Dogs help new university students fight homesickness: study

The B.A.R.K. program gives students the opportunity to meet with therapy dogs. Credit: UBC Okanagan

For many first-year students university involves moving to a new city and moving out of their parents house for the first time. That transition is harder on some than others, but a new UBC Okanagan study shows some promising results to help with homesickness.

The key: some four-legged love.

The Building Academic Retention Through K-9’S or B.A.R.K. program at UBC Okanagan, which started four years ago, gives students the opportunity to spend time with therapy dogs.

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Dogs help new university students fight homesickness: study - image
Credit: UBC Okanagan

Researchers at the university wanted to see just how effective the program is at combating homesickness. The study followed 44 first-year students who self-identified as homesick. Half completed eight week dog therapy programs, including a weekly 45-minute visit with the pups, while the other half went about their daily routines, dog-free.

According to researchers, those in the dog therapy program reported a significant decrease in homesickness and greater satisfaction with life, “feeling like they were at home chatting with friends who brought their puppies,” while students without man’s best friend “reported an increase in their feelings of homesickness.”

One major goal of the study is to see if programs like dog therapy may help lower the first-year drop out rate at universities.

While more research is needed to prove dogs are part of the answer, researchers believe it’s a paw in the right direction.

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