Introduction of four-legged friends is going down a treat in the playground

MORE and more schools across the Border and North East are turning to four-legged friends to help kids feel more comfortable in the classroom.

Albury High School, James Fallon High School and Thurgoona Primary School have all welcomed pups to the playground in recent weeks. 

Their moves follow that of Corowa Public School, who introduced assistance dog Willow to the students last year.

Wangaratta-based North East Support and Action for Youth has also enlisted the services of K9 Pet Therapy to boost the confidence of students and help relieve stress and anxiety.

Thurgoona Primary School assistant principal Alison Maguire said although six-month-old Sasha the golden retriever was still learning the ins and outs of life at school, she had already had a positive impact on the students’ welfare.

“Sasha still goes to daycare and we’re training her up as we go,” she said.

“She first came along with me so she could get used to the kids and she absolutely loves them.” 

FOUR-LEGGED FRIEND: Thurgoona Public School support dog Sasha with Takeah Williams, 9. A number of North East schools now have dogs. Picture: KYLIE ESLER

FOUR-LEGGED FRIEND: Thurgoona Public School support dog Sasha with Takeah Williams, 9. A number of North East schools now have dogs. Picture: KYLIE ESLER

The well-liked pup is still a ways off being used regularly in classrooms, but Mrs Maguire said even in her short time on campus, her impact on the emotional well-being of students was pronounced.

“We're using her as a support dog at the moment – at times she'll be in reading classes with the kids,” she said.

“She plays fetch at lunchtime with one of our special needs children, she meets and greets students in the morning.

“I'm in charge of well-being, so she spends a lot of time in my office.

“Children are often sent to me and they're able to spend a bit of time with her, she can help them calm down at times.

“She likes to visit sick bay as well, or sometimes if kids are in here and they're upset she'll come in and rest her head on their knee.

“Some kids can just relate to animals a bit better than people at times.

“We've been trying to find more things for her to do after initially seeing how she would react around the kids, but she's been absolutely brilliant. She's easily trained, and was a little fluffy bunny when she first came in but she's grown to quite a size.

“It also means the kids can learn about dogs.

“They're all amazed at how quickly she's grown, especially after school holidays.”