Study Finds Petting Therapy Dogs Help Stressed Out College Students
Therapy Dogs Go To Washington State University
A three-year study conducted at Washington State University has shown that the availability of therapy dogs to college students on campus not only reduces their overall stress but enhances all aspects of thinking in their lives. When compared against other techniques, interacting with therapy dogs always provided the best results.
Though many colleges and universities offer stress-reduction programs to their students, they are typically structured like a normal college class and offer evidence-based guidance on things such as goal setting and adequate sleep. This study set out to prove that there were different, oftentimes better, techniques for students on their campuses to utilize. As chance would have it Pet Partners, a therapy dog team organization, had a local chapter known as Palouse Paws that would be able to help do just that.
Petting Therapy Dogs, A Powerful Finding
A total of 309 students took part in the three-year study and each was randomly assigned to a stress-management program. The varying programs included Palouse Paws volunteers and dogs as well as other evidence-based, lecture-style workshops. While all programs were successful, a noticeable trend began to emerge. The students that had been interacting with and petting the therapy dogs were coping better, had more motivation, and were comprehending what they were learning.
“It’s a really powerful finding,” said Patricia Pendry, an associate Human Development professor at Washington State University.
The availability of human-animal interaction programs on campuses allows students the opportunity to relax and talk to the dogs about what is causing them stress without becoming overwhelmed. Their ability to then process and cope with their issues opens up the road to success in all aspects of life.
Learning About Stress Is Stressful
Students that were involved in the study spent four weeks in the therapy dog program. Not only were improvements seen immediately during that time, but six weeks after completion the students were found to still be benefiting. The students that had previously been stressed and struggled with things such as planning were making strides. The difference between the original lecture-style programs and the therapy dog interactions was obvious.
“If you’re stressed, you can’t think or take up information; learning about stress is stressful!” said Patricia Pendry.
While many universities offer stress-reduction programs to their students, few have permanent therapy dogs on campus. With that being said, in light of this new information, there just may be hope for more wagging tails on campuses across the country.