Therapy Dogs Help NJ High School Students Deal With Stress

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Therapy dogs help people who are sick or have been through traumatic events.

Now, some dogs are helping students deal with the stress of high school.

Therapy dogs are visiting Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale to help students get through finals week, CBS2’s Cindy Hsu reported.

“Just like petting him and stuff right now. I’m kind of like forgetting that in about 10 minutes I’m going to have to go to my final for about 15% of my grade,” said freshman Zach Fessler.

“I get so nervous over tests and dogs really relieve the stress,” said freshman Katelyn Morin.

The students got a chance to come to the gym and visit with these furry friends all week — before and after their exams, Hsu reported.

Many of these dogs have helped victims in truly traumatic situations.

“Like the Newtown shootings. That’s where our group went as well, so there’s lots of places they can go and probably some places people haven’t thought of yet,” said dog trainer Kathy Santo.

But is bringing them to high schools to help with test stress going overboard?

Psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere told Hsu it isn’t.

“We have to understand it’s a different generation, and we are relying a lot more and perhaps unnecessarily on standardized tests,” said Gardere. “And so the stress is much, much more than it’s ever been.”

Marching Band Director Teddi Sotiropoulos helped get the program going.

“To get into college — the things that the kids have to do these days. All the extra curricular activities that take the time, and athletics … I mean these kids are really stretched,” said Sotiropoulos.

It’s not just the kids who love the program, Hsu reported.

“I wanted one of the dogs to come into my office for the week, but they wouldn’t allow me,” said Principal Joe Occhino.

Occhino said the program is going to continue and said he thinks it is “absolutely fantastic.”

All of the dog owners volunteer to take part in the program.

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