Dorothy Thomas Program

Located on Dorothy Thomas Center school property, an ESE school for children with emotional behavior disabilities, high school students participate in our program as an elective. Students attend class Monday through Friday throughout the school year where they work with our dog trainer and staff.

Students are selected for the program in collaboration with their teachers, counselors, therapists, and parents. Before beginning the program, they sign a contract agreeing to attend school regularly, make academic improvement, and adhere to behavior standards.

The students provide daily training, care and grooming for the dog they are assigned.  They are responsible for brushing the dogs, bathing them, clipping nails, cleaning ears, and alerting program staff to any potential health problems they notice. They are also responsible for various chores associated with the dogs’ care.

As the student advances they become dog trainers. As trainers they are preparing the dog to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test.   The students will train the dogs to perform more than 30 cues.

The bond formed between a student and “their” dog may be the first experience these children have with trust and unconditional love.

“The dogs make me happy and calm. They have helped me to be patient. I learned how to be patient by training them. I really like being here.” – Sarah, Dorothy Thomas Student Trainer.

As a result of our programs we have seen children grow academically, socially and emotionally. Their school attendance, behavior and grades improve, Ask any one of our students and they will say, “ I love the dogs! And I am a better person because of them”.

“This program is such a wonderful tool in helping these kids!  To see the happiness on their faces when they teach a dog makes everything worth it.  It gives the kids a sense of pride knowing that helped make a difference.” – Ashley Price, teacher, Dorothy Thomas Center