Students at St Monica’s Primary School in Kangaroo Flat had a little extra help with their classwork recently in the form of four-legged teachers’ aids, courtesy of Righteous Pups.
The Bendigo not-for-profit teamed up with researches from La Trobe University to find out whether assistance dogs could help improve the pupils’ learning.
Psychology honours students Deanna Tepper and Chantelle Connell said the experiment had shown the dogs helped those who might be struggling with tasks such as reading by lowering anxiety levels.
“There was a reading group and a training group and they both found improvements so those were the two groups that were heavy on interacting with the dogs, whereas the control group that just had a dog in the background didn't improve as much,” Ms Tepper said.
“Particularly for reading they provide a safe and non-judgemental environment so they feel more comfortable to go about their activities like reading and executive functioning that can obviously be difficult for some kids and cause stress,” Ms Connell said.
The pair said while dogs were not likely to become a feature of every classroom, the benefits of canine-assisted learning were most marked for students who were struggling, and the technique could have a future in schools that cater for children with learning difficulties.
“We did find that kids who had a lower starting ability actually showed greater improvements than kids who had a higher starting ability so obviously it’d be more directed towards the kids it’s going to help the most,” Ms Connell said.
The dogs were utilised in grade one and two classes at St Monica’s and Isabelle Egan and seven-year-old Jessie Byrne both gave the program a thumbs up.
“I liked it because they are like our friend and they sort of taught you how to read and we had fun playing with them in the tunnels and stuff,” eight-year-old Isabelle said.
“I did reading and I liked it when it was the first time because they were just loving me so much,” Jessie, 7, said.