Dogs help schools lick bullying problem

Dogs can make us happier and healthier. Beyond the joy of companionship, studies have shown that dog ownership is associated with lower stress, blood pressure and cholesterol. Owning a pouch also helps to prevent illness — and when you do become ill, helps you to recover more quickly.

On top of all that, dogs can sniff out cancer and warn of heart attack, epileptic seizures and hypoglycemia.

So when it comes to the battling the bullying epidemic in our schools, who else to call in but our best friend? Dogs are already being used in the classroom to give assistance to children with autism, for instance, and to help with reading and writing programs. And now, in some North American schools, canines are being called in to teach compassion and social responsibility.

An example. In a program called “No More Bullies” volunteers accompanied by trained dogs teach kids about fairness and empathy. “The animals are the glue that helps the children stay focused and understand the message,” Jo Dean Hearn, an ex-teacher who developed the program, told USA TODAY. “Children can easily identify with an animal. And it’s easy for them to transition when we ask them to consider how an animal feels (if ill-treated) to how the kid sitting near them feels (if poorly treated).”

Pouches and peer pressure

“No More Bullies” is just one of several dog-centered programs being used to help create a kinder and more supportive school climate — which, experts say, goes a long way in preventing, and stopping, bullying. Last year, for example, the Yale University School of the 21st Century and the Pet Savers Foundation launched a program called Mutt-i-grees to help kids learn how to be more kind to one another and animals.

Another program, Healing Species, uses rescue dogs to help children and teens recover from abuse and learn self-esteem, empathy, and other fundamental values. Currently, programs that use dogs to teach kindness and integrity are being used in about 900 elementary schools in the U.S.

Watch this clip on how canines can help to reduce stress in the classroom:

READ MORE about how animals can make a difference to our health.
READ MORE about ways to prevent bullying.

Photo © Erna Vader