Wellbeing dog Albi welcomed to Blackfriars

The Hound has long been the mascot of Blackfriars – and now we now have a real-life hound as part of our school community.

Blackfriars has worked with Dogs Connect to introduce our inaugural wellbeing dog, Albi. When fully integrated into the school environment, Albi will provide emotional support, give people an opportunity for connection and assist children with emotional regulation and communication.

Director of Wellbeing Anthea Osborne, with whom Albi lives while not at school, said the program would provide significant benefits across the school.

“Introducing a wellbeing dog to Blackfriars is an exciting initiative,” Ms Osborne said. “Wellbeing dogs are so vital in assisting with health and wellness for both students and staff in our community.

“Albi is an Australian Cobberdog. The name Cobberdog honours the enormous task that the breed was designed for: to perform therapy and assistance tasks. Cobber is a slang term in Australia used to refer to a friend, which is indeed what the Australian Cobberdog is – a friend that you can always count on.”

The dog’s name was chosen by Year 8 student Henry Kemp as part of a school-wide competition.

“Albi’s name was chosen as it has a strong connection to our Patron Saint, St Albert the Great,” Ms Osborne said. “As an interesting addition, in Arabic, Albi means ‘my heart’ and  I’m sure that she is quickly forming a place in all of our hearts!”

Ms Osborne, who has long championed the introduction of a school wellbeing dog, said Albi was specifically selected to best suit the Blackfriars’ environment.

“Albi is a gorgeous little girl who is quietly confident and loves a snuggle,” she said. “She is excited to be part of our community.”  

Paws for thought as Blackfriars focuses on wellbeing

Some very special, four-legged visitors have help launched Blackfriars’ 2023 Wellbeing program.

A group of staff members are undertaking a six-month course to learn how to train and manage Albi, complete social and emotional learning to help the community learn how to benefit from the connection and prepare the Blackfriars community for her full introduction. 

Once fully incorporated into the school environment, Albi will visit classrooms, spend time with individual students, attend staff meetings and enjoy quiet time in the school environment.

Dogs Connect said wellbeing dogs “decreased anxiety in the majority of staff and students” within a school.

“Scientific evidence shows that just by being near a dog and patting a dog when stress is evident, anxiety is reduced and the heart rate decreases,” Dogs Connect said. 

“92% of 200 students surveyed reported that having a dog in the classroom during teaching and learning time helps them feel more relaxed.

“Interacting with your school wellbeing dog gives opportunities to bring awareness to what we bring to the social and emotional exchange. This allows a shift in awareness and an opportunity to apply the same learning to our interactions with people.”


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