Napier offers ‘pet therapy’ to ease exam stress

Student Jade Ramsay with Border collie Keira. Picture: Lesley Martin

Student Jade Ramsay with Border collie Keira. Picture: Lesley Martin

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ONCE upon a time the answer to student stress was a trip to the pub. Now, in a bid to tackle the pressure of looming exams, chiefs at a top city university have called in the dogs.

Edinburgh Napier University is offering “pet therapy” sessions to its students, allowing them to meet and play with specially trained pooches in a bid to take their minds off this year’s exam season.

The nerve-calming service has been organised by the university’s mental health team and students’ union, with the help of Canine Concern Scotland Trust (CCST).

Ten dogs – including Newfoundlands, collies and golden retrievers – have visited the university’s main campuses, where they were held and stroked by stressed students in sessions lasting up to half an hour.

Angus Mackenzie, mental health adviser at Edinburgh Napier, said: “The sessions are just a fun and creative way to encourage our students to take a break.

“I think people maybe miss having a dog or the sessions remind them of having their own dog or pet when they were a child. It’s comforting for them.”

Edinburgh Napier’s launch comes as research confirms the mere act of stroking a dog or cat brings a range of benefits, including reduced heart rate and blood pressure, calmed nerves, regular breathing and a mood boost.

Mr Mackenzie said students had flocked to the dog therapy sessions, with initial feedback so positive that plans are now under way for further roll-outs of the service.

“We wanted to target this at a time when exam stress and coursework is starting to build up,” he said.

“Some of the dogs will sit on students’ laps and some of the owners will bring treats which the students can feed to the dogs. The students just seem to enjoy it.”

CCST leaders said they were delighted to be able to provide the dogs.

Douglas Ruthven, trustee and local area representative, said: “This co-operation with Edinburgh Napier University is an interesting and important development of the use of our Therapet service, which was set up 25 years ago to provide visits by therapy dogs to care homes, hospitals and hospices.

“The first use of our Therapet dogs to counter student stress in the UK was made last year in Edinburgh and the success of this initiative is demonstrated by the requests for visits from a number of universities in Scotland this year.”

Edinburgh Napier’s stress sessions come after CCST bosses helped Edinburgh University launch a similar service for its own exam-burdened 
students last April.