SEL Support Dog Program

The District’s SEL (Social Emotional Learning) Support dog program is intended to promote student growth and success in the District’s schools.  A SEL Support dog is a dog that has been individually trained, evaluated, and registered to provide animal-assisted support.  Research has shown that interacting with animals can help students by decreasing anxiety and stress and providing cognitive, physiological, social and emotional support.  However, a SEL Support dog is not a service animal.  We are excited to provide this additional support to our staff and students!

Meet Our SEL Support Dog Team

Improve the culture and general mood of the school.

  SEL support dogs provide many healing effects including:

  • Increase in socialization resulting in a sense of happiness and well-being.
  • Increase in mental stimulation
  • Reduced stress and anxiety.
  • Decreased feelings of depression, loneliness, and feelings of isolation.
  • Decrease aggressive behaviors.

Make a connection with at-risk students, and give them an additional reason to come to school.

  • The emotional well being of students is a large factor in their success.  The presence of a SEL support dog can give students a sense of happiness that allows them to perform better academically.  Animals have been incorporated into schools in order to allow children to discuss issues of grief and anxiety.  There are many children who struggle to open up to an adult about issues they are facing but interaction with animals may relieve their anxiety and improve their mood, lending to more open dialogue.  The SEL support dog will give our student support specialist opportunities to talk with children that otherwise might not open up about their situation.  Children may find comfort in talking to the dog, and in turn, be willing to share with an adult.
  • Many children who experience emotional troubles often lack trust, and using the intervention of a SEL support dog may help the child to develop trust.  Interacting with animals helps to decrease anxiety, decrease manipulative/abusive behaviors, reduce depression, increase self-esteem, increase self-worth, increase expressions of feelings and the ability to trust.

Improve literacy skills.

  • Reading to dogs can eliminate the fear of judgement for many children.  Many studies have shown that students are able to improve their reading ability because of the increased motivation and interest they have in reading with a dog.

Build a sense of community.

  • SEL support dogs will be present at a variety of school and community events, increasing positive interactions with community members, staff, and students.  These are opportunities to build meaningful positive relationships with the greater community.

It is very important that all students and visitors adhere to the strict expectations for interactions with our District owned SEL Support Dogs.  Following this guidance helps make sure that our dogs and visitors remain safe and healthy.

Guidance for Students & Visitors

  • No more than three (3) students should be interacting with the SEL support dog at any one time.
  • When approaching the dog, meet him/her with an open palm to allow her to sniff you.
  • Never feed the dog.
  • Never put your hand in the dog’s mouth.
  • Never let the dog off of their leash or outside of the room/building.
  • Never use rough behavior with the dog (hitting, kicking, pulling tail or ears, etc.).
  • Never yell, scream, or use loud voices near the dog.
  • Never run at/toward the dog.
  • Never approach the dog while it is resting in its kennel.  They need a nap just like us sometimes.
  • Listen to the Handler and your teacher at all times and follow directions carefully.
  • Failure to follow expectations will result in loss of privileges to pet/interact with the dog.

Charlotte Public Schools will be implementing a SEL Support Dog program during the 2023-2024 school year at your child’s school.  Research has shown that support dogs in schools can help build strong social emotional skills in students.  A support dog presence has also been shown to reduce anxiety, help students work through anger management concerns, reduce bullying tendencies, and address other personal and social issues that all of our developing students deal with.  There are specific goals of the SEL support dog program and they include but are not limited to: increase empathy and compassion in students; help students connect with something in the school setting and reduce anxiety; and improve academic performance, while increasing confidence and self-esteem.

Our SEL support dog will be trained and certified through Canines for Change.  Our dog has passed a temperament evaluation for suitability to become certified and to work in a variety of settings around people.

Our SEL support dog is owned by Charlotte Public Schools and is cared for by our employees.  Each SEL support dog has a Host that takes care of them while they are not at work and a Handler that cares for them while at work.  Both the Host and Handler have been properly trained through the Canines for Change program and meet very strict requirements for the ongoing care of the dog and the conditions under which our dog works. 

You will find attached to this letter more specific information about the SEL support dog assigned to your child’s building including: name, age, breed, size, Host name and Handler name.  It also includes a list of expectations for students when interacting with the SEL support dog.  We encourage you to review these expectations with your child.

Please complete the form below acknowledging your preference as to whether you wish your child to have contact with a CPS support dog.  If we do not receive a response from you within ten (10) business days we will automatically assume you do not have any concerns and approve interaction between your student and the SEL support dog.  Please contact your building principal if you have questions regarding this program.





What is the difference between a service dog and a SEL Support dog (facility dog)?
Service Dogs
  • Service dogs are not pets.
  • Service dogs are working dogs; they are not for petting.
  • Service dogs are trained more extensively and must learn 3 specific tasks for its owners specific needs.
  • Examples of service dog tasks: alert to specific noises, retrieve objects, push buttons, open doors, alert on specific scents, etc.
SEL Support Dogs (Facility Dog)
  • Our dogs are District owned pets.
  • Our dogs are encouraged to interact with others and petting is allowed with supervision.
  • Our dogs are well-mannered and pass a test on basic commands and temperament.