Students at a Banbury primary have a new companion to play with – of the four-legged kind.

Labrador Dennis celebrated his second birthday by making his debut at Harriers Academy on Tuesday February 15.

The golden-haired puppy spent months in training with Executive Principal Alex Pearson before he was deemed ready to meet his new school friends.

Mr Pearson now plans to bring Dennis to work with him two days a week.

Dennis the new companion dog plays catch with pupils and Executive Principal Alex Pearson at Harriers Academy Banbury

Dennis, who was named by his breeder as he was the first puppy born on the night of Storm Dennis in 2020, will help to support all the students at Harriers through boosting their wellbeing with his companionship. Dennis will also help youngsters who feel self-conscious when they read.

Explaining his decision to boost the confidence and wellbeing of children at Harriers with help from Dennis, Mr Pearson told the Banbury Guardian: ‘’I’ve always loved dogs and grew up with a dog when I was a child so I know how great it is to have their companionship, loyalty and unquestioning love. Dogs are a great boost for wellbeing. It has long been a dream of mine to have a dog in school for the children and also in my home again.

‘’Dennis is my dog and lockdown provided me with the perfect opportunity to put my plan into action.

‘’I chose a Labrador as they have a calm temperament, are responsive and easy to train all of which makes them ideal to bring into an education setting with young children.’’

A new puppy called Dennis is helping to support students at Harriers Academy Banbury through boosting their wellbeing and companionship. He’s pictured here with a few pupils and Executive Principal Alex Pearson.

Dennis spent months being socialised through sessions with a dog trainer and has also completed a 20-day obedience course. Dennis also sailed through his Good Citizen Bronze Award. The scheme is run by the prestigious Kennel Club and means Dennis is safe to mingle with children. He is now working towards his Silver Award. 

Mr Pearson spent days acclimatising Dennis to the school building and
staff before bringing him in to meet pupils.

Mr Pearson spent days acclimatising Dennis to the school building and staff before bringing him in to meet pupils.

He said: ‘’Dennis is well-mannered and calm. I know he will be the perfect friend for all our students and will help to boost their confidence and help to further promote our wellbeing agenda for all pupils which is at the heart of everything we do at Harriers.

‘’He will also be able to help students who feel self-conscious about reading to an adult, they will read to Dennis instead.

‘’It’s also good for children to have the responsibility of looking after a dog.’’

Labrador Dennis is a new wellbeing dog at Harriers Academy Banbury

Dashwood Academy in Banbury, which like Harriers is part of the Aspirations Academies Trust, also has a wellbeing dog.

Lily, a fox-red Labrador, makes regular visits to give students the opportunity to sit and talk to her.