Is the legal profession going to the dogs? Well, not exactly. However, increasingly more law school libraries are using therapy dogs to help students cope with the stress of final exams.
A study entitled “Preliminary Investigation of Employee’s Dog Presence on Stress and Organizational Perceptions” published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that employees with pet dogs in the workplace had significantly less stress than the control group (the NODOG group) (Barker, Knisely, Barker, Cobb, & Schubert, 2012). Other studies have found that interacting with a pet can improve health by curbing depression, lowering blood pressure, increasing serotonin levels, and reducing stress (Johnson, 2011 and Cooper, n.d.).
Brian Van Brunt, President of the American College Counseling Association says universities and colleges are searching for ways to help students cope with stress. He says that having a dog available for “stress debriefing” sessions is particularly helpful for students because many have had to leave their pets at home (Kathleen, 2011).
Monty, probably the most well-known of the legal advisors, resides at Yale Law School’s library. He is an 11-year-old border terrier mix and certified therapy dog. Students can check him out for half an hour. Monty holds his therapy hours in a library office where students can pat him, play with him, or just be around him. However, they cannot take him out for a walk.
Law Librarian, Blair Kauffmann, emailed students: “We hope that making a therapy dog available to our students will prove to be a positive addition to current services offered by the library. It is well documented that visits from therapy dogs have resulted in increased happiness, calmness, and overall emotional well-being” (Kathleen, 2011).
Before his notoriety, Monty spent his early years chasing rats in Oxfordshire, England. Upon completion of a very successful pilot program at Yale, the library decided that Monty would be available for checkout during stressful periods.
After hearing about Monty, the University of San Francisco School of Law decided that they wanted a similar program for their students. Sophia Loren, a pit bull/Weimaraner mix; Daphne, a Labrador retriever; and Blaise, a golden retriever were the first dogs to arrive. Suzanne Mawhinney details the considerations in setting up a dog therapy program in her article for AALL Spectrum entitled “Dogs Provide Stress (And Comic) Relief.” Some of her tips were to be considerate of people who do not wish to be around dogs or might be allergic, to remind participants of their appointments a day or two in advance, and to schedule separate sessions for media.
Last fall during exams, the Dolly & Homer Hand Law Library at Stetson University College of Law hosted Duncan, Hans, and Brando, all certified therapy dogs. The librarians posted on the library’s blog the dates and times when the students could come and take a study break in the library’s atrium. The dog’s handlers, two professors, were also there.
At Emory University’s law library, Stanley, a golden retriever puppy helped relieve stress for many students during this year’s final exams. “We had a student who came in and a staff person commented they had never seen that student smile,” said Richelle Reid, the law librarian who started the program at Emory (Turner, 2012).
While there are not any definitive studies on the effects of therapy dogs on the stress of law students, there is anecdotal evidence that sometimes it is just nice to be able to play with one. As a result, many law libraries are deciding that the dog days are here.
Barker, R. T., Knisely, J. S., Barker, S. B., Cobb, R. K., & Schubert, C. M. (2012). Preliminary investigation of employee’s dog presence on stress and organizational perceptions. International Journal of Workplace Health Management, 5 (1), 15-30. Retrieved from Emerald Group database.
Chanen, J. S. (2011). Going to the dogs. ABA Journal, 97(8), 10-11. Retrieved from http://0-search.proquest.com.catalog.fcsl.edu/pqrl/docview/883860208/fulltext/136AD0C783171E2AD8D/2?accountid=34970
Cooper, H. (n.d.). Pets: Just what the doctor ordered. Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine, (348), 89. Retrieved from Consumer Health Complete database.
Johnson, T. D. (2011). Pets can be a prescription for happier, healthier life. Nation’s Health, 40(10), 32. Retrieved from Consumer Health Complete database.
Kathleen, M. (n.d.). Law students destress with campus canines. Hamilton Spectator, The (ON). Retrieved from Newspaper Source Plus database.
Mahwhinney, S. (2011). Dogs provide stress (and comic relief). AALL Spectrum, 16(2), 6-8. Retrieved from Library Literature and Information Science database.
Schwarz, A., Williams, T., Brown, R., Severson, K., Bhanoo, S., McKinley, J., & Medina, J. (2011). The doggie will see you now. New York Times Upfront, 143 (14), 3. Retrieved from http://0-search.proquest.com.catalog.fcsl.edu/pqrl/docview/865654903/fulltextPDF/136AD0C783171E2AD8D/6?accountid=34970
Sit. stay. relax. good student! (2012). Student Lawyer, 40(6), 8-8. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/955176591?accountid=34970
Turner, D. (2012). Colleges go to the dogs for stress busters: More and more pooches are around during exams to help students relax. AP English Worldstream – English. Retrieved from Newspaper Source Plus database.