Doggone good therapy

It's no secret dogs offer companionship, but a new UBC Okanagan study confirms it.

The study shows that animal-assisted therapy can help students combat homesickness and could be a useful tool in lowering post-secondary drop-out rates.

Assistant Prof. John Tyler Binfet of UBC's Okanagan campus said homesick students tend to drop out at a higher rate than non-homesick students.

The study found a furry friend can make a big difference helping the homesick student deal with being away from familiar surroundings.

In the study, 44 first-year university students who self-identified as homesick were given a survey to measure levels of homesickness, satisfaction with life and connectedness with campus. Half of the students completed eight weeks of dog therapy, while the other half were informed that their sessions would begin in eight weeks’ time.

Participants who completed the eight-week program experienced significant reductions in homesickness and greater increase in satisfaction with life. Participants reported that sessions “felt like they were at home chatting with friends who brought their puppies.” While the non-treatment group reported an increase in their feelings of homesickness.

While further study is needed, a university's ability to influence campus connections could be a useful tool in lowering drop-out rates in first-year students, says Binfet.

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