Study: Dog Therapy Reduces Homesickness in College Students

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
Off to college? Bring a dog! A new study has found that may be just what the dog-tor ordered to help relieve homesickness!

Legendary actress Doris Day once said, “I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”

Turns out science says she’s right!

A new study, conducted by Assistant Professer John Tyler Binfet of the University of British Columbia, Okanagan campus, recently released results that showed the use of animal-assisted therapy can help first-year students who are suffering from homesickness, and could even assist in lowering drop-out rates.

Related: Top 10 Therapy Dog Breeds

Professor Binfet acknowledges that the transition from high school to a university setting can be a challenge for many freshmen, and in turn, those who have a hard time and experience homesickness are more likely to droop out of college when compared to peers who do not seem to suffer from homesickness. Because of this, it’s in the university’s best interest to find ways to help its students combat homesick and isolated feelings.

The study involved 44 freshmen who claimed they were homesick, and they were all given a survey that measured their levels of homesickness, connectivity with the campus and overall general satisfaction with life. Then, half of the students were immersed in and completed eight weeks of dog therapy, while the other half, being told their sessions would begin eight weeks later, waited. The therapy sessions involved weekly group interactions with the therapy dogs and their handlers, as well as interaction with other freshmen participating in the study.

Related: HABRI Study Finds Dogs Help De-Stress Families With Autistic Children

At the end of the eight-week session, all participants were again given the survey, and the study found that those who had been involved with the dog therapy were significantly less homesick and happier with life than those who did not have the dog therapy. More, those who did not get to participate in the therapy actually reported they felt even more homesick

Looking at the study’s conclusions, it seems that a college/university’s ability to help its students feel more connected to campus and help them develop more meaningful relationships can significantly affect drop-out rates, and that dog therapy might be a great way to help students feel emotional relatability and sense of purpose.

So while we’ve always known dog to be man’s best friend, seems like he may also make a great college roomie too! Just don’t let him order too many pizza deliveries!

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

More by Lori Ennis