Sign In

Therapy Dogs Supporting Students

June 9, 2020

As children are home dealing with the stress of COVID-19, one nonprofit is using dogs to calm their nerves.

Founded on the prison dog model, A Fair Shake for Youth has reached over 3,000 middle school youth through partnerships with over 60 schools and community organizations since its founding in 2010.

It helps middle school students build social and emotional skills through a structured hands-on therapy dog program. Following a 10-week curriculum, kids learn dog-handling skills and discuss dog-related topics that often resonate with their own life experience including animal shelters, second chances and breed discrimination. As kids work with the dogs they learn about themselves and each other.

During COVID-19, A Fair Shake has pivoted from in-school programming to now completing seven weeks of online learning and engaging live sessions with therapy dogs. It works with many schools in the south Bronx including Bronx Latin at 800 Home St. The programs include activities and virtual sessions with registered therapy dogs, their volunteer handlers and experienced instructors. “The experience has been so joyful for both the kids and the school staff,” said Taina Benjamin, English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at the Bronx Latin School. “A lot of the kids have been anxious, but the dogs have really helped calm them and give them something to look forward to. To answer questions about dogs and interact with an animal gives them a different and fun way to interact with content so the kids don’t mind responding and participating. The dogs help us create momentum with the kids.”

As schools closed, the organization created a custom “school portal” in which teachers and social workers access lessons that relate to the dog and volunteer teams. Each of the first six lessons cover a social-emotional learning topic. The lessons are designed to be short, fun and flexible depending on need, technical capabilities and individual student needs.

Lessons include both a one-page teacher’s guide and a one-page student guide. All visitors to the website can visit the “Meet the Dogs” page to learn more about each dog in a social-emotional context. “We recognize that the need for our work is not only vital now as our kids continue to experience loss and ongoing trauma, but will be a necessity as we see the secondary effects of the unprecedented  stress and trauma they are experiencing set in,” Hendler said.

Register your Dog Schedule a Visit

  • Recent News

    Pet Therapy Program

    Saturday, October 10 is World Mental Health Day, which this year has a new sense of urgency for many. Covid-19 has taken a mental and emotional toll on healthcare workers across the U.S but there is a program boosting the spirits of doctors and nurses on the frontlines. At UC Irvine Medical Center in Southern […]

    Read more

    AMR Therapy Dog

    Rampart, a therapy dog with American Medical Response San Bernardino County, recently passed his Certified Therapy Dog exam. AMR acquired Rampart, a 1½-year-old goldendoodle, when he was 10 weeks old. Rampart started basic obedience classes when he was 4 months old and continued through advanced obedience classes, according to a news release. When he was […]

    Read more

    Workers Get Canine Interactions

    It was a long, boring spring and summer for the four-footed members of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, who couldn’t visit nursing homes and hospitals giving tail wags and doggy smiles. The coronavirus paused the professional canine therapeutic interactions with patients and hospital workers. “You could actually see him falling into a depression at home,” said Wendy Kadish of […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Program

    An initiative by Cyndy Caravelis, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Western Carolina University, will include a pilot program to use a therapy dog to aid domestic violence victims and their families in Jackson County. Caravelis’ German shepherd Atlas will escort victims and family members into court procedures and stay with children while […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogs Working With Staff

    After a pause due to COVID-19, the St. John Ambulance Abbotsford therapy dog team recently returned to visit staff at several different correctional facilities in the Fraser Valley. The PAWS inside program originally began at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women five years ago and started off by providing services to inmates. Last year, the […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Bringing Comfort

    The Marion County Sheriff’s Office has a special K-9 who plays an important role. While most K-9s help in crime scenes and investigations, Comfort Caj is crime therapy dog and brings smiles to the community and the sheriff’s office. “He really brings a light and energy to this whole building, that you can’t fathom, you […]

    Read more

    Montgomery County's Therapy Dog

    Montgomery County has a new tool to help give crime victims some support. That tool’s name is Zurg. Zurg is the new therapy dog for the Montgomery County district attorney’s office. Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey introduced Zurg as the newest member of the team Monday. Coming from Canine Companions for Independence, Zurg will […]

    Read more