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Dogs alleviate feelings of stress and homesickness: UBC Okanagan study

Education professor John-Tyler Binfet poses with Frances. The pair has offered a drop-in animal-assisted therapy program at UBC Okanagan for five years.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/UBC Okanagan
August 31, 2017 - 4:30 PM

OKANAGAN - Attending university brings a mountain of challenges to students and stress is one of them, however, a study shows a furry companion can help your mental health.

Researchers at UBC Okanagan have found that brief, but concentrated time with a dog can significantly reduce stress in 20 minutes.

Attending post-secondary education can be highly stressful for a number of reasons such as moving away from home, leaving family and friends, and academic expectations, according to a UBC Okanagan media release.

“Our research has proven that short animal therapy sessions significantly reduce both stress and a feeling of homesickness in students,” Faculty of Education assistant professor John-Tyler Binfet. “Yet, that same session with a therapy dog significantly increases a student’s sense of belonging to their school.”

Binfet has offered a drop-in animal-assisted therapy program called Building Academic Retention through K9s for the past five years. He refers to this program as B.A.R.K., which was cited in Psychology Today as "one of the most innovative, and largest, pet therapy programs at a post-secondary institution."

Previous research proved that canine therapy works, however, Binfet wanted to know how much time was needed to start seeing results. A survey was completed by students. This survey asked questions about pre-and post-stress, homesickness and belonging measures and some brief demographics questions. 

The results of the study were published this summer in Anthrozoös, the top Human-Animal Interaction journal.

“I’m actually at the point where I’m telling parents ‘If you want your child to keep his/her stress in check and succeed at university make sure they are aware of, and use, animal therapy if it’s available at their school,’” Binfet says.

You can find out more about Binfet's research here.


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