Therapets: promoting positive mental health for students and staff alike

It’s well known that dogs can bring a smile to anyone’s face: releasing those happy and feel-good hormones. That’s one of the main reasons why animal therapy is becoming so increasingly popular – it helps to enhance mood, emotional and physical well-being, and even reduce pain – for any and all ages.

What we done

As part of being a postgraduate (PG) Peer Support Leader at the University of Edinburgh, I came up with the great idea at the start of the year to bring in some furry friends to helps boost the wellbeing of PG students and staff – especially in semester 2 when assignments and dissertations can make life very stressful. So that’s exactly what I done (alongside my friend Sam)! I contacted Canine Concern Scotland Trust to see if they would be willing to work with me to put on a fantastic event, and they did!

Once I had everything planned, I sent out the emails and posts to let everyone know the (very limited) tickets were on sale – and 75 tickets sold out almost immediately, showing the sheer demand for these types of experiences and events. On the day, 5 volunteers were assigned and 6 showed up, which everyone was ecstatic about!

How it went

Each dog and their owner had their own ‘circle’: a circle of 6 chairs and a cosey blanket in the middle for the dog to lie on. This meant the owner could sit with their dog, and 5 students could also be sat on the chairs with them, listening to the owners tell stories about their dogs, asking questions, and patting their little heads. Very quickly students and staff were sitting or lying on the floor with the dogs, cuddling, playing, and having fun. Some owners even picked up their dog to sit on the student’s laps, to which they could cuddle and kiss their furry little companion for as long as they wanted.

Afterwards, the feedback was tremendous – everyone left feeling happy, smiling, and wanting more. I was thanked over and over again for putting on the event, with some saying it was the best event they had been to. One even said they had felt down for months, and this one 20 minute session with the therapy dogs really did help them to feel so much better. I felt like I truly made a difference to the people’s lives that day, and I am so immensely proud of what these furry little creates can achieve just by simply existing. But not only did the dogs have such a
positive impact on the people that came along, so did the owners – they were all lovely people and chatted with everyone about everything.

It was a very special event, one that I wish to do again in the near future. The happiness and positivity it injects into everyone is second-to-none, and I only wish everyone could have the chance to cuddle their own little fluffy friend and feel the difference it makes.

Here are a selection of snapshots that day!

Nicola Burns

University of Edinburgh

MSc Human Cognitive Neuropsychology | Clinical Research Assistant in AI |
Paediatric Research Assistant (EEG) | Looking to make a difference in the world



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