New stress-relief trend at Canadian universities: Puppies!

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News

"Stressed from exams? Come take a break from studying and exams and play with a dog!" a poster published on the Dalhousie University Student Union's Facebook page encourages.

During the upcoming exam season at the Halifax university, stressed out students can seek a little relief in a room of playful puppies.

Also in Halifax, Mount Saint Vincent University has enlisted the help of a pooch named Oscar to encourage students to visit the counsellor's office to process their stress and anxiety.

This "dog as stress-relief strategy" is relatively new for Canadian universities.

Last December, McGill students played with therapy dogs thanks to a visit from Therapeutic Paws of Canada.

"The purpose of the event was to help ease student stress and anxiety during exams," McGill student Amanda Fraser told OpenFile Montreal. "We wanted to provide an opportunity for students to take a break from their hectic schedules and have fun and relax with friendly dogs and volunteers. It is becoming increasingly acknowledged that dogs have a positive affect on mental health, and we wanted to share these effects with the McGill student population."

In March, the University of Ottawa starting offering students time with an 8-year-old collie mix named Tundra, the school's first therapy dog.

"I've had a couple of students come in and say, 'I have an exam in 10 minutes and I need to see the dog!'" Audrey Giles, a human kinetics professor who adopted Tundra from a shelter, told the Toronto Star. "Just petting a dog will decrease your blood pressure and relieve anxiety. You can be affectionate with them and they'll be affectionate back. They love attention."

"It's another weapon in our arsenal, if you will, when dealing with student stress and anxiety," said Murray Sang, director of the University of Ottawa's Student Academic Success Service. "It's not going to replace counselling, but when students are lining up for an hour and a half to play with a dog, there's something to it."