01/18/2012 08:49 EST | Updated 03/19/2012 05:12 EDT

Ontario students learn with dogs 'under one woof'

An innovative co-op program at a Mississauga, Ont., high school has students looking after dogs during the school day, while picking up business skills that will help them when their school days are done.

The program is called "Under One Woof," and it revolves around a newly established dog daycare that operates out of West Credit Secondary School.

The program is designed to give students a mix of academic credits and hands-on learning opportunities.

Every week, students in the program spend two days learning about business and animal behaviour, while spending the other three days looking after the dogs and running the daycare service.

Upon completion, students earn three co-operative education credits and one business credit that can be put towards their high school diploma.

While the program has only been up and running since September, West Credit principal Dana Sheahan said it has been a hit with the students who signed up for its inaugural run.

"We really wanted to make sure the kids who were in that first semester were students who were really, really interested," said Sheahan.

"And they’ve had such a good time because they've been able to market the program, create the brochures and really it's been a lot of trial and error, what's worked, what hasn't."

Sheahan said that hands-on learning is a key aspect of the program at West Credit, which is a "trades-focused" high school.

"I think overall it's been really successful," Sheahan said.

"We have a variety of students in our program and we've seen a real improvement in attendance for some of them because they know dogs are depending on them and it's important for them to be here."

For the students slated to take part in the program next semester, there will be an added bonus — they will have the opportunity to earn credits from Sheridan College that could benefit them if they choose to study animal care at a post-secondary level.