Dog Therapy

Student holding and looking at a Golden Retriever dog.
Students with a terrier dog
 Students outside petting a black and gray dog
 Black lab at Stress Less Week in Armstrong staring straight at the camera
 Golden retriever being pet by the hand of an unseen person
The Student Counseling Service (SCS) is pleased to offer Dog Therapy!

A primary goal of SCS is to promote positive mental health and well-being among Miami University students and our dog therapy program is one way we meet this goal. Interacting with animals is a proven way to decrease stress and feel a sense of connection and acceptance.

What is Dog Therapy?

According to the Therapy Dogs International (TDI) website, the primary objective of the therapy dog and handler is to provide comfort and companionship to increase emotional well-being, promote healing, and improve the quality of life for those who interact with the therapy dog. “Four-footed therapists give something special to enhance the health and well-being of others. It has been clinically proven that through petting, touching, and talking with animals, patients’ blood pressure is lowered, stress is relieved, and depression is eased.”

At the Student Counseling Service (SCS), we believe that having an opportunity to interact with our amazing therapy dogs provides a calm, centering experience in a stressful week or semester. Students meeting with the dogs report that they feel accepted, loved, and cheered by the animals’ unqualified affection and warmth.

Meeting with a therapy dog offers a chance for hugs, pets, perhaps a doggy kiss, and lots of non-verbal sharing. Students may interact minimally or may find themselves on the floor for a gentle romp. Mary O’Leary, our lead dog handler, will help with those who may be “dog-shy” and of course, will always be there to assure that all interaction is safe for everyone involved. She will also provide answers to any questions about her dogs, their training, and the role of therapy dogs that may occur.

Who may benefit from Dog Therapy?

Any student who likes dogs or feels peace and connection in interacting with animals may benefit from attending a Dog Therapy event. Those with anxiety, depression, loss issues, loneliness and homesickness may especially benefit. But you do not need to have a “mental health concern” to visit and enjoy a session with our Therapy Dogs—any student stressed by a demanding schedule, distance from loved ones, or perhaps especially missing a family pet companion is welcome at Dog Therapy events.

Are the dogs certified and insured?

TDI dogs are temperament-tested and formally trained in the role of Therapy Dog. Ms. Mary O’Leary is our SCS handler, and she brings years of extensive experience in rescuing, training, testing and handling therapy dogs. Her current dogs are young English Setters. The dogs are temperament tested, certified, and insured as members of TDI. Watch for the bright red vests!

Therapy Dogs International, Inc. 
88 Bartley Rd.
Flanders, New Jersey 07836 
Telephone (973)252-9800 

For larger events, we also may include some dogs from the Hamilton Dog Training Club and other local dog training organizations. 

What is the cost for Dog Therapy services?

All Dog therapy services are provided on a volunteer basis. There is no cost for attending the one-to-one open therapy hours at the SCS. Similarly, attending a Dog Therapy event like Therapy Dog Day at Midterms/Finals is cost-free, as is arranging a visit to a campus residence hall or officially sanctioned student organization.'

How do I arrange for the Therapy dogs to visit my Residence Hall or Group/Organization?

We ask that the organize provide a public space that is easily accessible. You need to provide a bowl of fresh, clean water for the dogs and for indoor spaces, we also ask that there be a carpet/rug for the dogs to sit on. If the original plan is to host the dogs outside, please also have a back up indoor location in case of weather. The safety of our dogs is paramount so we ask that the location be free of anything dangerous to animals and that those attending be sober and maintain a welcoming atmosphere for the animals. No other animals or food is allowed at the event. The handler will remain with the dogs at all times during a visit. We ask that you submit a request 2 weeks before the event to allow for planning. 

Please complete the provided request form here:  

Dog Therapy Request Form

We reserve the right to cancel a visit or leave an event early if there is any question of safety for the handler or the animals. At this time, we also reserve the right to cancel a visit depending on the current state of the COVID pandemic. Please also consider if your event is able to be held outside to allow for distancing, as well as enforcing the use of masks. 

Thank you!