Beau and Jordan
Pictures: Paul Scambler
After a year of research Scotch Oakburn College student Jordan Crack is almost ready to complete his self-directed study into animal assisted therapy.
The 18-year-old has been working with a dog named Beau and the school’s well-being coordinator and psychologist Kylie WolstenCroft, to put together a proposal to have the Irish Wolfhound cross visit the school regularly.
“The biggest thing I have learned about therapy animals is that there is no real structure to it, you look at a lot of different programs and they are all conducted differently,” Mr Crack said.
“They have all got their little nuances and their own way of doing things and it’s going to be a case of finding what works for Beau and what works for Scotch, in comparison to other schools and what works around the place.”
Mr Crack has met with the staff executive as part of his project and this week conducted a survey with all of the senior students.
“That will hopefully let me know what their thoughts are and if there is anything we need to change before we let Beau into the school for a day or two a week,” he said.
Several students have already been working with Beau at Fred French, the Masonic Care Tasmania aged care facility.
“We know how Beau works and how he works with Kylie and myself and the other students, so when we bring him [to the school] we already have that understanding and we don’t need to work that out as we go,” Mr Crack said.
The next step is to have have Beau formally trained and assessed.
“Unfortunately there is no accredited course or trainer in Tasmania but we have managed to secure the services of an interstate certified trainer who will come to Launceston to conduct a practical therapy dog training course,” Ms WolstenCrof said.
“This trainer has over 20 years experience in the dog industry including training, veterinary nursing, service dog training and obedience.”
As a registered psychologist Ms WolstenCroft knows then benefits of animals as a therapy.
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“One of the earliest studies, published in 1980, found that heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who didn't. Another early study found that patting a dog can help lower blood pressure,” she said.
“More recently, at the University of Missouri College Of Veterinary Medicine, studies have been focusing on the fact that interacting with animals can increase people's level of the hormone oxytocin which is a hormone that helps us feel happy and trusting.”
But to make the training possible Beau needs a few furry friends to come along.
“This training will be suitable for anyone wishing to volunteer in animal assisted interventions in Launceston and its local area [and] all breeds are welcome,” Ms WolstenCroft said.
To be part of the five-day therapy dog training class from October 21 to 25, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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