• Ivan Flores

Therapy Dogs Help Reduce Stress before Finals

Photo courtesy of USA Today

According to Medical Xpress, a health research and news site, a research team at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has found that interacting with stress-therapy dogs significantly reduces the stress of college students during final-exam week.

"Bringing therapy dogs onto campus is a low-cost intervention that doesn't have any side effects," said Sandra Barker, Ph.D., CHAI director and professor of psychiatry at the VCU School of Medicine. "This study should serve as encouragement for other universities to consider activities with therapy dogs as a way to help address stress before final exams."

This study was published in “Anthrozoos,” the official journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology, on March 8. The controlled study focused on 78 college students interacting with therapy dogs for 15 minutes versus 15 minutes in a control condition, which was a neutral setting without dogs. Each student’s physiological stress levels were tested during the week prior to fall semester final exams. According to the study, the stress reduction was significant, regardless if the student in question spent time with the dog first or in the controlled condition first.

According to VCU News (VCU’s student newspaper), studies have shown that heightened exam stress in college students has been associated with poorer academic performance, depression, high levels of anxiety and low student expectations for their grades. “Stress is a major problem for college students and exams are considered one of the major stressors,” Barker said, according to Medical Xpress. Providing students with access to therapy dogs to combat dangerous levels of stress is low-cost and requires few professional resources.

The University of St. Francis had a similar event last week at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore with a few dogs.

Photo credit: Andrew Finein

If you missed the chance to de-stress with the dogs the ARC at USF is offering a de-stress event from December 12-15. Students can color, relax, play a game and when you are done de-stressing, there are tutors available to help students tackle those tough finals.

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