The Suncoast Therapy Dog program is an initiative to support students’ health and well-being in the Suncoast Christian College community. Our VETiS Coordinator, Mrs Leanne Abrahams, has recently completed specialised training with her dog, Jasper, to become a certified human-canine therapy team.
What will Jasper be doing?
Jasper the Therapy Dog will support student engagement, assist with social skill development, and aid with self-regulation and calming.
Jasper will engage students through individual interventions, small group and class interventions, and visit at various College events. Interacting with Jasper is entirely voluntary. All students and staff will choose to interact with Jasper if they feel comfortable. He will be closely monitored and managed using verbal commands, leads, and a collar to control his behaviour.
Benefits of a Therapy Dog
Research acknowledges the positive impact animals have on our health and well-being. Through the development of the human-animal bond (HAB), we can experience reductions in blood pressure, increased oxytocin levels (associated with love and bonding), a decrease in cortisol levels (stress hormone), among many other beneficial physiological and emotional responses. Since animals are non-judgmental and provide unconditional love, they can assist in increasing the engagement between teacher and student and help as an intrinsic motivator to support participation.
Preparing Jasper for Suncoast
Mrs Abrahams and Jasper have completed an intensive course through Therapy Dogs Australia. Throughout his training, Jasper has demonstrated a high level of obedience and good behaviour, making him suitable to work with children within a school environment.
Non-Consent or Consent Withdrawal Form
If you do not wish to consent to your child having any interactions with Jasper please ensure you discuss this decision with your child. An online form is required to be completed – please click here to complete a ‘Non-Consent or Consent Withdrawal for Canine Interaction form’ online.
Jasper is a one-year-old Border Collie. He enjoys meeting new people, cuddles and pats. He likes playing with his toys and is always looking for new friends to play with!
Jasper has a lovely long brown and white coat. He is regularly groomed and is pleasant to be around. When Jasper isn’t working, he loves spending time with the other animals at his home, going on adventures with his family and having daytime naps.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Naturally, parents may have some questions about how human-canine therapy will operate at Suncoast. Here are some responses to common questions.
My child has an allergy to some animals, how will you support them at school?
Jasper will be required to maintain high standards of hygiene and cleanliness through regular grooming and dog washing. He undergoes preventative health initiates such as worming, vaccinations, and flea and tick prevention protocols. We will routinely clean the VETiS office (and other spaces Jasper will frequent) to minimise allergic risks.
Interacting with Jasper is entirely voluntary, and Jasper will be isolated from your child if they feel uncomfortable interacting with him while in the vicinity of Mrs Abrahams. If your child needs to interact with Mrs Abrahams, you can request an alternate location removed from Jasper.
I hear there are some illnesses which can be transferred between dogs and humans, is this true and could my child get sick if they interact with Jasper?
Some illnesses can be passed between humans and animals. Referred to as zoonoses, these can include bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa and parasites. Zoonoses are considered uncommon in Australia and are largely preventable with appropriate health and hygiene protocols.
Jasper will be required to maintain high standards of hygiene and cleanliness through regular grooming, dog washing, and preventative health initiatives such as veterinary health checks, worming, vaccinations, and flea and tick prevention protocols.
Students and staff will be encouraged to maintain high standards of personal hygiene, including regular hand washing and the use of hand sanitisers. In addition, Jasper’s environment will be kept clean throughout the day.
I am concerned my child may be injured while interacting with Jasper.
Mrs Abrahams and Jasper have completed specialised training to meet certification standards and ensure Jasper is suitable for participating in animal-assisted therapy within a school environment. Mrs Abrahams has demonstrated skills in reading animal body language to identify stress and safely handles Jasper to minimise the risk of harming others.
All students and staff who choose to interact with Jasper must follow the direction of the dog handler and follow the rules specified. These rules support safe interactions. Jasper will be under the supervision of Mrs Abrahams at all times and managed through verbal commands and lead.
Jasper will be removed from the interaction or environment if his handler believes this is necessary to support student and staff safety. Despite all of these precautions, it is essential to acknowledge that accidents can happen, and we ask parents to consider therapy dog interaction carefully.
My child has a fear or phobia of dogs how will this be managed with Jasper.
Jasper has completed specialised training with Mrs Abrahams to meet certification standards and ensure Jasper is suitable for working with children within a school environment. Some students will grow confident in interacting with Jasper as they observe others and gradually get to know his personality.
Interacting with Jasper is entirely voluntary. Should you feel uncomfortable interacting with Jasper while visiting Mrs Abrahams, we can isolate the canine. Your child must let Mrs Abrahams or a teacher know of any fears or phobias so they can ensure your child is supported if they choose to interact with Jasper.
If required, Mrs Abrahams can assist through graded exposure to support your child to feel more comfortable.