Jasper signs on for more in easing students' stress

Local | Jane Lam 5 Mar 2018

The University of Hong Kong will extend its therapy-dog pilot program to relieve students of exam pressure in May.

The program, starring Jasper, a rescued nine-year-old English sheepdog from Hong Kong Dog Rescue, was launched in December.

In response to studies showing that introducing therapy dogs can help students reduce stress and improve their mental health, HKU used Jasper to help students and staff.

Over six days, 78 students and staff were able to enjoy Jasper's company in 30-minute sessions in a group of about 15 people. The sessions were in Lui Che Woo Law Library and the Main Library of HKU.

Apart from playing with Jasper, students and staff had the opportunity to learn about the dog's history before being adopted and becoming a therapy dog.

At the same time, they were also able to raise awareness and engage in deeper conversations about animals rights. Surveys showed that the therapy dog sessions received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students and staff. More than 90 percent of the people either strongly agreed or agreed that they enjoyed Jasper's company, felt relaxed after meeting the therapy dog, and enjoyed a general sense of well-being. They also felt that Jasper was friendly and gelled well with visitors. With the enthusiastic support, the university has decided to continue the program during the assessment period in May, with additional therapy sessions throughout the semester.

The university hopes that students and staff will enjoy university life more and be able to concentrate more on their studies.

The University of Science and Technology introduced a similar program last year, which involved an 11-year-old golden retriever called Oscar.

Organized by the Student Affairs Office, the Animals Asia Foundation brought Oscar to play with students in December.

Oscar and the dog therapy program received a warm welcome from students.

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