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Gus, the dog, with Fairfield School pupils (clockwise, from front left) Luna Mirriellees, Myah...
Gus, the dog, with Fairfield School pupils (clockwise, from front left) Luna Mirriellees, Myah Parker, Mila Holley and Caitlyn Wilson (all 7). PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Licking your classmates on the face is typically frowned upon. 

But an exception has been made for Gus at Fairfield School — only because he is a golden retriever.

"He’s a very popular enrolment," principal Greg Lees said.

The school’s board of trustees agreed to make Gus a member of the school roll at the start of the year, to help teach pupils about responsibility and empathy.

"The fact that he can teach some children empathy, quite deliberate exercises in dog training, taking responsibility for the dog, having a day when they’re on duty and taking Gus for walk and making sure he’s fed and watered — they’re what we call soft skills that aren’t usually taught in the curriculum.

"There are several opportunities for those things with a class or school dog. It’s been a really good thing for all the kids. They think he’s fantastic."

Gus had also proven to be a great help to pupils who had learning difficulties or behavioural issues.

"Sometimes, they [pets] are a necessary distraction.

"He’s proved to be a great incentive. We’ve got some children who have challenges in the classroom — either behaviourally or with concentration — and they know that if they stick to a task, they’ll get a bit of Gus-time.

"With a couple of children in particular, that’s proved to be quite the carrot."

 Mr Lees said Gus worked mainly in a two-classroom space, and the novelty of having him there had worn off for some of those pupils. But when it came to intervals and lunch breaks, he was still swamped by the other pupils.

"He’s incredibly good-natured."

Mr Lees said the only other school to have a "full-time" dog was Goldfields School, in Cromwell, where his mother teaches.

They have two dogs — one is Gus’ mother and the other is Gus’ great-grandmother.

He said some principals or office staff at other Otago schools brought their dogs to the school office one day each week, to help teach empathy and responsibility under "informal or unofficial" arrangements.

The difference with Gus was, he would be at school every day of the week, because the board wanted him to be part of the school.

"He’ll have a pretty good attendance record at the end of the year, that’s for sure."

At the end of each school day, and during the holidays, Gus goes home with teacher Rachelle Kilsby.

"He’s not very good at doing homework unless it involves his chew toy."



Brilliant, wonderful for the kids and in the long term great for dogs - they will be more accepted in NZ society than they are now.

I have owned dogs for may years and would never let a dog lick my face as advised by medical experts
The friendly animals who love to lick faces can and do carry a long list of bacteria which can severely impact human health. ... Capnocytophaga Canimorsus is a bacteria that lives in a dog's saliva. It has the power to cause fatal infections including sepsis, which can ultimately lead to organ failure and even death.

So presumably you don't let a dog lick any part of you or touch the dog's toys. This is a wonderful chance to teach the kids how to live with dogs. Basic hygiene is generally sufficient and don't let the kids chew the dog's toys. My children and grandchildren have never known life without dogs and they have never had any problems. I would be far more concerned with what they can pick up from people.

We didnt let the kids do what you say and never let them play on the lawn where the dog defecated for this reason.

Dog had its own area where kids didnt go so they didnt get any of these Wasnt being supercareful but it pays to be aware

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