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How Pawpals dogs are helping students learn

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MacKillop Family Services supports at-risk children living in Melbourne’s west to engage in education through its Specialist Schools and education outreach services and their PawPals program is a fantastic example of how dogs are helping children re-engage with education again.

Education is the cornerstone of life and is something that every child should have the opportunity to make the most of. Unfortunately, many children and teenagers are not responding or are able to learn in a traditional school setting, so these specialist schools are suited to students with social and/or emotional behaviours that cannot be managed in a mainstream setting.

The curriculum is underpinned by a model that helps to ensure a safe learning environment is provided for children and young people impacted by trauma. By catering to a student’s learning and well-being needs they are able to develop a flexible, individualised program to prepare them academically and socially to return to mainstream education.

Helping them to achieve this is the PawPals program, which is a canine-assisted learning program introduced as a pilot program in 2018. The impact of PawPals on children who find it difficult to engage with learning has been remarkable, so since their introduction they have been fundraising to help expand this amazing program even further, to help more children in need get back into the classroom.

There’s a lot of research that shows therapy dogs can help people to stay relaxed in situations they can sometimes find confronting, so as part of the PawPals program, the dogs go into classes or stay by the side of students that find it difficult to interact with other students, whilst they also undertaken home visits to engage the kids in learning again.

It’s just another example of how amazing dogs are and how beneficial they are for our health. I am so glad we are able to share and celebrate some of the amazing work dogs are doing in the community through our TV show and this website.

The Pawpals program is funded through charitable grants, pubic and corporate donations. Earlier in 2019, the Paws4Kids campaign was launched, where partners including PETstock, through their charity foundation, matched public donations to help raise $200,000 so they could bring four more PawPals dogs into the program.

Since then, each year even higher targets have been set –  and achieved – helping get more assistance dog on board, as demand does certain exceed their capabilities.  This included raising over $300,000 in April 2022 for the program to launch into the regional area of Ballarat.

You can make a tax deductible donation all year round to further their work and the PawPals program, so to learn more about where this money goes, visit the MacKillop Family Services website.

To find out more about the PETstock Charity Foundation, now rebranded as the Petspiration Foundation, and how your purchases at PETstock can help contribute to their community grant programs click here.


About the Author: Lara Shannon is a certified dog behaviourist and trainer, pet food nutrition specialist, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of World of Dogs and Eat, Play, Love Your Dog

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