We are fortunate here at CSM to have studio rooms that are large. This has allowed us to let our instructors bring their pets to lessons and so several of our staff members bring their dogs into work with them daily. This policy generates a terrific interest and conversation with the students and also creates a trust between the teachers, students and their families. Many of our students also have pets at home so stories can be swapped in lessons, pictures exchanged and a general sense of common ground can be built. The teachers become more real and compassionate in the eyes of their students and parents. Plus the pets create excitement week after week, as our dogs can be used as a reward system after the lesson is over, and we can share a moment of playtime and petting time to reward good lesson preparations. The teachers can also express stories of their love and commitment that they have with their pet, and this can all be relayed and related right back into the music lessons.
One of our piano instructors walks his two small/older pugs into his studio on their lead, and Quincy and Otis wobble around and snort and sleep all day in a corner on their dog blanket waiting for some love and attention. The students are all taught to ask permission before petting or approaching our animals, and the students very eagerly listen and wait for our instruction to be gentle, kind and to use slow gestures, not tug or pull on the animal. These first encounters are adorable. Additionally, many families drive over to lessons with their dog and then take it for a walk while their student is busy at work in his music lesson. The teachers are oftentimes rewarded to as they are invited out to the car to see the newest (pet) addition to the student’s family. This creates time with the parent where any lesson issues can be discussed.
Another teacher brings his German shepherd Gandalf into the violin studio and his dog stations himself in a corner and sheds his long furry light brown hair (that we vacuum every hour…hahahaha). Gandalf was rescued from an abuse situation which made him extremely timid and anxious when he first arrived and he had to be near and see his owner at all times. Initially, Gandalf would shy away from anything and anyone, tail down, tucked between his legs, slinking away from touch and view whenever possible. But the patience of his master and the love of the students cured Gandalf and he became a “regular dog” again that was not as shy and loved company and the students. The students all loved their teacher’s stories of Gandalf’s home life and his new found wellness. He was very timid but having the kids love on him and know his awful back story made their relationships special and the students all considered Gandalf their friend too. They enjoyed the stories their teacher would share and they enjoyed seeing Gandalf come out of his fearful and cowering self and turn into a beautiful dog who loves people.
My wife and I have two studio rooms and we have three rescued dogs. They are border collie/lab mixed mutts. The dogs will sit right on a piano student’s feet or lay up against the leg of the cellists chair and snuggle up quietly through the entire lesson. The kids love it and it creates a more interesting and creative lesson that oftentimes has additional value other than music. It is a sharing, love filled and nurturing time that grows terrific students and people.
All of our pets are very docile, friendly and well trained and they love people. Of course we would not try or recommend this with an untested pet/animal. Every pet and student “meeting” is well supervised at all times for sure. Several of our pets were rescues, so this creates awareness and conversation of responsibility and pet ownership with our families. The teachers are very aware that some students may be allergic and/or fearful of dogs, so we communicate openly to all new and incoming students and families, prior to lessons that we may have dogs in our studios. We have crates and we have auxiliary rooms and other pet friendly instructors where we can move our pets if any issue with a student were to present itself. But after doing this for 10+ years with seven or more pets we have never had any issues, but on the contrary have been able to watch some fears melt away after timid students got to see and experience the love and relationship with these beautiful animals.
Having your pet in music lessons can build a bridge with your students and families and it also generates wonderment and excitement to be in your studio. Plus this all creates an opportunity to discuss responsibility and discipline as it relates to music and life in general. Pets add to the Zen of our studio and we think that definitely helps foster the music making!