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Local school districts turn to therapy dogs to benefit students' mental health

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PHILADELPHIA - Local school districts are turning to dogs as their newest strategy to help students and staff overcome mental and emotional struggles and stress in school.Puppies and full-grown dogs were in training with their owners at the Fallsington Elementary School in Levittown on Monday morning after the Pennsbury School District says their most recent goal is to have a therapy dog in every school in the district after recent statistics show that interacting with dogs can benefit people's mental health."We do mental health and suicide prevention programs and dogs are involved in every one of our programs," said Tricia Baker, Director of Attitudes in Reverse therapy dog training.

Baker and her daughter, Katelyn, work with dogs to get them trained to provide a sense of calm and comfort in a counseling session or an emergency.

The mother-daughter duo spends dozens of hours each week traveling to various schools to teach a 40-week program with dog owners and their pets."It's nice to take the knowledge we had teaching about dogs and turning it in to something even more," said Katelyn Baker.

Nine administrators and teachers of the Pennsbury School District have volunteered for the 11-month intensive training course to reach their goal of having a dog assigned to each school in the district.

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