Cookie preferences

HundrED uses necessary cookies that are essential to use the service and to provide a better user experience. Read more about our cookies.
Accept cookies

Looking for a unique approach to social and emotional learning?

A social and emotional learning curriculum that teaches children essential skills for academic and life success by exploring the unique characteristics of shelter dogs.

HundrED 2018


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

Web presence






September 2017
Even the teachers are changed, the teachers feel better about themselves and they get along better with one another having found a common interest: the dog!

About the innovation

What is Mutt-i-grees?

The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum was developed as a collaboration between a world-renowned animal welfare organization, North Shore Animal League America, and Yale University School of the 21st Century, part of the Yale Child Study Center. Mutt-i-grees strives to create a humane world and provide opportunities for children to grow up learning to be confident and caring – about themselves, other people, and animals.

Inspired by the research on the benefits of human-animal interactions, in particular, dogs’ ability to help people become calm and socially connected, the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum was developed to teach children Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) skills using canine-assisted activities and interactions. The program is a unique combination of social emotional learning, humane education, and service learning.

Developing resilience is an important part of human growth for both personal and academic achievement. Children face daily challenges and need to be equipped with effective skills and resources if they are to deal with the stress of school life and beyond. To be socially and emotionally competent, children need self-awareness and an understanding of the world around them. The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum leverages children’s interest in pets as well as the benefits associated with pets, especially dogs, to promote resiliency and emotional competence, improve behavior and social interactions while enhancing their awareness of homeless animals – shelter animals.

The opportunity to interact with pets, or simply routinely think about pets, can provide social support and increased health and wellbeing. The research also suggests that pets can increase the sense of community and sociability. Pets provide opportunities for important social and emotional growth. Not every child has access to a companion animal. The Mutt-i-grees Program brings the opportunity for schools to connect with their local shelter for children to have the experience.

The Mutt-i-grees curriculum builds on children's natural love of pets and provides a real-life context within which to teach critical skills. Children are supported to be caring and confident people who can make a difference to their school and wider community. It gives them a platform to take leadership and no longer be a child with challenges, but a trusted, caretaker.

The curriculum is built on a series of lessons designed to help children identify their strengths, skills and talents and areas in which they can grow. The lessons are presented in five units: Achieving Awareness, Finding Feelings, Encouraging Empathy, Cultivating Cooperation, and Dealing with Decisions. Activities and reading mostly focus on dogs. Schools are encouraged to establish partnerships with their local animal shelter, or adopt a school dog to give the children firsthand experience of subject matter while providing experiential lessons.

Integrated throughout the curriculum are feature lessons on the principles of dog behavior. These features were developed to teach children about the instincts and behavior of dogs so they can better interact with and care for them. This also provides a bridge to explore social and emotional learning via humane education, as children can use the unique characteristics and behaviors of dogs to discuss the likeness in human personality bridging the connection of two different species. It is also a chance to demonstrate to children the value of empathy and compassion.

Children have opportunities to explore how to encourage themselves, challenge self-doubt and negative thinking patterns and learn when to seek help. Self and social awareness is generated to enable children and their teachers to engage in positive relationships and make decisions based on ethics and responsibility, whilst avoiding negative behaviors. Using shelter dogs, traditionally vulnerable and misunderstood, provides a perfect talking point for these issues so that children can engage in complex topics without realizing they are doing so.

The program is a whole child approach to education, intended to extend beyond the weekly lessons and become part of the school culture.

The lessons have been field-tested with each grade level in classrooms across the United State, in schools of all sizes and in rural and urban areas.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


Mutt-i-grees combines the two approaches social-emotional learning & bringing dogs into schools in a structured, evidence based programme whilst support animal shelters.


4,000 schools have used the curriculum so far.

The programme has a positive impact on all children and can be especially effective for children with additional needs such as those with autism, ADHD, depression and other conditions.

Mutt-i-grees outcome studies have shown significantly higher levels of empathy and pro-social behaviors among students and higher levels of positive school climate (linked to bullying prevention) and parent involvement.


The programme is used in the US and Canada and is beginning to be implemented in Japan.

