The Perceived Impact of Therapy Dogs on College Students – Final Report

Over the summer, Dr. Maxam and I had an amazing time conducting qualitative research on the perceived impact that therapy dogs have on college students. Through interviewing multiple Pace faculty members who are connected with therapy dogs, it is made clear that interacting with therapy dogs on campus has a positive impact on students.

Beginning this research, I needed to do some background research on this topic. As a dog lover, I know a lot about dogs, but there were things I needed to learn before conducting this research. For instance, I learned the distinction between therapy dogs and service dogs, and stressed that throughout my research. Therapy dogs are not service dogs. Service dogs are specifically trained to perform tasks to help a person who is differently abled. Therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort, affection, and stress relief on college campuses, in hospitals, and other very stressful environments.

Though the research conducted showed that students are positively impacted, there are some negative aspects to having therapy dogs on campus. Some students simply may not like dogs, and other students may be allergic. However, these events with therapy dogs give students the option to participate. Another concerned raised by this research is students who have phobias of dogs. Some of these students have spent time with these therapy dogs on campus, and the dogs have helped them conquer their fear.

Ultimately, Dr. Maxam and I are conducting this research to implement a formal therapy dog program at Pace. Throughout our research, we learned that therapy dog programs have many components, and we had to see how this components could be implemented on the Pleasantville and New York City campuses. Things we need to consider include the cost, training, who would be the dog’s owner, if we would need multiple dogs, and where they would stay on campus. Once we have decided how the program should be modeled, we will present it, along with our research that shows the positive impact of therapy dogs on students, to President Krislov.

Pace University currently works with the Good Dog Foundation and has therapy dogs on campus on alternating Wednesdays, and during final exam week. These therapy dog events are very popular on campus. These events particularly seem to help college students with stress reduction. After spending time with a therapy dog, students are visibly in a better mood. For many students, seeing a therapy dog, or any dog on campus, immediately brightens their mood, as it reminds them of their own dog at home. For these students, the therapy dogs act as a springboard for conversation, and they talk about how much they miss their dog and how interacting with a therapy dog helps them feel less homesick and adjust to college life easier.

Working with Dr. Maxam has been such an amazing experience. She and I both love dogs more than anything, so it was a great experience being able to research something that she and I are both super passionate. Whenever I needed help during my research, Dr. Maxam was one call away. I am so appreciative of Dr. Maxam for trusting me to conduct this research, and for the unconditional support she provided me. Together we pieced together ideas and components of what a therapy dog program would look like at Pace, and we were lucky enough to have our research be chosen to be presented at the International Journal of Arts & Sciences Multidisciplinary Conference at the University of London. I cannot thank Dr. Maxam enough for this opportunity. I am so grateful for where this research project has taken me, and I cannot wait to see what happens with our research in the future.

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