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Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs offer students a friend, a supportive place to come to each day, and a joyful and judgment-free environment. Many studies have demonstrated ways that students benefit from welcoming a therapy dog into the school environment, which include improvements in overall school work, attitudes toward reading, actual reading levels, attitudes toward homework, school attendance, self-esteem, and self confidence. Therapy dogs have also been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Overview of the BHS Therapy Dog Program

Since 2021, Bloomfield Hills Schools has integrated therapy dogs into school buildings as part of a district-wide effort to increase available support for students’ social and emotional well-being. To date, there is at least one dog in all elementary and middle schools, the main high school building, International Academy, and the PREP (postsecondary) program. BHS students enjoy seeing the therapy dog when they enter the school building, in their classrooms, and throughout the school environment.

While Bloomfield Hills Schools own the therapy dogs, the success of the program is made possible only through the shared responsibility between the district and staff hosts and handlers. As the owner, BHS holds the responsibility to fund and ensure proper care for the dogs, as well as communicate and enforce clear expectations for programming. Staff hosts are responsible for carrying out that care for their entrusted dog, and staff handlers are responsible for executing programming in their school building. 

Benefits of Therapy Dogs

  • Enhances relationships with peers and teachers due to experiencing trust and unconditional love from a therapy dog. This helps students learn how to express their feelings and enter into more trusting relationships.
     
  • Increases in:
    • School attendance
    • Positive moods
    • Reading confidence
       
  • Positive changes towards learning and improved motivation.
     
  • Decreases depression and anxiety behaviors resulting in improved learning outcomes.
     
  • Eases social isolation and helps children learn social skills.

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