Central Coast Grammar

Sunny, a kid’s best friend, is CCGS’s wellbeing dog, lifting spirits and healing hearts and minds at our school.

For those that don’t know, she is a vibrant, caramel-coloured Australian Cobberdog and is at the forefront of a groundbreaking new movement toward enhanced wellbeing and emotional therapy in schools. This is a movement that has taken root in Australia during the past five years.

Making a difference

Whilst she may still be in training, she is without a doubt one of the brightest sparks in the school day, gathering attention wherever she goes.

“She’s a superstar, there’s no doubt about it,” said Assistant to the Headmaster, Mrs Kate Yelds, the school’s wellbeing dog coordinator and Sunny’s carer. “She’s only 11 months old and still has another year or so of training before she’s completely ready, but she is already making a significant difference to the students here at CCGS.”

Not only is Sunny popular – gathering crowds of students keen to pat her wherever she goes in the playground – she is proving an essential tool in dissipating and diffusing stress and anxiety.

Connecting with children

Dr. Kylie McIntyre is one of the school’s two consulting psychologists and uses Sunny to set up a connection with children who are going through a wide range of emotional difficulties, whether it be trauma, distress, other mental health issues, or learning difficulties.

“Initially I started using Sunny in a physical framework,” said Dr. McIntyre. “We know that if we can get kids outside exercising then they will start to feel better about themselves.” Previously it was always a chore to convince them to do that. So, now when it is suggested to go and get Sunny for a walk – it is met with excitement and enthusiasm.

“As I got used to Sunny and she with me, I then started using her socially as a connection to build rapport with kids.”  Sunny also helps little ones who may be having difficulty leaving Mum or Dad or don’t want to get out of the car.

Research shows that companionship with a dog has been found to stimulate memory, problem-solving and game playing in people of all ages. It can reduce stress, anxiety, lower blood pressure, increase social behavior and encourage physical activity too.

An integrated approach

Headmaster Mr Bill Low, agreed to the suggestion of a school dog because, as a dog owner himself, he knew the value of connection and socialisation for students. 

Sunny loves the attention at CCGS

“It is an integrated approach to education that looks at the whole person, not just what happens in the classroom. Students learn about accountability, reliability, and kindness and that is an important part of helping our students become fully rounded people with hearts as well as minds.”

Sometimes kids will come down to the hockey pitch with Kate before school and they will help with her training – a great way to start the day for Sunny and the kids.

Sunny gets so much love, affection, and attention and she has become an integral part of the school community.

Taken from original story Animal therapy – A kids best friend in April 2022 issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.