Virtual Canine Comfort
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when students were learning remotely and our social networks were limited, the B.A.R.K. team were busy developing an innovative virtual canine program.
In 2020, B.A.R.K. conducted a pilot program to study the impact of synchronous and asynchronous videos as well as videos with and without B.A.R.K. therapy dogs. Thirteen handlers and their therapy dogs filmed a series of videos, and six were involved in a series of live sessions with small groups of students.
There were 467 students in this pilot program, which established that participating in virtual canine comfort sessions during the COVID pandemic improved their well-being. Results revealed that viewing the 5-minute videos significantly reduced participants’ anxiety, stress, loneliness, and negative affect. In addition, these sessions produced stronger feelings of connectedness to their campus and positive emotional state in undergraduate students.
Supporting the Community through Virtual Canine Modules
Following the pilot program, B.A.R.K. developed new asynchronous canine comfort modules with four B.A.R.K. handlers and their therapy dogs.
These modules were easily accessible, low-barrier, and available 24/7 to the wider campus community. These modules were accessed over 1200 times from 44 countries across the world!
Related Publications and presentations
Tardif-Williams, C. Y., Binfet, J. T., Green, F. L. L., Roma, R. P. S., Singal, A., Rousseau, C. X., & Godard, R. J. P. (2023). When Therapy Dogs Provide Virtual Comfort: Exploring University Students’ Insights and Perspectives, People and Animals, 6(1).
Binfet, J.T., Tardif-Williams, C. Y., Draper, Z. A., & Green, F. L. L., Singal, A., & Rousseau, C. X. (2022). Virtual canine comfort: A randomized controlled trial of the effects of a canine-assisted intervention supporting undergraduate wellbeing. Anthrozoös, 35(6).
Binfet, J. T., Tardif-Williams, C. Y., Draper, Z. A., Green, F. L. L., Singal, A., Rousseau, C. X., & Roma, R. (2022, April 22). Stress-reduction in college students: Can virtual interactions with therapy dogs bolster well-being? Poster presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, California.
Virtual Canine Book
Tardif-Williams, C. Y., & Binfet, J. T. (2023). Virtual human–animal interactions: Supporting learning, social connections and well-being. Routledge.
Flipboard (2022, May 27). Brock, UBC study highlights benefits of virtual canine visits.
The Brock News (2022, May 25). New research shows virtual canine comfort can benefit stressed students
Psychology Today (2022, Apr. 30). Therapy Dogs Provide Virtual Comfort.
TW Labradors (2022, Mar. 12). Kelowna therapy dogs hit the web.
Castanet (2022, Feb. 22). B.A.R.K. goes virtual to help students morale during reading break.