When you think of a therapy dog, you may picture a dog that visits hospitals or nursing homes. But these incredible dogs are taking on a whole new job--relieving the stress of college students during their final exams.
Exam week at any university is a tense and stressful time. Students can be found in just about every nook and cranny, some asleep after a sleepless night of studying, others frantically scanning the pages of a textbook. But when the therapy dogs from Canine Assistants come to visit, the atmosphere changes in an instant.
Kevin Ballance is a Positively Expert Blogger and dog trainer at Canine Assistants, a fabulous assistance dog training organization I'm proud to support. Kevin's dog, Henry, is the organization's spokesdog, and he is a seasoned therapy dog in addition to his training as a service dog. Henry and Kevin are joined by other assistance dogs in-training, who do therapy work as part of their training.
The dogs gather in an open space and students can approach them and pet and play with them as they pass by. It's a fun session for the dogs and a much-needed stress relief for the students.
"Henry seems to be particularly sensitive to the needs and feelings of people and other animals," Kevin says about his beloved dog, "I think that speaks to the positive training methods that he's been under his entire life at Canine Assistants. He's never experienced force or intimidation; throughout his whole life he has been brought to understand the joy of loving people. He touches people so profoundly."
The work that therapy dogs do has a scientifically-proven effect. Studies have shown that interacting with dogs increases a person's level of oxytocin, a stress-relieving hormone. Lowering students' stress, even by a small amount, can help them better focus and improve their performance on exams.
Dogs have a beautiful ability to light up a room and bring joy to otherwise stressful situations. These therapy dogs are brightening the lives of stressed out college students, and possibly even improving their grades in the process.