Emotional Support Dogs in Schools

Photo Source: Sarah Graninger

Photo Source: Sarah Graninger

Sarah Graninger, Writer

Meet Dice!

Pentucket Middle and High School students, time with our devoted emotional support dog, Dice, is offered to everyone! Once a week, Dice comes to the library. Any student is allowed to spend time with Dice, as a refresher before resuming with the rest of their school day. Dice’s purpose in the school is to create a comfortable, safe, environment for students. Dice is approachable, loving, and patient. Dice has been working with students in school for years, and has become a familiar face to many students and facility. Dice has been an amazing part of our district by shifting the energy in the school and providing love and comfort to students. Dice has shown Pentuckt the importance of emotional support dogs in school, and has proved that they can be a vital part of the academic realm. 



Over the past few years, mental health in adolescence has been destigmatized more than ever. Since the global pandemic, rates of mental illnesses of in children/teenagers has risen immensely. Along with this, the mental health stigma in our society is beginning to break, and many people are becoming more aware of the affects mental health can have on kids, especially students. Anxiety and depression rates in students continue to rise throughout the United States, and people are looking for ways to help students cope in school. 


The Bond Between Animals and Humans

Emotional Support Dogs have been confirmed to be very beneficial in schools. Human and animal interactions have shown to increase levels of oxytocin, and  decrease levels of cortisol. Caristol is a primary stress hormone, that can trigger emotional lability.  For some, cortisol levels rise in school. Many students who struggle with this find it difficult to thrive in a school environment. Emotional Support Dogs provide companionship and support, making these situations feel less intimidating for students by giving them a source of serenity.


What Can Emotional Support Dogs do in the Classroom?

 Having emotional support dogs available for students can change their mentality towards school. This can help children with psychological disorders learn social skills. Emotional support dogs can help children with socialization by teaching them how to have genuine interactions and create bonds with others. Therapy dogs are trained to be more comfortable and approachable, making interactions easy for people who suffer from social anxiety. Confidence can be developed and secure relationships with peers can be created after an experience of trust with an emotional support dog. Not only can they help with relieving social anxiety, but they can help one learn the concept of empathy and interpersonal skills. Studies have shown that children with higher self esteem and confidence interact with animals more. Along with social issues, emotional support dogs can assist students with feelings of loneliness. Socializing and making friends in school can be hard, and emotional Support Dogs can be a main resource of companionship to students who lack friendships and experience isolation in school. Comfort animals have been proven to be extremely beneficial in classrooms.


Why do Schools Lack Emotional Support Dogs?

It is very difficult to find a properly, well trained emotional support dog that is equipped to be working in a school environment. Just like humans, dogs can also experience high levels of stress and anxiety when put in certain situations. When a dog is under that kind of pressure, their reaction can be unpredictable, at times making it unsafe to have emotional support dogs in school. In order to safely have an emotional support dog in school, it should be highly trained for overwhelming situations, even though they do not require specific training. Although schools are not legally required or obligated to allow or provide emotional support dogs, they are a beneficial factor in a classroom environment.

Photo Source: Sarah Graninger