The Canines in the Classroom program gives high school students who face challenges that may prevent them from graduating from high school, an opportunity to learn how to train service dogs.
The program, which takes place during the school day, is linked to the Ontario secondary school curriculum. Students can earn high school credits while learning essential literacy and workplace skills.
Students introduce their canine partners to as many as 90 commands which include: opening doors, turning on lights, retrieving out of reach items and helping with dressing – tasks that a person using a wheelchair, for example, might have difficulty doing on their own.
Student trainers take pride in the role they play in enhancing the lives of people with disabilities, who are the future Life Partners of COPE Service dogs-in-training.
The impact of this program on the community is broad
As they learn, students go out into the community to help others, and gain self-confidence in their ability to be contributing citizens.
Student/dog teams make therapeutic visits to elementary schools for the Reading Buddy program and to visit seniors, who are often isolated in hospitals and institutions.
Through these programs, the dogs gain valuable experience in public settings, helping to prepare them for situations they will encounter during their future working careers.
Personal growth results in increased success in school
Anecdotal evidence indicates that students with previous school challenges achieve higher grades, become more engaged in school, improve attendance and increase their chances of graduating after completing the Canines in the Classroom program.
“Maple helped me get over the wall that was blocking me from going anywhere with my life.
If you had asked me a year ago if I was going to college I would have told you “no”. I have so many dreams and aspirations now (and I feel like nothing will stand in my way).
This (program) should be in every high school.”
– Canines in the Classroom graduate