The effect of therapy dogs on the mental well-being of university students
Zen Dens — Concordia’s wellness center — collaborates with Imagine Therapy Dogs to bring dogs to either the Loyola or downtown campus every two weeks.
On Thursday Sept. 29, Zen Dens brought their therapy dogs to the Vanier Library at the Loyola campus.
Even though Concordia students haven’t reached midterms just yet, the same feeling of stress could be felt on campus that day. The dogs came at the perfect time.
What sounds more appealing than playing with cute dogs when you’re super stressed out?
Speaking from personal experience, when responsibilities pile up, one of the most positive ways to channel this stress is through animal therapy and playing with puppies.
Imagine Therapy Dogs has worked with several different centers, such as nursing homes, universities, hospitals, and childrens’ centers.
After speaking with the owner of Imagine Therapy, Harriet Schleifer, she explained to The Concordian that potential handlers go through extensive training to be able to be part of such a fun and beneficial program.
The handlers’ training sees them go through a program with their own dogs, so that the dogs can become therapy dogs. They learn how to train their dogs to be calm and a source of relaxation while also playful and interactive.
A research study available in the National Library of Medicine tested the benefits of animal therapy particularly with university students. The study tested the benefits of interacting with trained dogs on students’ mood and anxiety. It demonstrated that pre-tested levels of anxiety and situational depression declined when students interacted with dogs.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, petting a dog lowers cortisol levels (known as the stress hormone) while also increasing oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone known as the “love” hormone or “cuddle chemical,” the same hormone that bonds mothers to babies.
On top of being a great way to relieve stress, the overall vibes of this event are spectacular. It’s a great way to meet new people and make some friends in a fun and relaxed environment.
The event had a great turnout; many students showed up and enjoyed their time with the dogs. Every once in a while everyone needs a serotonin boost, and what better way to do that than by playing with dogs.
As a first-year student 5,552 miles from home, the usual university stressors such as finances and academics can get a little overwhelming. Finding ways to cope with feelings of homesickness is extremely important.
Not only is this event a great tool to use as a positive outlet to channel stress, it’s also a great way to make new connections on campus. Zens Dens is offering many other therapy dog sessions over the course of the fall semester.
For any questions or concerns, please do not feel shy to reach out to the wellness ambassadors at Zen Dens. They will be more than happy to talk about the countless services offered to help deal with stress at school.