School Therapy Dogs

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School-wide Expectations

Approach, Ask, Pet, Goodbye

Being a school counselor provides me the opportunity to visit each classroom every other week.  My first guidance lesson of the year has two parts.  The first is my role as a school counselor and how students and I work together to solve lots of different problems.  The second part of the guidance lesson is about having a dog working in a school.  We have a 4-step behavior expectation when Copper is working in the building. I bring a dog puppet into my first class and student volunteers can demonstrate how these steps work.  Since the awesome classroom teachers in my school remain in the room while I give a guidance lesson, they are also aware of the expectations and can help in reinforcing them if needed. 

Approach - This expectation covers when is a good time to come say hello to Copper and how to approach him.   Copper has recess duty and crossing guard duty during the week.  These are good times to come say hello to him.  Leaving a classroom or jumping out of a class line are not responsible times to come visit.  When students approach Copper, they need to walk up slowly.  This is especially important at recess where students run from place to place.  Another part of this expectation is that Copper can have up to 3 students with him.  If there are already 3 students around Copper, students know they need to wait for someone to leave before they approach. 

Ask - This is a key safety measure both for Copper and the kids.  Students must ask to pet Copper and I must respond back to them before they pet him.  This ensures that I am aware of both Copper's behavior and the students' actions.  We discuss that people always need to ask to pet dogs.  

Pet - For this expectation we discuss that Copper likes to smell a closed hand first and then get scratched under the chin.  When Copper first started working in the school, my trainer suggested that Copper be in the sit or down position for greeting kids.  This worked out well as the students learned how to ask Copper to sit and he was then paying attention to them and was not surprised by having a small hand in his face. 

Goodbye - I added this expectation to keep a line moving.  Sometimes, Copper will have a larger group of students want to say hi.  Since only 3 are allowed around him at a time, we needed to set an expectation that saying hi to Copper is a quick process if there are other present that would like a turn.