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Monday, October 25, 2021

Therapy dogs help students cope with the stress of college life

At a private college in the Northeast, the first-year student said it was the highlight of her day whenever she lay on the floor of her advisor’s office and cuddled up with a Leonberger named Stella, a therapy dog.

At a large public university in the Midwest, a graduate student described how a therapy dog ​​provided some much-needed relief.

A student involved in an on-demand health professional program told me of her study, “What stands out to me is how comforting it is to have a therapy dog, especially when I miss my family and my dog ​​at home. started doing it.” Therapy dog ​​program for graduate students. The student spent about 35 minutes a week with three other students, who all got a chance to spend time with the therapy dog, pet him, and give him treats.

Another student at the same program said that spending time with a therapy dog ​​helped her prepare for high-stakes trials. “It was always nice to spend time with a therapy dog ​​before big exams,” the student said. “I felt like it gave me time to rest before a stressful exam.”

Such scenes are becoming more and more common on college campuses across America as college students increasingly turn to therapy dogs for comfort and to meet the challenges of student life – such as the increased workload. burden.

And as the demand for mental health counseling continues to grow on campuses, colleges are using therapy animals to improve the mental health of students. Therapy dog ​​programs are provided largely free of charge to colleges and their students.

As an expert on therapy dog ​​programs – formally known as canine-assisted interventions – I have studied how programs can improve student well-being. Among other benefits, therapy dogs can help students gain a stronger sense of belonging and deal better with being homesick and alone, while also reducing their anxiety and stress.

Some of this may be explained by how the human body responds to pleasant interactions with therapy animals. A 2019 study found that college students who spent just 10 minutes petting a dog or cat showed a significant reduction in cortisol levels, which are known to indicate stress.

animals on campus

College students interact with therapy dogs as a way to relieve stress.
Christine Kivlen, CC BY-ND

In 2017, a survey of more than 150 institutions found that 62% of schools had an animal-assisted intervention program.

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Dog therapy programs look different at each institution. Some programs may include some therapy dogs and their handlers who visit the library casually several times throughout the semester.

In this setting, students can approach therapy dogs one-on-one or in small groups. The time students spend with the therapy dog ​​can range from a few minutes to as much as 45 minutes.

Other programs are more structured and involve a set amount of time with a set therapy dog ​​and a certain number of students paired with a handler.

cheap for dog owners

The cost of registering a dog as a therapy dog ​​is relatively low for the owner.

Programs are typically coordinated by college personnel or faculty members in various departments, such as occupational therapy, psychology or counseling, or by an activity coordinator in student services. Dogs are generally good natured and trainable pets. The handler pays the dog-and-handler team any fees required to be registered through a company that offers therapy dog ​​registration. Operators pay the fee because they enjoy providing animal-assisted intervention.

Through the company Pet Partners, a widely used animal-assisted intervention company, handlers $15 to $30 to evaluate a dog/handler team, $95 to register a therapy dog ​​team and each It costs $70 to renew the latter year.

cool effect

In my dissertation on animal-assisted interventions, I asked a series of open-ended questions from graduate students who were participating in therapy dog ​​programs.

Several students reported how enjoyable it was to take a scheduled break from school work. One student wrote, “The experience forced me to take time out of my day and dedicate it to not studying.”

“The therapy dog ​​is very calm,” wrote another student. “His energy/melody helped me calm down each session.”

Not only did the students enjoy their time with the therapy dogs, the therapy dogs also enjoyed spending time with the students. Several handlers told me that their dogs are more excited on the morning of their scheduled day to go to college. He also told that his dogs were even more excited when they reached the premises.

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This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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