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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

College Stress and Pets:

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 8th 2009

 Does it make sense to bring a pet with you when starting college? 

The Study:

A study released by Ohio State University under the leadership of Sara Staats, PhD, professor of psychology, included 241 freshman students who commuted to school and brought a pet with them. The pets were mostly dogs and cats and a few other types. In the study, students discussed three primary reasons for bringing a pet with them to school:

1. Companionship. As freshman, they feared loneliness and that would be greatly reduced by having a pet with them.

2. Using the pet for reassurance and comfort to get them through hard times.

3. Pets,particularly dogs, provide the opportunity for getting exercise.

Dr. Staats points out that college is a very difficult period of time for students. It represents a major transitional period in their lives. In addition, there are plenty of pressures stemming from academic studies and exams to socializing and staying active and healthy.

A Personal Note:

When it was time for our children to go off to college, one of our daughters insisted on bringing a puppy with her. We always had pets in our house and it was natural that she would wish for this. So, we journeyed to the Humane Society (she wanted a rescue dog) and she found her puppy.

Daisy grew quickly from a tiny pup into a full grown mix whose origins we argued about until her death a few years ago. Daisy and my daughter went off to college. We often joke that this two degrees were attained during those years: My daughter got her Baccalaureate degree and Daisy got her "Barkalaureate degree." Ha ha!!

The fact is that Daisy proved to be a wonderful companion. She learned the campus well, always went to classes with my daughter, knew how to get home by herself and became famous on the campus for her friendliness to student, professors and other dogs.

Indeed, Daisy was a great source of comfort for my daughter. Her presence became a source of socialization. In fact, I always point out that "if you have a dog, you will not be alone for long." Dogs become a nice way for people to transition from being strangers into starting conversations and becoming friendly.

For everyone?

I want very much to stress that bringing a pet to college is not for everyone. If a person is not comfortable with dogs or cats, their presence will become a source of stress rather than comfort. If I have a prejudice in terms of choice of pet for this purpose, it would be a dog. I love cats and am aware that they too are sources of comfort and companionship for people. However, having a dog forces people to get out of the house, or, in  this case, out of the dormitory of off campus house and walk, increasing the chances of meeting others and making new friends.

It is also important to remember that pets require a lot of care. In addition to taking them out (unless they are the indoor types) they need regular feedings, brushing and, at times, visits to the veterinarian.

If a person knows this and has experience with pets, then bringing one to school can be a major source of comfort and reassurance.

My vote for taking a pet to college: YES!

Your comments are welcome and encouraged

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Pets - Patricia - Jul 23rd 2009

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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