Highbury’s new therapy dog will bring comfort and delight to everyone who needs her care.
For 120 years Highbury has prided itself on knowing boys. We combine timeless wisdom with relevant knowledge to provide boys with a holistic educational experience that enables them to resiliently thrive in a modern and ever-changing world.
We aim to create a learning environment that encourages, inspires and supports boys to fully embrace their developmental journey, allowing them to grow into young men who are ready to reach their full potential in life.
This year, as an extension of our passion for education, we are introducing a therapy dog to the Highbury campus – and the boys can’t wait to meet her! Sunday, affectionately known as Sunny, is in the process of being trained to bring comfort and delight to everyone who needs her care.
Sunny’s job will be to support boys both emotionally and academically, as therapy dogs are able to perform various tasks which add value to the people they are attending to.
Studies have shown that simply having a dog in the classroom promotes a positive atmosphere, which has significant stress-reducing benefits. Interacting with a dog lowers a person’s blood pressure and heart rate, while at the same time decreases the stress hormone cortisol and increases oxytocin.
Therapy dogs provide emotional and sensory regulation for students who may feel anxious – as their unconditional, non-judgemental love boosts confidence, enabling the boys to relax and focus on learning at school. Academically it has been noted that reading out loud to therapy dogs boosts reading scores and comprehension, because therapy dogs are really good listeners.
Boys are more likely to openly share their thoughts and feelings when speaking to another person side-by-side. By a teacher inviting a child to chat with them while brushing or throwing a ball for a therapy dog, new opportunities are created for connection and support.
Caring for an animal develops empathy and responsibility. Boys who do not have animals at home now have the opportunity to learn how to interact with a dog in a positive way at school – a life skill in itself.
It will take up to 18 months to fully train and integrate Sunny into the school environment. Students and staff are being educated on how to properly engage with a therapy dog, and she is slowly being introduced to the Highbury family in a compassionate and gentle way.
Therapy dog initiatives have been successfully implemented at schools internationally. As we embark on this exciting journey as a South African school, we can once again confirm that Highbury truly is “never behind”.