of therapy dogs in the classroom. The authors found therapy dogs can have a positive impact on learning and development in children as young as three-years-old. Specifically, it was found that therapy dogs can:

  • teach empathy and prosocial skills;

  • calm students who are stressed or anxious;

  • increase positive attitudes toward school;

  • increase student confidence, particularly in domains such as reading and writing;

  • improve a child’s gross motor abilities such as walking through cones or balancing on a line when modeled by a therapy dog;

  • enhance relationships with peers and teachers.

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We are excited to have Ivy at SSLDC and look forward to the psychological, emotional, social and physical support she will provide our students. Ivy will slowly be integrated into the SSLDC family. She will be rotating between our preschool and birth-to-three classrooms, then spend roughly 30 minutes in each room working with our students.