Sydney Uni dog therapy eases mid-semester stress

Doggy delight. Photo: Sophie Eaton

Sydney University students have been destressing from ‘ruff’ assignments and swapping labs for Labs with Ther-A-Paws events.

At a recent session on May 4, students enjoyed being outdoors playing with six trained Delta Therapy dogs, including Honey the golden retriever and Sam the miniature collie, on the university’s New Law Lawns.

Delta Therapy Dogs at the University of Sydney on May 4. Photo: FASS Student Affairs and Engagement

Student Adam Lipschitz said there was a calm and wholesome atmosphere at the event: “Everyone’s happy, everyone’s outdoors.”

Adam’s friend Leah Grill agreed, saying the dogs “should be at uni more often”.

Sydney Uni students Leah Grill and Adam Lipschitz. Photo: Sophie Eaton

Student Ambassador Oliver Wen helps run the events.

“Students say they enjoy meeting the therapy dogs and others in the community, and they feel less stressed after attending,” he said.

“We also have international students and students from regional areas who have shared their appreciation for Ther-A-Paws as an opportunity for them to feel connected with animals, particularly being away from home.”

Wen said there was a solid body of research that supports the idea that having dogs on campus is effective in reducing stress, including a 2018 Canadian study of 246 students which found single drop-in sessions with therapy dogs had a marked impact on student wellbeing.

International students Amy and Pippa (surnames withheld) confirmed it was the first time they’d had a chance to pat a dog in months. Both have been separated from their family pets at home in China.

Students Amy and Pippa. Photo: Sophie Eaton

Amy said: “Every day, I miss them.”

The program, was first designed by university staff and students in 2016, and is entirely student-led.

The next Ther-A-Paws session will be held on R U OK? Day on September 14.

Sophie Eaton is a postgraduate journalism student at the University of Sydney. She also works as a media advisor at a national children’s charity.