The MIT Puppy Lab Helps College Students Relax

Posted by TF Oren
Barbara Lipohar Staples for MIT News

Pythagoras, Beatrix Potter, and Wingnut are among MIT's newest employees.

They are a Golden Retriever, a Boston Terrier, and an Australian Shepherd, respectively, and they're among the first therapy dogs to patrol the MIT Puppy Lab, whose doors open this week.

The MIT Puppy Lab is the brainchild of graduate student Stephanie Ku, a student in MIT's health sciences and technology program, which partners with Harvard. Ku has developed the MIT Puppy Lab as a means of helping students decompress from the stress of college life.

"When there are dogs around to play with, people talk with each other and smile together. By interacting with dogs, they are building relationships and it creates a sense of community," says Sarah Goodman, on behalf of MIT's MindHandHeart Initiative, which is providing funding for the lab.

The canine therapy lab will occupy a lounge space on campus, and will be open to students and members of the MIT community. Specially-trained dog and handler teams will staff the lab. According to Goodman, eight dog and handler teams have completed therapy training and certification through the organization Dog B.O.N.E.S. Another 10 teams are currently in training, and a waiting list for potential dog and handler teams has already formed.

Ku told the MIT News website:

"So many owners are excited to share their furry best friends with others, and students cannot wait to meet them."

Anyone who has ever spent time around dogs can attest to the good things they do for our state of mind. In that vein, the appropriately-timed grand opening of the MIT Puppy Lab coincides with National Mental Health Awareness Month.

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The MIT Puppy Lab Helps College Students Relax