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Can a Dog Help Students Do Better on Exams?


Richmond, VA is lucky to have lots of colleges and universities. At this time of year, students are beginning to stress out big time — thinking about all the things they have to do before the session ends, especially exams on the horizon.

I don’t know about you, but when I was a student I can’t imagine having a better stress buster than a dog visiting me in my dorm during exam week! It never occurred to anyone to do that back then, but it certainly seems a popular trend these days.

There’s even science to back up the benefits of what researchers call “animal-assisted intervention.” The goals of each study vary, but basically they seek to demonstrate that spending time with animals will decrease a college student’s stress level.

Virginia Commonwealth University researchers at the VCU Center for Human-Animal Interaction led by Dr. Sandra Barker (what a perfect last name for her job!) have been studying this and other topics for over 15 years. In the most recent study, the research team looked at the effect of visiting therapy dogs on the perceived and physiological stress college students experience the week before final exams.

They found that visits with therapy dogs significantly reduce students’ perceived stress during final exam week.

VCU students have been the benefactors of “Paws for Stress” therapy dog pre-finals visits thanks to the wonderful “Dogs on Call” program.

We agree with Dr. Barker’s observation that bringing therapy dogs onto campus is a low-cost intervention that doesn’t have any negative side effects. I really hope this trend spreads to colleges and universities all over the country.


Author: Carole

Carole Tomas is the owner and president of Pet Pleasers, Inc. She is a graduate of Ohio University and a Charter Member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. When she began Pet Pleasers in 1985, business was conducted Old School via a landline, snail mail and an answering machine the size of a breadbox. No internet, email, text messaging, digital photos, social media or mobile phones! What has remained constant over three decades: Carole’s love of animals and an unwavering passion for professional pet sitting.

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