Lots of quality dog cuddles are being offered on the University of Guelph campus this academic year, as the University expands its popular Take a Paws program to a weekly event.
The program gives students an opportunity to talk with a volunteer and a dog, and to feel, touch, pet and cuddle the animal.
Run in partnership with the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program and Therapeutic Paws of Canada, Take a Paws is aimed at helping students destress.
The documented benefits include significantly lower reported stress levels, decreased anxiety, and increased happiness and energy levels, said Brian Ingoldsby, co-chair of the University’s animal-assisted activities advisory committee.
“With a dog, there is that unconditional sense of acceptance and comfort that they provide,” said Ingoldsby. “That can be difficult to find in day to day life. Students are really drawn to that.”
The program is intensified during the exam period because that’s when the stress level of students typically rises, he said.
“There is a growing body of research that supports the positive effect of therapy animal programming for student populations. Student interest numbers have always been really high for the program.”
Nearly 750 individual student visits took place in Take a Paws during the Fall semester as part of the weekly events and special “Stressbusters” sessions in the McLaughlin Library. About the same number is expected in the Winter semester.
Several sessions are planned for the final week of November and into December, with the schedule picking up again in the New Year.
Comfort dogs are also part of the University’s Wellness@Work program for employees.
Denyse Gray is the campus coordinator for the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program. Students are increasingly eager to participate in Take a Paws, she said.
“A lot of them have dogs back in their homes and they miss them a lot,” Gray said. “They feel so good about being close to a dog again. For all the students, the idea of being with a dog who is so happy to see them makes them feel really special. We have a lot of repeat students, who say it just makes their day.”
The dogs, she added, really like people.
Learn more about the program and schedule by visiting U of G’s Take a Paws site, housing.uoguelph.ca/takeapaws .
There are two evening sessions this week – Tuesday, Nov. 26, 7:00-8:00 p.m. in Mountain Hall’s Mountain South Student Lounge, and Wednesday, Nov. 27, 6:30-7:30 p.m. in Room 1511 of the Summerlee Science Complex.
There are three sessions on Wednesday, Dec. 4, taking place at 10:00-11:35 a.m. and 4:00-5:35 p.m.in Room 109 of the McLaughlin Library, and 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Mountain South Student Lounge (SSL). And there is an evening session on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Thornborough Building.