Greenbriar Prepares for New (Canine) Staff Member

Therapy Dog to Work in Student Services
Posted on 01/30/2020
A student cuddles with a therapy dog

Greenbriar School will soon be more than just home of the Greyhounds, it will be home to a full-time therapy dog.

In a partnership approved by the Board of Education between the school, principal Ginny Hiltz, and the nonprofit Canines 4 Comfort, Greenbriar will prepare to welcome a therapy dog on-site each day. The goal of the program is to provide emotional and behavioral support to students within the student services office spaces.

The dog, which is still to be selected and trained, would be owned by a staff member and come to school each day with the staff member.  

Dr. Hiltz proposed the partnership after a pilot program this year in which trained service dogs visited with Greenbriar staff and students on multiple occasions. The goal of the pilot was to provide introductory interactions with students and to test the hypothesis that students would find the dogs to be a calming and comforting presence, she said.

Students have been allowed to interact with the dogs with parent permission. Prior to each visit, parents were notified and given the chance to opt-out. So far, none have chosen to do so, she said.

The pilot has allowed Dr. Hiltz and Greenbriar staff members to see the benefits firsthand, particularly with children who may need some emotional support to calm or regulate.

“One student was having a particularly difficult time during an afternoon when the dogs happened to be visiting. Given that he had previous parental permission to visit with the dogs, we had him interact with a staff member and one of the dogs in a private space (away from other students who were visiting with the dogs). Within a few minutes, he had stopped crying and was calm enough to return to class. He attributed this ability to calm himself to the opportunity to sit with and pet the dog,” Dr. Hiltz wrote in her report.

The Greenbriar dog would be the responsibility of the staff member, who would also pay for care and other related expenses. The selection and training of the dog by Canines 4 Comfort, which takes about one year, is free so this project comes at no cost to the district. The school staff will work with Canines 4 Comfort to select an appropriate breed for the school. Parents will be required to sign a liability waiver in order for their child to interact with any dog.

Several staff members have expressed interest in owning the dog, Dr. Hiltz said, and a Greenbriar family has also volunteered to serve as the puppy raiser in the Canines 4 Comfort training program. Greenbriar is excited to hopefully meet its newest (canine) staff member in the 2020-2021 academic year.