Why we should have therapy dogs on campus
I can’t remember one point of my childhood where I didn’t have a dog. I bet I’m probably not the only one either. At some point, most of us have had a pet. From a dog or cat to horses or even a pet rock, I mean fish. I would also bet that most of us would agree that having a pet was pretty great more often than not. But did you know that those pets were actually good for you?
Turns out that human-animal companionship has proven benefits. Over 100 studies have been done on the effects of therapy animals on patients. From a range of patients with a range of problems, the results are good. Studies showed that therapy animals were really great for stress and anxiety factors in patients. Even studies that measured effects after 15 minutes saw significant changes in patients. So if therapy animals are so great why don’t we have any?
Uni is a stressful and anxious environment. Living on campus can be especially difficult. Basically, we don’t only go to school but we also live there. It can be a lot to deal with. That’s where therapy animals, in particular dogs, come into this. Therapy dogs have proven benefits for uni students. In the PAwS study of 2016, students had 15-minute sessions with trained therapy dogs. Students said they felt happier and more relaxed, reported feeling less anxious and often asked for the service to be provided again. Not only that, but therapy dogs are good for our physical health! The PAwS study also showed that therapy dogs contributed to reduced blood pressure and other studies found they increased the hormones in our brain responsible for relieving stress and anxiety.
With great results like these, it’s easy to see why other universities are getting involved. Torrens University and the University of Sydney, as well as the Queensland University of Technology, are among those who’ve used therapy dogs on campus. They’re not like us though. UNE is a rural uni and getting a bunch of therapy dogs all the way out here couldn’t be easy. So here’s our plan: on-campus therapy dogs. Looked after by colleges and employed in the counselling office we could reach a wider audience and provide a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.
College therapy dogs could be a great investment. The college could implement a sign-up system and roster for walking the dog and looking after the dog in a safe place. This is great for incorporating physical needs into caring for student wellbeing. There could be college counselling sessions where you can call an RF or book a therapy dog appointment for a visit. This can also be beneficial for people with identified mental health needs at college as they can be marked as a priority for therapy sessions. The same system can be implemented in the counselling services too. The benefit of therapy dogs is that they work in group sessions too. Trust us when we say we’ve thought this through.
I’d love to see college therapy dogs on campus. I think that having a bunch of goofy pups around to make us feel better would go a long way. Our emotions can affect our ability and motivation to do stuff. Therapy dogs are a way to feel great to be able to do great things.
If you don’t believe someone actually got away with doing a study with puppies or just want to learn more about therapy dogs, give these links a go:
https://doi.org/10.1080/09638237.2017.1385737 (PAws Study)
https://www.deltasociety.com.au/pages/why-pet-therapy-.html (Delta Society)