University helps combat exam stress with therapy dogs
Mandy, owned by Lois and Chuck Sahm, is one of the dogs helping students at Saint Leo University combat exam stress. Photo courtesy of Saint Leo University.

This university has found a surefire way to help combat the stress and anxiety surrounding exam season… therapy dogs!

Every spring, students everywhere are riddled with pre-exam jitters. To help them overcome this anxiety, Saint Leo University has brought in a group of lovable therapy dogs as part of an ongoing initiative. The school’s Counseling Services offers “Puppies and Pizza” twice a semester – once just before midterms and again just before finals week. “We do this for multiple reasons including outreach, prevention, and stress reduction,” said Tiffany Nelson, prevention counselor. “We know that the times around midterms and finals can be very stressful for students, and for this reason, we want to reach out to them in unique ways to meet their needs. Puppies and Pizza is a way to offer the stress reducing effects of therapy animals to students.”

According to Nelson, one of the biggest benefits of this event is that it encourages the students to put down their phones and relax, in the moment, with the dogs. On top of instilling a sense of mindfulness, pet therapy has also been shown to lower blood pressure, dampen depression and anxiety, and increase socialization. “So many students tell us they miss their pets back home,” Nelson adds, “and they love this event because of that.”