BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Mary Kay McMillin Early Childhood Center welcomes Timber, a four month old Australian Labradoodle, as a new addition to the family. 

Timber is in training and attends weekly sessions with  On The Ball Dog Training in Berkeley Heights. "Our goal is to train Timber as both a therapy and facility dog allowing him to work with the students at the Early Childhood Center on a regular basis," said Principal Annie Corley-Hand. 

"After attending a workshop on the Benefits of Therapy Dogs in Schools, I made the decision to adopt a second dog," said Corley-Hand. "I already have an almost three year old Australian Labradoodle and knowing what traits our breeder likes to see in her dogs, I reached out to Ocean State Labradoodles to begin the adoption process." 

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There are numerous ways that having a dog in school can benefit students.  "Empirical evidence has shown that therapy dogs can enhance children’s psychological development, improve social skills, and increase self-esteem among other benefits," said Corley Hand.  Dogs can also teach responsibility, compassion, and respect for other living things.

"Dogs in the classroom can be used to calm fears, relieve anxiety, and teach skills.  Implementing a well-run dog therapy program in our school will take work, coordination, and support from various sources," said Corley-Hand. "However, the benefits to students, teachers and the administration have been shown to be well worth it. Timber has his paws crossed!"

The Australian Labradoodle breed started in the 1980s for the Royal Guide Dogs in Victoria, Australia.  The goal was to create a breed that was allergy and asthma friendly with the temperament of a service dog.  The Australian Labradoodle breed is not just a cross between a lab and a poodle  -- English and American Cocker Spaniels and Irish Water Spaniels were also brought into the mix to bring in the qualities needed to create a breed that would have the characteristics of allergy and asthma friendliness, low to no shedding, a service dog quality temperament for family companions, top quality confirmation and desired coat types.