Stress Relief with Therapy Dogs

St Johns Ambulance therapy dogs and volunteers at the Roblin Centre, part of the Healthy Minds Healthy College initiative.

Laura McNaughton, Child and Youth Care student and Healthy Minds Healthy College volunteer – L – spends some time with Pepper.

Earlier this week we had the privilege of welcoming St Johns Ambulance therapy dogs to both the Notre Dame and Exchange District campuses. Students were able to reduce some of their exam period stress by spending time with these beautiful and calm creatures.

On the topic of animal companionship and health, Christine Holowick-Sparkes of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority writes, “A few minutes of stroking a pet dog prompts a release of a number of ‘feel good’ hormones in humans, including serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin. These help people calm down and relax. Petting a pooch also results in decreased levels of the primary stress hormone cortisol.”

A student spends some time with Cooper the Pomeranian.

There are many additional health benefits related to animal companionship. You can read more about them in Holowick-Sparkes’ full article.

If you want to spend more time with pets, but personal or financial circumstances make it difficult to own your own pet, you may consider volunteering at a pet shelter or even walking a neighbour’s dog.

Thank you to all the students and staff who came out to visit the dogs and to the St Johns Ambulance volunteers for being so generous with their time.

Being with animals is just one way we can care for our mental health, building mental and emotional resilience so that we can better manage stressors such as exams and project deadlines.

What are some other things that help calm you and reduce your stress? Some people take deep breaths, walk, spend time in nature or listen to calming music. Find what works for you and build some time into your study schedule for these healthy breaks.





Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator