Wellbeing programme at University of Edinburgh involving dogs. Pictured: dog being stroked
Wellbeing programme at University of Edinburgh involving dogs. Pictured: dog being stroked

Dogs To Play Lead Role In Uni Wellbeing Project

Furry companions to support students with anxiety at the University of Edinburgh.

If you’re looking to study at the University of Edinburgh, this will totally convince you. The university, one of Scotland’s largest, is placing dogs at the heart of a new wellbeing programme. Need we say more?

In an attempt to boost students’ mental health and promote an understanding of canine welfare, the University of Edinburgh has launched ‘Paws on Campus’ — a programme designed to support students with stress and anxiety, and combining clinical psychology with veterinary science using a series of activity sessions.

One of the programme’s creators, Professor Jo Williams says that ‘each session has a key focus, based on psychological research, to enhance wellbeing and provide each participant with skills that they can use to support their mental health’. The sessions should benefit students by reducing their stress and increasing a positive mood, all while learning about canine welfare and compassion to themselves and others.

The sessions will focus on specific learning and therapeutic objectives enabling students to recognise the connections between their wellbeing and an animal’s welfare needs. It’s said that the pet therapy differs from typical pet therapies as it’s the first of its kind to combine student mental wellbeing and animal welfare. How innovative!

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After the trial sessions at the end of last year, the university has now set up a referral route, linking the programme with the uni’s student wellbeing programme. Students will have to be referred to the scheme, complete a screening process, and then they’ll be offered a series of four, weekly sessions consisting of a small group of students and a registered therapy dog (and its handler).

The sessions will involve the students engaging in a range of canine-assisted wellbeing exercises, like breathing and relaxation techniques, as well as interacting with the dog — no doubt the best part.

A third year student who took part in the trial sessions states it was:

‘great learning the various grounding and awareness techniques that you can also do in your own time.’

She went on to say that she found it ‘made mindfulness — something that [she] struggled with before — so much easier when there is a dog to focus on’.

Sounds like a great idea if you ask us!

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