8 November 2023
A roster of dogs are reporting for morale duty at HMAS Cerberus Recruit School in Melbourne, keeping recruits chipper as they go through initial training.
Spending time in the offices, hallways and hearts of Shipp, Emms, Rogers and Taylor Divisions, two dogs – owned by various staff members – sign up each day to bring a little touch of home to the training environment.
Recruit Cassandra Kelly said it has helped her and her Shipp Division counterparts get through the tougher aspects of training.
“We are very lucky because our divisional leaders all bring in their own dogs from home and it gives you a sense of normality, I guess. They become your friend and your pet too,” Recruit Kelly said.
“When they’re on duty it just brings a sense of happiness and reduces your stress. I couldn’t ask for anything more – I love dogs.”
Petty Officer Deborah Barthelson, a recruit instructor in Shipp Division, brings her dog, Molly Grace, to work and said the Dogs in Recruit School Program has been embraced by recruits and staff alike.
“For the recruits, it’s that touch of home they wouldn't think they'd normally see,” Petty Officer Barthelson said.
“When they’re down, having a dog to pat and talk to has made such a difference. It brightens their day and when they see us interacting with the dogs, too. It shows them the staff are human.”
Petty Officer Barthelson said it was a voluntary duty the dogs eagerly lapped up.
“It’s just a fantastic program and the dogs absolutely love it,” Petty Officer Barthelson said
“The dogs now have their own mini ID cards, which go up on the wall when they're on duty.”
Multiple research reports suggest dogs at work may reduce stress levels and boost performance and employee engagement.
“Having the dogs here is good morale for the recruits, good for us, good for everyone,” Petty Officer Barthelson said.
HMAS Watson is another Navy establishment that has dogs on duty to improve wellbeing outcomes.