Despite the exam period, the students of the Karel de Grote Hogeschool (KdG) look remarkably relaxed on Thursday, almost blissfully. And that is entirely thanks to some cuddly four-legged friends who are guests at the Antwerp University of Applied Sciences. The dogs help students clear their minds during one of the most stressful times of the year.
Today at 18:52
There are dogs on every campus today that can be cuddled and petted to your heart’s content. An initiative with which KdG wants to give its students a boost. Successfully. “Doesn’t this immediately make you happy?”, responds student Julie May (20). “I’ll have to defend my bachelor’s thesis later, but this helps to forget about that stress for a while. Awesome!”
Students Maxine (19), Stien (19) and Caro (20) are also charmed. “We have just had our last exam”, says Caro. “This is a very nice reward. It helps to shift your mind.”
The suction effect is enormous. Do O’s and A’s reverberate through the entrance hall of campus South in Brusselstraat. The dogs attract the attention of every student who comes in and are unabashedly pampered by the many hugs. Wifi, Tom Anthoni’s dog, is one of them. “I’m a computer nerd, hence the name,” laughs Tom. “It is unbelievable to see how everyone here blossoms and spontaneously has a smile on their face when they see the dogs. And Wifi itself enjoys it too. Definitely. I’ve had him for four years now and I can read his signals well. So we definitely pay attention to how the dogs feel.”
The dogs are also not chosen at random. For the initiative, Kdg works together with AAP vzw, which stands for Animal Assisted Projects. “We train dogs and their owners to make these kinds of visits in a responsible way,” says Joke Decru of AAP vzw. “Not all dogs like this of course or can handle this crowds. We also visit residential care centers or therapeutic centers, which are a much quieter environment. That is more suitable for other dogs. What we’re trying to do is spread happiness, make people happy. And that seems to work well here.”
Research shows that animals have a positive effect on people. For example, a lot of happy hormones are released when you pet a dog. Your heart rate and blood pressure drop and there is a positive influence on your brain. That is why they want to go one step further at KdG in the near future. “Soon there will be a campus dog on every campus,” says Maarten Mengels of Kdg.” We also do this in collaboration with AAP vzw. We do not opt for a resident campus dog, but one that visits regularly. A regular volunteer will visit each campus with one dog. We are currently looking at which dogs are the best match for KdG and by the end of March these should be a fixture on every campus.”