Meet Toffee, our School Therapy Dog!

Hello, my name is Toffee and I work at Devonshire Primary Academy.

I was born in Blackpool on September 10th 2020 and have 5 brothers and sisters.  I am a Cockerpoo which means my Mum is a Cocker Spaniel and my Dad is a Poodle.

When I am not at work I live with Mr Coldwell and Miss Loder (soon to be Mrs Coldwell!) and their children.  As a family, we love to go on long walks and play on the beach.

I have completed my Bronze and Silver School Therapy Dog training and I am working towards completing Gold too!  My trainers, Tasha and Georgina, visit me regularly at school.

I love working at Devonshire Primary Academy and helping all the pupils and staff to learn, achieve and be the best they can be!

Q. What are the benefits of having a school therapy dog?

Research has shown that therapy dogs in school settings can facilitate well-being and learning outcomes and can bring joy as well as therapeutic benefits to the whole school community including:

  • Social benefits. A therapy dog promotes greater self-esteem and can provide a positive mutual topic for discussion and encourages responsibility, wellbeing and a focused interaction with others.
  • Cognitive benefits. It has been empirically proven that therapy dogs stimulate memory and problem-solving skills.
  • Emotional and mental health benefits. A school dog can help improve self-esteem and lift moods. Dogs can also teach compassion and invoke a sense of respect for living things as well as relieving anxiety.
  • Physical. Interacting with a dog in school provides tactile stimulation, gives motivation to walk and move and stimulates the senses, it can even help reduce blood pressure and assist with pain management.
  • Environment. A dog in school can promote a sense of family environment and students can take great enjoyment from interaction with a dog with all the above benefits continuing long after the school day is over.
  • Reading. When pupils read to dogs, it can help to improve their reading ability, develop literacy skills and boost confidence through the calming, non-judgemental effect the dog’s presence can have.  Pupil’s motivation and enjoyment of reading aloud can also improve even when the dog is not present.

Q. How do we know Toffee is ready to work in school?

Toffee has undergone rigorous training before he could become a therapy dog for our school.  Toffee is assessed throughout his training by a qualified trainer and when he has achieved full therapy dog certification, Toffee’s certificate will be proudly displayed in school and on our website.  Toffee will have his own timetable and will take rest breaks throughout the day.  While being escorted around the school, Toffee will remain on a lead at all times.  A risk assessment and policy are in place for Toffee, which are reviewed regularly.

Q. What if my child is scared of dogs or has allergies?

Some children may have a fear of dogs or indeed other animals.  Toffee will only have contact with any of our pupils if parents/carers have given written permission for them to do so.  Research shows that through proper care and guidance, children can learn to overcome their fear and as a parent/carer you can change your permissions at any time.  Information regarding allergies can be provided on the form.  Students will be encouraged to wash their hands after working with Toffee.

Q. Does the School have a ‘No Dog Policy’ – except for Guide/Assistant Dogs?

Schools must adhere to the Health and Safety at Work Act and, as such, have to assess the risks to our pupils and staff and apply the controls to mitigate those risks.  Unfortunately, the school is unable to assess the risk of animals brought onto the site (other than those pre-arranged for educational purposes) and therefore unable to perform its duty of care to provide a safe environment.  Therefore, dogs and/or other animals are not permitted on the premises at any time.  The presence of our therapy dog on site has been risk assessed and will be monitored closely in order to keep everyone safe.