Dog ownership can be challenging due to all the attention, care and effort it takes. That’s why it might come as a surprise to hear that dogs can actually help to reduce stress and even help improve your health. It might sound counterintuitive given all of the efforts it takes to look after a dog, but many schools and universities around the world are actually using therapy dogs to help students cope with the stress of study and daily life.
For example, researchers from Washington State University say that “soothing” sessions with dogs could actually lessen the impact of stress caused by school. Many students find that dogs can help soothe their daily stress and even help motivate them to work harder. In fact, dogs brought to the university were able to help stressed students that were at a high risk of academic failure that felt like dropping out of their course. Dogs helped them become more relaxed and accepted which helped them concentrate in class, prioritize their studies and even help them remember information.
Therapy Dogs Used in Schools
The increasing popularity of therapy dogs is also coming to the United Kingdom. University College London, Cambridge, London Metropolitan, Buckingham, Nottingham Trent and Swansea are all starting to deploy therapy dogs that are designed to help soothe student stress and help those who are at risk of dropping out. The University of Middlesex has gone a step further and now refers to the therapy dogs as “canine teaching assistants” which can help provide students with the encouragement they need to get further in school.
Dogs have also been shown to improve the habits of their owners. For instance, owners are more likely to consider purchasing the best dry dog food with the most nutritional value and even plan their day around walking their dog. These good habits will eventually pass on to their owners, resulting in a more focused and prioritized life that can help reduce procrastination. The use of a therapy dog comes with similar benefits, as some students are given the opportunity to take responsibility for the dogs in walking them, feeding them and helping to keep them company.
The Results Are Clear
Professor Nancy Gee, a psychologist at the State University of New York and also a researcher from the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, admitted that the mechanism is not fully understood. However, the results are clear and students appear calmer and more socially supported when they’re exposed to therapy dogs in school. This helps to instil a sense of confidence in their studies, encouraging them to work hard, prioritize their studies and move ahead with their course. The professor added that simply looking at animals can lighten the mood and provide a small motivational boost.
Long-time dog owners likely know the positive effects of having a dog, but the benefits are slowly being realised by schools around the world thanks to the growing popularity of therapy dogs and the benefits they can bring to stressed students.