Are therapy dogs effective?

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Are therapy dogs effective?

Therapy Dogs are described by Therapy Dog International ( as dogs with amazing temperament, that get along with other animals and love interacting with people. I was always under the impression that Therapy Dogs were used only for hospital visits to make sick people feel a little better. I've seen Therapy Dogs talked about in movies, on TV, and even in THON videos. Recently, I've come across some interesting articles talking about an entirely different use for Therapy Dogs. The articles have titles like, "Therapy Dogs Help Students Unwind During Finals" and "Therapy Dogs Help Ease Finals Stress." Is there actually scientific evidence that proves dogs can ease finals stress? Should Penn State schedule a visit to help their student's unwind during these last few weeks of the semester?

In an article from (U of Arizona), one student says that, "The dog will at least be a minor distraction to some, it makes sense that they [the dogs] can help decrease stress." Comparing this to the most common use of Therapy Dogs, hospital visits, I would agree that the presence of a dog during finals could be good for helping ease stress. I come from a family of dog-lovers and until college, have never lived without a friendly canine in the house. What makes a person feel good? There are so many answers to this question, but dogs definitely have a few important qualities that can make a person smile. For example, think about how excited a dog is when you open the door of the house after being gone a day, a month or even a year. The dog is so happy to see you he immediately jumps on you. Dogs are so loving, always trying to snuggle up to you and get your attention. In addition, dogs can't talk. They never say anything bad, offensive, annoying etc. The saying, "actions speak louder than words" can be used to describe the way a dog makes a person feel. You know if a dog loves you, without them having to say a word. It is relaxing to spend time with a creature that just purely adores you because you gave it your left overs from last night and scratched it's chin for a bit.

Sure, everyone has their own stresses to deal with, but college students specifically have a lot going on in their lives. At the college age, stress comes from a variety of places like your parents, teachers, advisers, boss, and social networks. This can be taken even further by accounting for the current state of the economy and lack of college graduates that have full-time jobs. It is more important than ever to make yourself stand out among the crowd. There are thousands of students at Penn State, what makes you different?

This is stressful to even think about, and to add on top of that a week of finals, well, that is straight up torture.

Therapy dogs visit hospitals to help sick people feel better. If a Therapy Dog can visit a university and make a student less stressed, that could be considered a preventative measure. Stress can actually make people sick. Heart disease, chronic fatigue, anxiety attacks, eating disorders and depression, to name a few, are all directly correlated to an abundance of stress. What's the harm in having a few dogs on campus to make students laugh a bit, forget about their upcoming finals, and unwind.

In 2011, Yale Law School attempted a three day trial in which Monty (pictured below) had available sessions in the library for several students. The librarian Blair Kauffman said in response to this that, "It is well documented that visits from therapy dogs have resulted in increased happiness, calmness and overall emotional well-being." Students interviewed agreed with this as well, and the success of this study will make Yale continue their dog-lending trials in the future.



In the Harvard Health Blog, (, a 4- year old Shih-Tzu was the source of stress relief for medical students on Tuesdays and Thursday during the academic year. Cooper was trained to do this, it is his job per say, and he's definitely good at it.


Although Harvard points of their "survey" is not exactly scientific I would argue that having Cooper in the workplace is similar to the Yale Law School trial, which is actually mentioned as a reference in the blog.

If some of the prestigious institutions in the country and even the world believe this stuff work, should Penn State give it a try? Would you feel more relaxed after playing with Monty or Cooper? I would. I think there is sufficient evidence in trials, studies, and surveys and although these studies may not be completed controlled, there is definitely a correlation proven in the repetition of studies and results. In addition, participants can vouch for the positive effects these pups provide.

1 Comment

I was actually in the middle of training one of my dogs to become a therapy dog before she got to old. Another use that I was exploring was therapy dogs used to help kids learn to read in public. The dogs have a very calming effect on the students and help them lose their fear of being embarrassed and instead allows them to learn to read much better. To me there is something so calming about a dog, and this is typically one of the first things people miss about being home. Having a dog come around during finals week could be a great idea just to bring a distraction that makes people happy.

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