Man’s best friend helps relieve students’ stress

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Students across Canada have a new way to unwind from the stresses of university; they can spend quality time with a friendly dog.

Universities across Canada are helping students de-stress by creating puppy rooms. Here, stressed out students can book an appointment to pet and play with a trained therapy dog to help alleviate stress. The program started at the University of Ottawa in January and expanded to other universities quickly.

Laurier Brantford is currently undergoing plans to develop its own puppy room. A temporary puppy room existed in 2012, when Counseling Services brought in trained dogs three days a week. However it was cancelled last November.

Becca Carroll, Laurier Brantford’s Dean of Students, explains the steps the school is currently undergoing to make puppy rooms a reality.

“For a while we had a program set up where therapy dogs were brought in to counseling services three times a week,” she said, “We had to re-evaluate the program because some students weren’t comfortable with the dog around, or they had allergies. In that case we had to find some place to put the dog, or someone to take it during that session. It was hard to manage on a daily basis, so we had to put the project on hold.”

Another issue to be dealt with is the fact that Counseling Services, working in tandem with Health Services, has a variety of strict policies and procedures that must be followed regarding animals on campus. The policies would need to be examined further before the dogs could return to the campus.

Despite this, puppy rooms may not be gone for good.

“We’re definitely interested in continuing the service; we’re just trying to do it in the best way. We’d need a space on campus specifically for students to meet the therapy dog. Most people enjoy pets, but we want to make sure it works best for everyone, the dogs included,” said Carroll.

Laurier Brantford is not the only school where puppy rooms are making the scene.

“Students have really enjoyed the program, especially if they’re new at school and miss their pet at home,” said Murray Sang, the director of the University of Ottawa’s Student Academic Success Service.

The puppy rooms attract a variety of students, Sang says.

“All types of students come visit the puppy room though – we get 20 or 30 students a visit,” said Sang.

The dogs are required to be certified through Therapeutic Paws of Canada, and they must be non-aggressive and well maintained. They are not brought into public student areas, such as cafeterias or libraries.

At both Laurier Brantford and the University of Ottawa, members of the faculty provided the certified dogs that they kept as pets. Therefore, the cost of puppy rooms is almost nothing, certainly a factor in their great popularity among universities. The rooms have been introduced at several universities all across Canada, including Dalhousie University and McGill University.

Should the program return to Laurier Brantford, it will be a creative way for students to relieve stress.

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