A room full of pleasing, playful puppies could be hitting SAIT’s campus next year to help students de-stress before exams.
Dalhousie University popularized puppy rooms during exam time last December when it brought in dogs from Therapeutic Paws of Canada to help students take their mind off of school.
The university’s puppy room became a media sensation throughout the United States.
The puppy room was a huge hit with students. The pups received more than 500 visitors on the first day of the event, according to Dalhousie’s website.
SAITSA’s Vice-President External, Matthew Armstrong, said the only thing standing in the way of bringing a puppy room to SAIT is a policy that doesn’t allow animals on campus.
However, Armstrong said the policy could be overturned for something that would help students combat stress and other mental health issues, and make the campus more enjoyable.
The Vice-President External said he has already put the puppy room on his agenda, and will discuss it with SAITSA executives and SAIT’s upper administration this month.
The province’s $10.5 million funding boost to mental health services for college and university students will certainly make bringing events like a puppy room to SAIT a lot easier, said Armstrong.
The Alberta Student’s Executive Council will receive $1.5 million from the provincial government over three years to help students’ associations implement mental health programs.
“With the funding earmarked to go out in August, we should be able to have stuff like [a puppy room] in place by next year, assuming it works for SAIT administration,” Armstrong said.
Having taken courses in animal therapy and psychology, Armstrong is fully supportive of bringing a puppy room to SAIT.
“[Animal therapy] can really help with healing,” he said.
“Exams can be incredibly stressful and can be incredibly hard for students. It’s a tough time for them. Anything we can bring to campus that is going to help our students be more successful, happier, and healthier is absolutely in the best interest of students as far as I’m concerned,” said Armstrong.
Spending just a few minutes petting a dog has been proven to have numerous health benefits that include lowered blood pressure, reduced anxiety and depression, and decreased levels of stress hormones.
Studies have also shown that petting dogs can release oxytocin.
Nicknamed “the love hormone,” oxytocin promotes bonding and affection, and is released during sex, kissing, and cuddling, according to an article published in the November 2011 issue of Prevention Magazine.
The dogs in Dalhousie University’s puppy room were fully grown therapy dogs, because there were concerns that the stress of large crowds could be harmful to puppies.
“What I think is special about therapy dogs is they have an unconditional positive regard towards others,” said Alix Shriner who works with St. John Ambulance’s therapy dog program with her dog, Molly.
The therapy program came to Calgary last May and brings trained therapy dogs to hospitals, special needs schools, senior homes, and other health care facilities to visit patients.
“[A puppy room] would really benefit students. It certainly helps with the seniors, and the children at children’s hospitals,” said Patti Proud, who also works with St. John’s Ambulance’s therapy dog program.