Two therapy dogs introduced into classrooms in the School of Animal Welfare
Since coronavirus sent the College into lockdown back in March of this year, there’s been a hive of activity taking place behind the scenes to minimise disruption for students. The introduction of therapy dogs into the classroom is the College’s latest wellbeing initiative, focused specifically on improving student mental health.
Sam Smith, Head of Animal Welfare at the College said:
“Since 2015, 85% of colleges in the UK have reported an increase in mental health concerns; a staggering amount and something which needs to improve. By introducing the therapy dogs into our classes we’re hoping to improve our students’ wellbeing by supporting their studies and as a consequence, opening up their future opportunities.”
Studies have shown that dogs can reduce stress and increase energy levels in students, and have positive behavioural implications in teenagers with mental health disorders such as anxiety and schizophrenia. Since their introduction earlier this term, the Animal Welfare department is already seeing positive outcomes for students in comparison to last year.
The introduction of therapy dogs into the College has been the ambition of Caroline Sanders, Associate Programme Co-ordinator at the Animal Welfare Centre since the start of her PGCE and forms part of her research.
“I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to fulfil this initiative with the hope to improve student wellbeing and their overall experience at College. Given the current situation (with COVID-19) it comes at a welcome time. Research has shown that after interacting with a dog, even 10 hours later, students have reported slightly less negative emotion, feeling more supported, and feeling less stressed – this is what we’re hoping to achieve here.”
To prevent the spread of coronavirus, the dogs are incorporated into student bubbles, minimising their own, and student exposure. Students are being encouraged to wash their hands and sanitise after touching the dogs. The dogs are also being provided with regular breaks away from students to ensure they can rest.