Yale Law School, Oberlin College, Tufts University…many college campuses have or have had therapy dogs to help students adjust to the stresses of campus life, and new research suggests it works. When Washington State University followed more than 300 undergraduate students enrolled either in stress-reduction workshops and lectures or a program to pet dogs as a way of calming down and trying to relax, they found that those who interacted with dogs were more likely to cope than to become overwhelmed.
The students became more able to plan, organize, concentrate, and memorize — all tools needed for academic achievement. The researchers suspect that having some delightful time with a dog calms people down naturally, while attending a class that focuses specifically on reducing stress might actually increase anxiety.
The skill improvements were still evident up to 6 weeks after students finished the 4-week program. The students most at risk for mental health issues or learning issues were the ones who experienced the greatest benefit. With many students returning to campus after a long hiatus during the pandemic, therapy dogs can prove a great readjustment mechanism.