For anyone about to take a series of stiff examinations, never could a dog, cat, rabbits, guinea pigs or ferrets be of more help. While the health benefits of owning pets have long been established, scientists have discovered that the presence of a warm, furry, non-judgemental companion can make all the difference to stressed-out students.
New research from the University of British Columbia confirms that some one-on-one time with a dog really can boost student wellness. “The results were remarkable,” said canine expert Stanley Coren, study co-author and professor emeritus of psychology at UBC, on the university’s news website. “We found that, even 10 hours later, students still reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed, compared to students who did not take part in the therapy dog session.”
Sit, stay, heal
Researchers surveyed 246 students before and after they spent time in a drop-in therapy dog session. Students were free to pet, cuddle and chat with seven to 12 canine companions during the sessions. They also filled out questionnaires immediately before and after the session, and again about 10 hours later.
“Therapy dog sessions are becoming more popular on university campuses, but there has been surprisingly little research on how much attending a single drop-in therapy dog session actually helps students,” said Emma Ward-Griffin, the study’s lead author and research assistant in the UBC department of psychology. “Our findings suggest that therapy dog sessions have a measurable, positive effect on the wellbeing of university students, particularly on stress reduction and feelings of negativity.”
Since the strong positive effects of the therapy dog session were short-lived, the researchers concluded that universities should be encouraged to offer them at periods of increased stress.
“These sessions clearly provide benefits for students in the short-term, so we think universities should try to schedule them during particularly stressful times, such as around exam periods,” said Frances Chen, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor of psychology at UBC.
The overall message is clear. If anyone in your household is suffering from exam stress, encourage them to spend more time with their pet animals. Not only will your pets enjoy the increased attention, the test results may be better than expected!
Find out more about how all sorts of animals – from dogs and cats to rabbits, rats, guinea pigs and horses are helping humans with all kinds of mental health issues here >>