Therapy dogs lend a paw to students during midterms

Photo by Katii Capern.

[S]tudents at Ryerson University had a chance to relieve stress by playing with dogs when the RU Therapy Dogs returned to campus after the success of past events.

Volunteers from Therapeutic Paws of Canada and St. John Ambulance brought their dogs to the Ryerson campus for the fourth RU Therapy Dogs event of the school year. Six dogs were spread around the Lower Gym in Kerr Hall to help students relieve stress during the mid-term period.

FCAD counsellor and president of RU Therapy Dogs, Bronwyn Dickson, said the event is good for stress reduction and fun.

“It’s hard to think of stress when you are petting a cute dog. It goes away, you are in the moment,” said Dickson.

A study conducted at the State University of New York at Buffalo found that the presence of dogs had positive effects on individuals’ responses to stressful tasks. The study also found that married couples with pets were less stressed while performing difficult tasks than couples with no pets.

“This was my first time out,” said Terna Lazar, a second year chemistry student. “It’s a nice thing to see after midterms. It’s a good stress relief.”

Results from the 2013 Ryerson University Student Health Assessment show that of the students surveyed, over 90 per cent felt overwhelmed by all they had to do and over 61 per cent felt overwhelming anxiety.

“I got some projects back today and needed some puppies to cheer me up…There is definitely a benefit,” said Will Kresky, a second-year hospitality and tourism management student.

Not only were the students reaping the benefits of the dogs, but Ryerson staff members were also in attendance.

“I wish I could come every day, it totally relieves tension and stress,” said a Ryerson administration worker, who said her job can be stressful. “There is nothing like petting a dog, the best therapy in the world.”

According to the survey that was handed out after the first event, students who attended felt they left with lower stress levels than when they arrived. Dickson said the events have gotten an overwhelmingly positive student response, and it is because of the good response that they can continue running the program. The next step will be controlling the lines that form to get in.

“We don’t want students to be stressed, wanting to see dogs and then having to wait in line,” said Dickson. “We will have to limit the time allowed in the room.”

Many other Canadian schools have been hosting events similar to RU Therapy Dogs, like McGill and Dalhousie universities. The University of Ottawa had the first permanent, fully certified therapy dog on campus in Canada. Audrey Giles, professor at the University of Ottawa, brings in her dog Tundra for weekly office hours.
Dickson is following suit, and now offers weekly therapy with her dog Kate at Ryerson’s Centre for Student Development and Counselling.