K9 at Scotch Oakburn
Pictures: Scott Gelston
Scotch Oakburn College had some students of the canine variety this week.
On Wednesday five dogs had a gradation of sorts, becoming certified therapy dogs following a course with renowned trainer Tessa Stow.
Based in Benalla Victoria, Ms Stow is a veterinary nurse, qualified counselor and a dog behaviourist who founded the facility dog training company K9.
Her mission is to help people who find themselves in the justice system, and she is currently campaigning to allow therapy dogs inside Australian courts to provide support to victims during testimonies.
Ms Stow said therapy dogs have become a common feature within schools, nursing homes and hospitals and that allowing them inside courts should be the next step.
“We have slowly been trying to get this in place for three years,” she said.
“When it comes to lowering people’s anxiety, the results speak for themselves.
“The justice system is a traumatising place where we are re-traumatising our victims.
“When a dog offers unconditional love and support it immediately starts to change how a person is feeling.”
"When a dog offers unconditional love and support it immediately starts to change how a person is feeling"
Ms Stow said K9 evolved from her own experiences working with a domestic violence agency and seeing firsthand the positive effects that dogs can have.
Visiting Tasmania for the first time, she said the response from the five dogs and their owners had been very positive.
Scotch Oakburn school psychologist and wellbeing coordinator Kylie Wolstencroft, said the collaboration with K9 grew from a student-directed inquiry into the benefits of therapy dogs in nursing homes.
Her own dog Beau, one of the five pooches who completed the therapy certification, is a regular visitor to Fred French Aged Care in Newstead.
“We reached out to Tessa and asked if she would be interested in coming to Launceston,” she said.
“We are very fortunate that our principal Andy Muller was supportive of this training.
“Just the act of patting a dog lowers anxiety and blood pressure very quickly.
“Beau is just a friendly face and when he walks into the room people faces light up.”
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