A New Form of Stress Relief

A New Form of Stress Relief





This past school year, a pilot program was started in a kindergarten classroom in Ipswich. A therapy dog was certified to spend the day in the classroom filled with twenty-three children between the ages of five. Winola (Winnie), a rescued Yorkie mix, was named after the German word, meaning “precious friend.” Little did the owners know she would literally be a precious friend to more than twenty elementary school students. The students are not the only people touched by Winnie’s presence; many teachers come into the classroom everyday to destress. Winnie is a certified therapy dog, something many people don’t think is possible for such a small dog. Being a therapy dog has very little to do with the size of the dog, but more the personality of it. Therapy dogs are known to teach people responsibility, confidence, and how to cope with stress.

In many cases, a therapy dog is not placed with one specific individual who needs it, but placed in an environment where many individuals may benefit from it. When a dog is placed in a school setting, take kindergarten for example, the students are taught responsibility. They learn when and how to feed the dog and give them water, when to walk the dog outside, and how to care for the dog in a general sense. Heidi Kent says, “Therapy dogs can boost kids confidence that they are able to take care of something other than themselves.” Therapy dogs not only teach responsibility but also boost kids confidence in several different ways.

There have been cases that tremendously show dogs boosting kids’ confidence. For example, there have been days that a kindergartener comes into school crying first thing in the morning. This is a potentially good day, gone downhill right from the start. This particular five-year-old comes from a bad household, one that no child should have to live in. He thinks very little of himself and is a very shy child. When he comes in upset, he sits on the floor and Winnie comes and sits on his lap. She sits there until the student stops crying and he gets up after he gets “one more Winnie kiss.” Since the students are in kindergarten, they are just learning to read. During quiet reading time, students get a turn to read a book to Winnie, boosting their confidence in reading. Therapy dogs boosting kids confidence can happen in a high school environment as well. Jess Laddin thinks that, “A therapy dog could boost my confidence because I feel like it would make me less stressed, so I would be able to do a little better in my classes which could boost my confidence.”

Stress is an obstacle that every person deals with at some point in their life. A therapy dog can teach people how to cope with stress in many situations. Winnie has taught many teachers in the Ipswich elementary schools how to destress at the end of the day. A high school student could benefit from a therapy dog due to the high amount of stress that happens to teens in a given day. Heidi Kent also says that, “having to take the dog out and bring it for walks is a good sense of exercise, and exercise always help relieve stress.” In Winnie’s case, the students in her classroom, during recess, take Winnie out to the field and do what they call “exercising Winnie.” Little do they know when they are running around with her, that they are exercising themselves. When they come back into the classroom, everyone is much quieter and less anxious than before. Heidi also said, “When a child sees a dog in their learning space, they get excited and sees it’s tail wagging when they come in the classroom is an instant stress reliever, even for the teachers.” Therapy dogs are also brought into colleges during finals week to let the students destress before their big tests.

Therapy dogs not only benefit children, but are often helping many adults along the way. When placed in a school setting, whether it be kindergarteners, high school seniors, or college students, a therapy dog can be beneficial to almost every person. Whether it is boosting confidence, teaching responsibility, or lowering stress levels, therapy dogs can be an immense help to the education process.