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We Are Head Over Tails in Love With Wisconsin’s School Support Dogs

Tuesday, May 9, 2023
School Support Dog Rookie (a golden retriever puppy) practices sitting and paying attention to his handler.
Pawtner in training: Rookie the therapy puppy practices sitting and paying attention to his handler at a De Pere, WI elementary school recently.

Wisconsin schools are full of adults who love, care for, challenge, and nurture our students. Now across the state, more students have another familiar helping hand--er, paw-- to rely on.

Many educators and administrators have used support dogs in schools after traumatic events to help calm students and staff and help them process a loss or traumatic event. But what can a support dog do if they are integrated into the everyday lives of students?

In Wisconsin, teachers, schools, and districts have found creative ways to bring therapy dogs into the classroom. The stories that these therapy dogs and their handlers bring to us tell us not only about the amazing dogs themselves, but also about our fundamental needs as human beings to be comforted and to connect. In each of these stories, the path to getting the support dogs is different — who initiated the idea, how it is funded, and what kinds of things they have the dogs support.

One thing is for certain, however: Support dogs are making a difference for Wisconsin students and school staff. The needs of our students are great, and we are constantly assessing how we can best serve them. Good dogs can help us be better supporters, teachers, and humans. 

Click on the headline below to explore how these Very Good Dogs have made a difference. Be prepared to say "aww," smile, and maybe even ask who is cutting onions. 

Sparty the service dog, with elementary school pals
Sparty hangs out with some very good friends.