Sorrento: Wellbeing Dogs on Campus at Sacred Heart College

Hercules the Great Dane in the library with Sacred Heart College English students.
Hercules the Great Dane in the library with Sacred Heart College English students.

EVERY fortnight Sacred Heart College students welcome an unusual visitor in their classrooms.

Archie, Cal, Henri and Hercules the Great Dane are part of the Sorrento school’s Wellbeing Dogs on Campus program that aims to improve the mental health of students and staff.

“Having our wellbeing dogs visit staff and students encourages a ‘be more dog’ attitude to life where we are reminded about the simple aspects of life that make a huge difference to our wellbeing: playing with friends, quality sleep, good food, lots of fresh air, a positive joyous attitude and greeting everyone like a friend,” wellbeing committee member Sandra Manning said.

“For staff and students on campus, our wellbeing dogs introduce a joyous excitement about life and a willingness to meet and greet everyone with energy and happiness.

Hercules the Great Dane in dance class.

“Archie and his gang of wellbeing dogs provide an opportunity for students to experience the positive emotions that come from interacting and patting a dog and they are a great conduit for students to socially connect with their peers.”

Mrs Manning said benefits included increased school attendance and confidence, decreased learner anxiety behaviours resulting in improved learning outcomes such as increases in reading and writing levels, positive changes to learning and motivation and enhanced relationships with peers and teachers.

“At Sacred Heart College, our therapy dogs and owners are carefully selected for their temperament and obedience,” she said.

“The dogs are present at particularly stressful moments in a student’s life including, but not limited to, first day of Year 7 and the exam period.”