Carleton’s Therapy Dogs can be visited during their office hours in locations across campus, as well as partnering with key Student Service centres to offer visits to broaden students’ exposure to different areas and communities on campus. Together with their handlers, the therapy dogs offer a welcoming, supportive environment that can provide a low intensity, yet effective strategy to cope with mental health problems or other stresses.
Many people say that visiting with the dogs simply brightens their day, while others may be struggling and looking for someone who will listen without judgment and gain more meaning from the experience. Tangible results are also seen in levels of confidence, social interactions, connectedness, and general satisfaction at Carleton University. More often than not, a student that opens up about an ongoing issue will be effectively referred to another appropriate resource, due to the trust and bond that is formed over the connection with the animal. All of the handlers are Carleton Staff and Faculty members, who have received a base level of mental health training.
Funds raised will be used to support another year that the therapy dog project can continue to grow and thrive, and maintain its reputation as a viable strategy for mental health and well-being on campus. In addition to the basic requirements of training and onboarding in order to run the program, we have implemented innovative ideas such as:
- Each dog has a business card which refers students to a different mental health support, and these are collected like trading cards
- Bringing the dogs in to professor’s office hours and classrooms to talk about mental health and well being
- Ongoing training for therapy dog handlers
- Program evaluation
We have ongoing ideas for ways that the dogs can be seen as advocates on campus, potential to “sponsor” student led initiatives around mental health, and continue to fill gaps and break down barriers to seeking support.