Education Is Going to the Dogs

June 21, 2023
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As humans, we do our best to support one another; however, sometimes it’s simpler for us to connect with our trusted animal friends to destress, express ourselves more freely, and find a place of emotional comfort. That’s where therapy dogs come in!

In this episode, Education Is Going to the Dogs (Episode 107), we linked up with Chelsea Patberg and Hanna Kemble to discuss the rigorous process of therapy dog training, measures and considerations schools must take to implement therapy dog programs, and the multitude of benefits that result from the presence of furry friends in the classroom.

Here are the key ideas we took away from this episode:

  • Patberg, Kemble, and our additional special guests, a group of elementary school students, note that therapy dogs Sully and Piper bring a lot of love and joy into the school environment through cuddling, playing hide and seek with treats, and even parades to celebrate and appreciate their pups!
  • Patberg and Kemble have observed a myriad of ways in which students benefit from the use of therapy dogs. Both have witnessed the benefit of using them as an integral part of grief counseling. They also cite examples of how the presence of the dogs has improved the behavior of challenging students, increased attendance, and allowed shy students to become more vocal and interactive.
  • Therapy dogs require extensive training through the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen program and other programs. In order to perform as needed, dogs must go through around a year of classes and testing where they learn how to navigate various scenarios. Patberg and Kemble recall how classes include everything from how to properly react to loud noises, to food being dropped on the floor, and dealing with large groups of people. Therapy dogs also learn how to obey voice commands that are not reinforced with treats in order to become fully certified.
  • There are a few “do’s” and “don’ts” for schools that want to utilize therapy dogs. For example, it’s more important to focus on temperament over breed. It’s also crucial to ensure that both students and staff are on board. Lastly, in order to protect both people and animals, it’s imperative that the dog holds the necessary certifications and is insured.

It’s evident that the act of cuddling with a therapy dog possesses a unique ability to disarm individuals in a manner that human interaction can’t quite achieve. Remarkably, even students who previously did not find joy in the company of dogs can discover immense enjoyment and reap the benefits from the presence of therapy dogs. The evidence is undeniable–the positive influence of canine companions in the classroom provides a truly enriching experience.

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Education Leaders

About the Author

About the Authors

Jerri Kemble

National Academic Advisor



Jamie Saponaro

Director of Community & Professional Learning



Learning and always growing, Jamie Saponaro is an educator with a passion for sharing topics in education that are near and dear to her heart. Her background as an instructional strategies consultant, educational coach and mentor, technology administrator, and middle school teacher have brought her to ClassLink as Director of Community and Professional Learning where she co-hosts the LinkedUp podcast and its boundary-breaking guests.