Proving to be more than the teacher’s pet, newly appointed Mount St Bernard College staff member, Bernard, has been recruited for the role of School Therapy Dog to assist the wellbeing of all staff and students.
Therapy dog set to assist wellbeing
Joining the Wellbeing Team, the 12-week-old labradoodle, affectionately known as Bernie, was recently welcomed by the college community after significant findings from other educational institutions on the benefits for all students, but particularly diverse learners.
“The aim of our therapy dog is to improve the physical, social, emotional and cognitive wellbeing of students and staff,” Deputy Principal Scott Whitters said.
“It is well documented that the effective use of dogs in school can significantly lower anxiety levels in students aged 13-18. Dogs can positively influence the mood of students and trigger the release of cortisol in their brains which allows them to move from a negative headspace to a more positive one.”
College welcomes Bernie
After commencing an acclimatisation program, Bernie was greeted by screams of excitement and joy echoing throughout the school as students “beamed with enthusiasm” at the sight of their new canine companion.
“So far, all students, no matter what their background or personal circumstance, have enjoyed interacting with Bernie. We have ensured he has been exposed to students with a range of additional learning, emotional or health needs,” Mr Whitters said.
“Students who have recently experienced the loss of a family member have spent time with Bernie. He has made them feel loved and distracted from their grief.”
Alternative way for students to feel love
By offering pet therapy to their students, the school can provide an alternative way for students to become grounded and feel love, which would in turn allow them to be open to learning and develop more resilience in a school environment.
“MSB has spent an enormous amount of time and energy to ensure that the benefits of a therapy dog will value add to the wellbeing of our students and staff. We take our responsibility for Bernie very seriously and have teamed up other boarding schools around the country to ensure we are adhering to best practice techniques in this space,” Mr Whitters said.
“We are indeed most blessed to have Bernie as an integral part of our college community.”