Stress-busting dogs on university staff

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News family and education correspondent

  • Published
students and dogs
Image caption,
The university is using the dogs as a way of reducing anxiety among students

Five dogs have joined the staff of Middlesex University to help students with exam stress or whose anxiety puts them at risk of dropping out.

The five labradors have become "canine teaching assistants" and will work on improving students' wellbeing.

The five have their own staff cards, in a project purported to be the most systematic use of dogs in a university.

"You can literally feel stress levels reducing," said Fiona Suthers, head of clinical skills at the university.

Image caption,
The dogs have been given their own identity cards

"It's amazing and we're very keen to continue and expand what we're doing.

"It's hard to describe the impact of just having a dog lying down in the corner of a class.

"When we initially introduced the scheme, I don't think any of us thought it would be so successful.

Ms Suthers added all the dogs were specially trained and a "stringent assessment" had ensured they had the right temperament.

Image caption,
There are five canine assistants, with another three to join the staff

Last month, University of Buckingham vice-chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon backed the use of dogs as a way of reducing stress in schools and universities.

"The quickest and biggest hit that we can make to improve mental health in our schools and to make them feel safe for children is to have at least one dog in every single school in the country," said Sir Anthony.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds backed his call, saying more schools seemed to have "wellbeing dogs" and "the pets can really help".