The Italian Almanac

golden retriever

Funky the Schhol Dog

A school in the northern town of Bolzano is bringing dogs into the classroom in an experimental campaign to crack down on bullying. Funky, a specially trained three-year-old golden retriever, is attending lessons with three of the classes at the Ada Negri Middle School. According to the local social services branch that has organised the project, the introduction of dogs in the classroom aids the development of young children and reduces aggressive behaviour.

Funky's presence satisfies the pupils' need to give and receive affection but also nurtures their caring instincts and teaches them respect for weaker individuals. Dogs are also extremely sensitive to small changes in the atmosphere of the classroom, which helps pupils understand when to temper their behaviour, the organisers explained. ''Funky reacts at the first hint of violence, teaching the children to stay on the road to tenderness and harmony,'' they said.

Teacher Sonia Merlin said she saw positive effects from having the golden retriever in her class. ''The school children learn from the reactions of the dog when their behaviour is aggressive, even if they are doing it unconsciously,'' she said. Two other classes at the school will continue lessons without the help of the dog in order to act as control groups for the three-year experiment.