Our Puppies-in-Training accompany volunteer Puppy-Raisers and Puppy-Sitters everywhere they go including to work! We are very fortunate to have multiple school boards who allow their staff to bring in their puppies in training into their schools.
While these pups are not fully trained assistance dogs yet, they still share their special magic with those around them. Two of our dogs being raised in schools are Swift and Chantilly.
“Our school has a huge focus on self-regulation – starting with recognizing our own and other’s emotions, all the way to regulating our own emotional responses, and how we respond to other’s big emotions. Of course, helping our PADS pups to also self-regulate is a huge goal of puppy-raising.
Emotional self-regulation is a cornerstone of mental health, of being able to tolerate, understand, and manage our reactions to unexpected or traumatizing events (when possible). Chantilly was a huge part of helping our students to regulate their emotions in a number of ways.
First of all, she modelled her own self-regulation most of the time:
- Piece of food on the floor. No problem.
- Loud noises – I can ignore that.
- Unexpected child behaviour, no big deal.
- I really want to jump on that human. I can stay calm.
Secondly, her calm presence was calming for the students who were in her presence. Finally, when a student was able to self-regulate to a state of calmness, petting a relaxed pup lowers those cortisol levels, and brings a smile back to the face of a still sad child. Chantilly was an expert in all of these things. Many of our students have made great strides in their ability to self-regulate (or return to a calm state when over-aroused) and I thank both Chantilly and Swift for helping with that.
Sometimes students have bad days. Maybe something happened at home or with a friend. Or maybe they aren’t feeling 100%. It is those days that seeing Swift can really make a difference. I remember one day, shortly after Swift joined our family, and before she was old enough for students to pet her, one of our students was having a rough time. He got really angry and did something that was against the school rules. As a result, he would have to be sent home. While the adults were busy figuring it out for him, he sat in my room, and just watched Swift, who was safely in her pen, sleep. He didn’t touch Swift – she didn’t even wake up! But even that, just watching a sleeping puppy, helped him to calm down and process his sadness. Our puppies are superheroes – even when they aren’t doing anything!”
It is not only our puppy raisers that see the phenomenal impact of a puppy in training in schools, other teachers in the building have shared their experiences with Swift:
“The students feel safe knowing Swift is in the building! They do not have a great deal of contact with her because she is in training but they love to see her at recess and are so patient and caring around her. The students are very keen to help Swift do a good job in training and always respectful around her. The students have expressed how special they feel because we are trusted to train this (and another) young pup…I know I go home with a smile on my face ( and dog hair all over me!).”
“Things are always busy in a school. There are times when the staff are caught up in the whirl and everything seems so important, or we are dealing with a crisis. Swift will be doing some goofy thing, or just being a puppy or looking for a bit of attention. Her presence just dials things back a notch or two and allows us to take a breath. It definitely helps us return to our better selves. Swift is such a gift.”
“I am a teacher in a very vulnerable school with a focus on trauma-informed practice. Seeing Swift lifts my spirits and brings joy to our room. She has calmed and soothed so many of our children.”
We are very grateful not only to our puppy raisers and sitters for their time and dedication to raising up the pup in their care, but also to the many work places that allow our pups to become part of their teams. It truly takes a village to raise a dog.