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Three years of care dogs – Bath Spa University

Paw-fect pals: Celebrating three years of Care Dogs supporting the mental health and wellbeing of thousands of Bath Spa students

Wednesday, 17 May, 2023

As part of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week, Bath Spa University is celebrating its very special four-legged friends, in recognition of the combined 300 hours of service that its Care Dogs have given to support the mental health and wellbeing of thousands of students over the last three years.

Launched in partnership with the charity Canine Concern in early 2020, the pilot pet therapy scheme for students has developed at a pace and, due to overwhelming success, the team of Bath Spa Care Dogs are now a pack of 12, with seven more eagerly awaiting to complete their assessments.

The dogs have been the star attractions at petting sessions and scheduled dog walks with students across the University’s Bath-based campuses. Their popularity is set to grow thanks to a number of upcoming internally organised events. These include a "thank you" ceremony for owners and their dogs and a night of celebrations, with a brand new "Care Dog of the Year" category in this year’s prestigious Bath Spa University VC Awards.

More than just a wag of the tail

Each of the Care Dogs has passed an interview for the important job, assessments are comprehensive and include observing the dogs and owners in a variety of settings. For example, the way a dog and its owner interact in large outdoor spaces is assessed, as well as the way dogs respond to being stroked while in a quiet room such as those used for wellbeing sessions with students.

Reflecting on the success of the scheme, Steven Parsons, Student Wellbeing Services Projects and Activities Coordinator at Bath Spa University, said:

“We are delighted to see how well the Care Dogs have been received by both students and staff and we are proud of the dogs for all they do to support mental health and wellbeing at the University. I am looking forward to growing our team of dogs further to better support our community and their needs.”

Academic research on animal-assistance

Research into therapy dogs is on the rise and the benefits to both children and adults is being recognised. In fact, reflecting on her research into animal-assisted interventions specifically with children, Bath Spa Psychology Lecturer Dr Mirena Dimolareva said:

“The future for animal-assisted interventions looks promising. I have seen first-hand how children regulate their behaviour during lessons and playtime to make sure they are allowed to spend time with the therapy dogs.

“If we can teach children to regulate their behaviour in the classroom and potentially transfer this to their day-to-day life, it would have a groundbreaking impact on their ability to learn as well as their overall wellbeing. This is particularly exciting as animals may have the potential to elicit these benefits for children – and adults – who do not currently respond to other interventions.”

In addition to celebrating its Care Dogs during Mental Health Awareness Week, the University is hosting a range of activities for staff and students to help them to support their mental health and wellbeing. Initiatives include drop-in sessions to explore assistance that is available all year round, mindfulness workshops, yoga demonstrations and more.

To find out more about the Care Dogs, including a list of some of the dogs and their profiles, visit the Care Dogs web page.

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