Well-being dogs are still playing an important role in the school community despite the education sector being interrupted by lockdowns and remote learning.
Dogs Connect founder Grant Shannon said the pandemic has proved the importance the dogs have for students. Mr Shannon has seen Dogs Connect having between 20 and 30 well-being dogs placed in schools to almost 10 in the last 12 months.
He said the dogs often offer a bright spot in the remote learning world when they are spotted in an online video session with teachers.
"It's engaging students in a virtual sense in that if a teacher is talking to students, it is easier to have students' attention if a dog is connected within the picture," Mr Shannon said.
"So the dogs are still playing an important role. We have heard in previous lockdowns that they are on screen in remote lessons, teachers are being creative in (students') connection with dogs by doing things like animating the dog using smart apps to have the dogs send messages to students and families.
"It has been a healthy relationship maintainer because it is an easy talking point when the dog is sitting with the teacher, it's easier for kids to open up. It's a nice, bright moment."
As well as continuing to ensure the well-being of students, Mr Shannon - who founded Dogs Connect in 2015 - said the well-being of the dogs during constant change is just as important.
"There is definitely a level of work do around the well-being of the dogs in preparing to transition them in and out of school," he said. "Well-being is priority and makes it easy for the dogs.
"We have built an online training course since this worldwide change, that has enabled us to train people from anywhere. We are offering training on things like the need to think in relation to the dogs' routines and making sure the dogs themselves feel authentically connected.
"It is something you do gradually, to be sensitive to the dogs' language and what they're telling us they're okay with."
The expansion from almost 30 Dogs Connect dogs in Australian schools to between 80 and 100 was something Mr Shannon was not expecting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
This year Eaglehawk Primary School welcomed a Dogs Connect dog to their community while last year St John of God took on a dog to support its healthcare workers.
"I absolutely had the opposite expectation," he said. "I thought schools would call to say the can't commit but they called and said we need this more than ever. The well-being dog is playing a massive role and they continue to amaze us.
"We've got a couple of breeders we work closely with but some schools have a preference and a lot already have suitable dogs. It is then a matter of getting training into the people. Well-being dogs, because they're not one-on-one assistance dogs, don't need complex work but they do need to be really well looked after. That's where the people training is a more important factor.
"We're really excited about seeing more dogs in schools. It is starting to be recognised as a positive measure schools can take. We're grateful for it and love what we do."
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