University Researchers study impact therapy dogs have on students’ stress levels

Date: Thursday 22nd June, 2023

Researchers at Wrexham Glyndwr University (WGU) have been working on a study to determine the impact that spending time with therapy dogs can have on students’ anxiety and stress levels. 

Psychology students and staff from the university have spent the last couple of months undertaking data collections to inform whether therapy dogs can make a difference in alleviating students’ stress. 

As part of the study, participating students spent time with the dogs one-on-one or in small groups for a 20-minute period. Students were asked to fill out a questionnaire, which asked them to report their stress levels before and after interacting with the dogs. 

In recent weeks, students have carried out their final data collection and are now working to analyse the data, before presenting their findings.  

Dr Shubha Sreenivas, Senior Lecturer in Psychology (Biological) at WGU, said: “This piece of research has been extremely enjoyable for all involved – first of all, who doesn’t love spending time with dogs? But for me, it’s been immensely rewarding to watch our Level 3-5 Psychology students become researchers, carrying out applied research and also hopefully, make a difference to student wellbeing. 

“We chose to undertake this study during the second semester, due to it being a busy time for students, so we knew that students would benefit from that time with the therapy dogs.  

“Now that our final data collection has been completed, our students turned Research Assistants are working to analyse the data, with a view of presenting their results – and we’re also hopeful that these findings will inform a journal article, which would be absolutely amazing for our students. Being published prior to graduating would be a real achievement, so we’re hopeful that can happen.” 

Alys Jones, a final-year Psychology student at WGU and one of the Research Assistants who has worked on the study, said: “It’s been fantastic and a really empowering experience to have played a part in this piece of research, particularly as it’s centred around student wellbeing. 

“I’ve learned a great deal during my time working on this study. I’m now very much looking forward to us analysing the data to determine the impact that the therapy dogs have on students.” 

Janet Rimmer, Area Team Support at Therapy Dogs Nationwide, who was one of the team at the charity that brought along her dog, Belle – a Labrador – to the study sessions, said she was eagerly awaiting the study’s findings. 

She said: “It’s been an absolute pleasure to support the university’s work – and I’m really looking forward to finding out what the study tells us.  

“Speaking personally, I see the positive effect that therapy dogs have on people every day but it’s always good to see that backed up by credible research.” 

The study abstract has now been accepted for Dr Sreenivas to present it at the Early Career Researcher (ECR) Network Colloquium on 6 July in Swansea.