Dog therapy aims to ease students' stress during finals

therapy dog
Aubry, a three-year-old male Golden Retriever therapy dog, plays with a Quinnipiac student

May 7, 2013 - Finals week is often a stress producing time for college students.

That's why Donna Latella, an occupational therapy professor brought a three-year-old therapy dog to the North Haven Campus to help students prepare themselves to take their final exams. Final exams at Quinnipiac are from May 6-10.

Aubry, a three-year-old male Golden Retriever, visited the Center for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences May 6-7. Latella and Aubry are certified through the Pet Partners, a nationally recognized organization dedicated to animal-assisted activities and therapy.

"We know pets make us happy and feel good in general," said Latella. "However, the sensory interaction with the dog through touch, unconditional affection and the human animal bond is a powerful tool which we hope to show has a positive impact on relieving stress levels and offering comfort to participants."

As part of their capstone project, Briana Ardolino, Melanie Haversat, Nicole Maiorino and Amanda Silberzahn, four of Latella's occupational therapy students, checked the blood pressures, heart rates, respiratory rates and stress levels of those students who visited Aubry. Early results indicated reduced levels after students spent just five minutes with Aubry.

"Research has shown that dogs have a calming effect," Ardolino said. "The students will be more relaxed and more focused with increased concentration levels."

Students were given the opportunity to talk to and pet the dog.

"It was magical," said Marianna Dimaggio, a physical therapy graduate student. "I love animals. Aubry reminded me of my dog from home, which made me more relaxed."

Dimaggio said she was grateful for the opportunity to spend time with the dog. "He has a great temperament," she said. "It's just what I needed as finals week began."

Watch a video about the capstone project or see more photos of Aubry with our students.