As students enter Te Ao Mārama primary school in Flagstaff each morning, they are greeted by small furry spoodle Daisy, the latest member of the school's staff.

At 11 weeks old, Daisy joined the school two weeks ago to be trained as a therapy dog, and already she has a line of admirers following her around at intervals and lunch.

Deputy headmaster Anna Pratt — and Daisy's owner — said she became interested in the growing phenomenon of therapy dogs being used in schools around the world.

"It is really popular in America, and also in Australia," Ms Pratt said. "There were a lot of things we considered, such as the breed, the size, the type of coat — Daisy has a wool coat so she doesn't trigger any allergies. She has been at school now for a couple of weeks, and she has been growing in confidence and the students have been getting more confident around her as well."


Daisy, who is a half spoodle and half spaniel, is identified by the fluoro orange jacket that has been specially made for her, to show that she is a dog in training, and to also make her stand out when at school events.

Ms Pratt said that having a therapy dog as young as Daisy also helps with dog's education, and the responsibility that comes with owning a dog.

"The kids are learning from a young age that having a dog is a really big responsibility."

"I was astounded as to how many kids here had never touched a dog, or even seen a dog."

"She is a puppy at a new entrants' school so she will grow up with these kids at roughly the same age range."

"So many kids come up saying I'm really scared of dogs, but I really want to pat her and now those kids are some of the ones who come up first to greet Daisy."

 Daisy with students from Te Ao Marama primary school.Photos / Tom Rowland
Daisy with students from Te Ao Marama primary school.Photos / Tom Rowland

"She is getting desensitised to new experiences so they don't jump her, such as the school bells. Her first time in assembly she heard the clapping and sort of looked up, but then I don't react, and then she looks at me and sees me not reacting and that's it, she'll go back to sleep."

Daisy's routine includes heading to road patrol in the morning, roaming through the learning areas of the school or teaching spaces.

"Children will read to her or draw pictures for her in class, and then after that she will eat and sleep for a bit."

"A good example of how Daisy benefits the kids is we had a child come in one morning who was still quite tired.

"She didn't want to leave Mum and Mum had to get to work, so we brought the student in to see Daisy and immediately she was focused on Daisy and not on Mum.

"I told the student we had some new tricks and Daisy went on to show her, and it just settled her down straight away."

"In research it shows that patting a dog releases the feel-good hormones and it just helps settles the kids, and they don't become distracted."