College Students Use Therapy Dogs for Stress Relief

Aug 25, 2011

Few could argue that for college students, stress and final exams go hand-in-hand. Little, it seems, can be done to ease the tension most students feel as they cram for these dreaded tests. But over the past few years, a therapy technique has been tried at some colleges and universities that seems to do the trick. The Education Insider examines how some institutions have gone to the dogs.

By Harrison Howe


A College Student's Best Friend

Who let the dogs out?

University of Wisconsin has. So has Tufts University in Massachusetts. University of California-San Diego, University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, University of Texas, Oberlin College and Yale Law School have all done the same.

All of these schools and others have unleashed dogs on students who are stressed out over final exams. The idea is that petting and playing with the dogs can be relaxing, and simply having the four-legged friends around can make some students feel at ease. 'I miss my dog, and it just reminds me of home,' University of Wisconsin-Madison student Mike Russo told in May, 2011.

Last year, Tufts University resident director Michael Bliss told, 'Every college student has stress around finals. And taking a break out from that with something as easy and simple and loving as petting dogs is really helpful.'

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The Dog Days Before Summer

For three days in March, students of Yale University Law School could go to the library and 'check out' Monty, a Jack Russell-border terrier mix, for half-hour sessions. If the trial period is determined to have been successful, Monty might return on a permanent basis.

At the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, one of seven colleges of Rochester Institute of Technology, 14 therapy dogs arrived on campus in May to provide comfort to stressed students. The program was so successful that RIT plans to run it again.

And Dogs on Call, a nonprofit organization based in Baraboo, Wisconsin, brought their therapy dogs - typically used for hospital patients and nursing home residents - to the University of Wisconsin campus in May to relieve the stress students felt during finals. 'These dogs just love to please people,' Laura Kutcha of Dogs on Call told She added that, according to research, petting a dog for 'just five minutes will reduce your blood pressure.'

The end result? Most students, it seems, simply love the dogs. So for the most part, schools participating in such a program are not barking up the wrong tree.

College students aren't stressed only during final exams; find out how researchers are devising ways to recognize and fight student stress.

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