The lessons plans are in English although the concepts could be applied almost anywhere.

Lesson plans are currently in paper format but will soon be available online.

Implementation steps

Get to know the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum
Check out the website: Here you can discover important details of the programme, including the evidence and philosophy behind it. Learn how educators are using the programme in the classroom and beyond, and what it means to them and their students.

As you explorethe website, think about what interests you about the program. Are you interested in engaging children in overall education and promoting kindness? Are you concerned with behavior problems such as bullying or with students with special needs? Are you interested in providing your students with opportunities to contribute to the community?

The program can be used as aprevention approach for all children as well as an intervention with children with emotional, developmental and behavioral problems.

Discuss the programme with your principal
Getting the whole school on board will help you get the most out of the programme. Let your principal know about the program and seek their approval.

Although the programme can be implemented in many ways, it appears to workbest as a whole school approach. Even when it begins in one classroom, it quickly extends to the whole school as everyone wants to get involved!

Order the binder and take the time to explore it
Binders are available for Grades Pre-K to 12. Once you receive the binder, you'll want to read the introductory pages and review the lessons.

You'll see that a lesson plan template wascreated with teachers in mind: it'suser friendly, includes the objective and rationale for the lessonand a list of the materials and readings you will need. The materials are simple and usually available in class. Recommended books are available in local libraries or at low price throughAmazon.

​​​​​​Establish connections with parents and the community
Mutt-i-grees works well with or without an actual dog, but its worth checking out the possibility of having a dog in the classroom!

Ask your principalabout the possibility ofhaving a dog visit the classroom orschool. If you want to get a dog into school, there's many avenues you can try. First, contactyour local animal shelter. Often, local animal shelters will visit schools for special assemblies and they may be happy to be part of your Mutt-i-grees learning. Some libraries may have a reading therapy dog they could volunteer, orsome families may havea dog they adopted from a local shelter that could come into class.

Most schools allow a dog visit and even the daily presence ofa dog, but some may have restrictions, such as requiring the dog to be registered as a therapy dog.Any visiting dogs should ideally beof calm and social temperament.

Start Implementation

It's easy to get started, as the lesson plans take you through step by step. You might want to consider staff training, although it's not essential.

​​​​​Training sessions as well as school-wide professional development are available upon request. However, training is not essential; each lesson plan has discussions that are highly scripted, and serve in lieu of training. Don't feel you have to follow to script precisely, it's there to give you confidence and support if needed.

Mutt-i-grees will provide you with basics for implementation in each of the lesson plans. Educators feedback is that they love the lesson plans in part because they often inspire them to think of even more fun activities.

Some educators have even created Power Point Presentations for each lesson and these are shared on the website.

There are 25 lessons presented in five themes. To be effective, themes have to be implemented in the sequence presented. Each lesson takes about 35 minutes. If you cannot implement all 25 lessons, select 3 lessons per theme for a total of 15.

The majority of schools find that students want to continue Mutt-i-grees beyond the first round of lessons. They extend the experience by:using some of the extension lessons available online,using the original lessons in conjunction with cats, utilizing Cats Are Mutt-i-grees 2!,incorporating physical fitness activities, games and dance; andparticipating in Mutt-i-grees sponsored events.

As well as focusing on social and emotional learning, the Mutt-i-grees curriculum encourages teachers to incorporate physical exercise to help children stay fit. Several schools have taken the lead in this area, producing dances to song such as ‘Walk the Dog’ or creating Mutt-i-grees musicals. Letters to parents and activities aimed at families are included in the curriculum, encouraging families to participate and reinforce what the children are experiencing at school.

Stay Connected
Keep up to date with events, activities and the latest Mutt-i-grees news, as well as sharing experiences on social media.

Mutt-i-grees is more than a curriculum. Throughout the year there are numerous opportunities to entercontests and participate in nationally sponsored community events, or additional activities such as theMission Mutt-i-grees and the Mutt-i-grees Ambassadors Program. Activities are posted on thewebsite as well as via e-newsletter and special mailings.

Mutt-i-grees educators share their experiencesvia Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, so it's worth getting connected!

Spread of the innovation

loading map...