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A Welsh university is allowing dogs on campus to help combat student stress and homesickness

Cardiff Metropolitan University in partnership with Cardiff Met Students’ Union has launched a #CampusCanines initiative to help students tackle homesickness and to promote well-being and community fun.

Chantelle Haughton, Senior Lecturer in Education and Early Childhood Studies and Outdoor Learning Centre Co-ordinator at the University, said:

“The idea arose within a Personal Tutor meeting – a student was having a difficult time. She was missing lots about home and had talked about really missing her dog.

“I helped with her course issues, signposted her to Student Services and explored how we could begin bringing our dogs into Cardiff School of Education, to help promote holistic wellbeing and promote some community fun.

“It was collaborative from the start with Emma in HR helping me prepare a risk assessment and dog owner questionnaires for the pilot in Summer Term 2018. The dogs stirred lots of positive emotion among students during the busy assessment and exam period. Our most recent event last month run by the Students’ Union, involved over 140 students who either popped into our session on Cyncoed campus, to relax and cwtch or to join our dog walk to and from Roath Park Lake.

“The initiative has also impacted on staff wellbeing and sense of community spirit, as well as helping students integrate and enjoy socialising within the Student Union and other local spaces.”

A third year Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences student said: “It was the best day ever! Playing with the dogs has helped relieve the stress I have been feeling during my dissertation – it has taken my mind off work and helped me relax. Anxiety is a big part of my life and my dog at home always helps calm me down so having dogs had the same effect, making my Thursday the best it’s been in a LONG time! The idea is simply genius, I cannot thank you enough!”

Cardiff Youth Council and Cardiff Council are also interested in the initiative – which is part of a wider #HowtobeHappier Students’ Union campaign – after hearing about it from a former Cardiff Met student, the Campus Canine Crew attended a well-being conference in July aimed at local secondary schools.

The pupils attending the event were able to enjoy meeting the dogs and student volunteers. Leading up to and during the event, Chantelle advised on risk assessment processes and applying the initiative to secondary schools’ extra-curricular activities.

Chris Deacy, HR manager (Occupational Health and Well-being), ​at the University, said: “The University is striving to be a healthy university where staff, students and the community in which we operate feel healthy and supported.

“This initiative has had a really positive impact on our students and in addition to the clear well-being benefits it has through the dog walking options, it has encouraged people to spend time outdoors being active. Exercise itself is known to help foster good mental health as well as physical fitness. The pets get extra attention too, so everyone seems to be a winner. Well done to all those involved!”

Upcoming #CampusCanines sessions will be confirmed around campus and across social media.