The Impact of Pet Therapy on Anxiety Reduction Among Undergraduate and Graduate Nursing Students

Aim: Exploring if pet therapy dogs decrease anxiety levels among graduate nursing students in the classroom setting; and if pet therapy dogs reduce anxiety among undergraduate nursing students during prebriefing (prior to participating in high fidelity simulation) in the simulation laboratory.

Impact of Pet Therapy on Anxiety Reduction Among Undergraduate and Graduate Nursing Students

The mental health of students has become a major concern at universities across Canada. A growing body of evidence suggests that pet therapy, first introduced at the University of Ottawa in 2012, is a successful and cost-effective method to improving the self-reported and perceived mental health and well-being of university students.

Pet therapy, using dogs, has been shown to reduce test anxiety, aid in relaxation and improve human interactions (with other participants).

Therapy dogs are a cost-effective non-traditional method of anxiety reduction that may serve as an important mental health service for those who might otherwise avoid seeking help due to the stigma surrounding traditional mental health services or to those who may only need support during stressful periods such as during exam time.

The majority of studies focusing on pet therapy in academic institutions are not embedded within the classroom environment, but rather take place as drop-in visits in more public spaces.



Outputs: International presentations; manuscripts in progress

Principal investigator

Dr. Sandra Goldsworthy

UCalgary research team: Dr. Alix Hayden, Dr. Odette Gristci, Shelley McKibbon, Veronica Belostotsky, J. David Patterson


Dalhousie University; Cape Breton University; UCalgary Library Services and Students’ Union; PADS Pet therapy dogs

Grant support

Research professorship, UCalgary Nursing