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If you are a dog lover, then you might want to consider going back to school. The language center of the University of Jyväskylä, along with the Finnish Kennel Club, has started a pilot program where dogs serve as companions and aid students during their language learning process.
The Finnish Kennel Club started promoting care dog activities in 2001 and since then, they have become more and more popular throughout the country. Man’s best friend is no longer staying at home, but care dogs visit different organizations and contribute to human well-being as part of animal-assisted therapy. In Finland, qualified dogs and their owners can visit elderly, children and disabled people, mental health patients, people in need of rehabilitation and war invalids.
There have been studies that have shown short-term relaxing effects when touching a dog or just being in the presence of an animal. Because of this, the goal of having dogs visiting the University of Jyväskylä is to improve the well-being of students by reducing their stress, relaxing them and just making them a little happier. Peppi Taalas, an academic and director of the language center, says that the goal of this initiative is also “to develop special education pedagogy in schools by working together with teachers, staff and students. There are many plans we are working on at the moment, and there is very much interest and enthusiasm for the development at our university.”
The goal of having dogs visiting the University of Jyväskylä is to improve the well-being of students by reducing their stress, relaxing them and just making them a little happier.
Starting in the autumn semester, the psychology department at the university will work with the language center to study the effects of dogs on campus. This will lead to new input into the effects of animal companionship and hopefully improve the quality of life of students.
Peppi is no stranger to animal-assisted therapies since her two poodles are certified therapy dogs. She has been involved in volunteer work visiting hospitals, homes for the elderly and different organizations that deal with youth and adults. “During those visits, I have seen so many moments of joy and self-worth that I am convinced that our students will also find these dog-aided activities and moments both useful and helpful,” she said.
Peppi and other volunteers have dedicated time and effort and are just now getting the chance to implement new initiatives that will improve overall wellbeing. During the open house that took place last week, dogs visited the campus and “the smiles and the good vibes we saw reinforced my trust in this program,” Peppi concluded.