Meet the puppy who is helping pupils cope with stress

A school in Penarth has brought in a five-month-old puppy to help pupils with their mental health.

Dexter, the King Charles Spaniel, is the newest edition to one of Headlands School's residential houses.

Staff and students at the school said Dexter has been a huge help in reducing anxiety with one teacher saying now "the whole environment has changed around the school."

Animals can have a huge impact on lifting mood and improving mental health which is why therapy dogs are sometimes used in nursing homes and hospices as well as schools.

Dexter is the school's companion dog and lives in one of the residential houses with students Alan Short and Phillip Preston.

Both Alan and Phillip say having Dexter there has brought a new energy to the house.

Before Dexter I was a bit nervous around talking about problems on my mind and having Dexter about can bring a lot of positivity to me and bring out all my emotions that I couldn't bring out before.

Alan Short
The pupils play with Dexter as well as feeding and taking him for walks. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Phillip said family have started to notice a difference in him, all thanks to Dexter.

He's reduced my anxiety significantly and he's made me feel a part of this house. I've started to open up to people now...when I see my parents on the weekend...they have noticed a difference in that I'm more chilled out and more playful towards the dog.

Phillip Preston

Whilst living with Alan and Phil, Dexter is in high demand as other pupils visit him on a daily basis.

They are responsible for looking after the puppy including taking him on walks and feeding him.

House Manager, Gareth Hancock, said he can see the uplifting effect Dexter has on the pupils who spend time with him. He said: "The whole environment has changed around the school

"Sometimes when the young people are having difficult days, they'll come up...and it just turns it around into a positive day. It's great to see.

"We have young people come up on a daily basis from school as part of their curriculum and they'll come up and take him out for walks.

"Whereas otherwise they would struggle in certain situations in school, it takes them out of that environment and lets them enjoy walking Dexter and focussing on something else."

Dexter is only five months old. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales