The Federation of Briar Hill Infant and St Margaret’s C of E Junior Schools

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Briar Hill Infant School

Click to: Meet Mabel, our school wellbeing dog

As of September 2020, we welcomed our school wellbeing dog, Mabel, who will come into school on a regular basis to work with our children.   Mabel is a Mal-Shi dog, a cross between and Maltese and Shih-tzu.


  • This breed does not malt – their coat is non-allergenic, meaning there is a reduced risk of allergic reactions.
  • This breed is known to be child-friendly, lively, gentle mannered and affectionate, yet sensitive.
  • This breed is known to be highly intelligent and respond excellently to training.



Cognitive development

Building a companionship with a dog helps children stimulate their memory, problem-solving and game-playing skills. Having a school dog is known to increase enthusiasm for, and enjoyment of animals, which motivates children to think and learn.


Social skills

Dogs provide a mutual topic for conversation with others, and encourage responsibility, wellbeing and focussed interaction with others.


Emotional skills

Dogs improve self-esteem, acceptance from others and are known for improving moods. Dogs can also help children develop compassion and respect for other living things and can reduce children’s anxiety. Building respect can improve children’s relationships with each other, parents and teachers and shows them how to nurture and care for another living thing. If any children are suffering from bereavement or are particularly sad, dogs can provide children with comfort and friendship.


Physical development

Interaction with dogs is known to reduce blood pressure, provide tactile stimulation, assist with pain management and give motivation for children to move and walk.



School dogs are known to help children with their reading and literacy skills, through their calming presence and ability to listen to children read without being judgemental or critical. Children can build their confidence to read aloud to others through having a school dog.


School community

Having a school dog builds the sense of a family environment and togetherness.


We wish to reassure parents that we have undertaken a significant amount of research into purchasing a school dog and believe the positive effects of such demonstrably outweigh any negatives. Some of the many benefits of having a school dog include the following:



During the day Mabel will remain in Mrs Willis’s office. She will have a suitable bed, food, water and she is toilet-trained. I must stress that pupils will not be expected to clean up any dog mess, and we will ensure that the school grounds are kept clean at all times. Whenever Mabel is being walked around the school, she will be close to Mrs Willis or an alternative adult. 


Mabel will visit pupils in their classrooms to interact and for some children to read to her.  Some children, with adult support will be able to walk Mabel around the school or on the playground/field (on a lead) or in the courtyard (off the lead). 


At all times, whether in classrooms or being walked by a pupil, an adult will supervise the activity. I would like to reassure you that pupils will only be able to come into contact with Mabel if parental permission has been received.


We understand that some parents may have concerns about a school dog o the premises, and I would like to use this letter to provide some reassurance to parents that in the last few years Mabel has become an essential part of the Briar Hill family and is well-loved by all. We have undertaken a full risk assessment to ensure that any hazards can be adequately controlled. Please read below for some FAQ.


My child is allergic to dogs. If they spend time with Mabel will they have a reaction?


As previously mentioned, we have chosen a Mal-Shi breed, which has a non-allergenic coat and does not malt, meaning there is a significantly reduced risk of an allergic reaction. If, however, you would still prefer your child not to come into contact with Mabel, we will accommodate your request and ensure that arrangements are in place.

Children will clean/sanitise their hands and the environment will be cleaned before/after her visit.


Will the dog be properly cared for?


Mabel will be kept in Mrs Willis’s office during the day and will have an adequate supply of food and water as well as time to eat, sleep and walk. 


My child is scared of dogs-how can they feel safe with Mabel?


We understand that some children may be fearful of dogs. Mal-Shi’s are known for being extremely child-friendly and Mabel is incredibly calm. She will provide safe opportunities for children to overcome any fears, with parental permission. Training that Mabel has undertaken has ensured that she is well-behaved, gentle and calm. If parents would prefer for their child not to come into contact with Mabel, we will accommodate your request and ensure alternative arrangements are in place when she visits the classroom.


Is Mabel well-behaved?


As previously mentioned, Mabel has undergone training to ensure she is well-behaved, calm and safe at all times. She is kept close to Mrs Willis or an alternative adult or kept on a short leash if walked by a pupil. 


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Welcome to Briar Hill and St Margaret's!...Our Federation vision: 'Flourish as a family, love to learn, make memories, shine!'...Our St Margaret's Christian vision: 'How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.' (Psalm 133)