Bullying is a growing problem that has attracted increasing attention in Canada and internationally. Many children have suffered through this terrible experience, including a number of students who have participated in the COPE program, Canines in the Classroom.
What happens to students who are bullied is not easy to counteract. Often they feel that they don’t matter – to anyone at school – and are completely unmotivated to continue their education. Without the self-confidence to stand up to those who are tormenting them, school is not a place of refuge.
However, within the COPE program, when students are matched with service dogs-in-training, they suddenly matter to their canine partner. As they develop a bond through their training experience, they receive unconditional love from their COPE dog.
Not only are they important to their partner, they are carrying out important work. They are part of a team training a service dog that will make a real difference in the life of a life partner with disabilities. Students begin to gain confidence in themselves as they experience success, and they develop new perspectives as they take on the leadership role of a trainer.
In the COPE class, dogs don’t judge their student partners – they accept them just the way they are. It is no wonder that some students explain they can’t wait to get to their COPE. class. It is no wonder that students begin to unleash their potential and develop more skills to combat bullying.