Dogs playing role in local learning

K9 Friendly Visitors Program used in 4 SD schools

SAN DIEGO - Dogs are playing a more active role in the way some students are learning in some San Diego schools.

For one hour, once a month, fourth- and fifth-grade students with special needs at Lafayette Elementary School in Clairemont get a visit from dogs with the K9 Friendly Visitors Program.

"They seem a little bit more eager, really motivated, yeah. And they're more animated, they're physically more expressive," said teacher Robert Weinger.

Weinger said he has noticed big changes in the students, and he added, "We'd be reading and we'd be doing other studies and discussing things here in class and I just noticed that their involvement was so focused and tuned in and I thought wow, the dogs visit really helps to support that."

Jeanne Cicchetto with the San Diego Unified School District told 10News, "It's not just for friendly fun, this is a cool thing … our focus is really to improve student achievement."

With the dogs, the kids' attention, retention of knowledge and teamwork has all improved.

"This experience really benefits the students in a way that we can measure," said Cicchetto.

The dogs have all the certificates they need to work with the deaf and special needs, 10News learned.

"They also have to have temperament training because as you can see they have their hands all over their muzzles, their ears, their everything, and you know there is no reaction," said Michael Neu with the K9 Friendly Visitors Program.

"They just feel better about themselves, after their time with the dogs. We all need that," Cicchetto said.

The K9 Friendly Visitor Program is in four schools across San Diego County.

The owner of the dogs does it all on a volunteer basis, and he hopes to bring the programs to a few more schools.

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