Every Dog Has Its Day

Finally its happening. As reported in the New York Times, Sunday, June 6, 2010, Colleges and Universities are allowing students to bring their pets with them to school. Given the increasing number of cases of severe anxiety, depression and suicide among students, there is recognition that young people need support in leaving home and adjusting to school. This is not happening at every University and it is important that the reader check with the school they are planning to attend if they want to bring a pet. In addition, the schools have definite rules and regulations about the care of pets during class time. It is important to learn about that, as well, if you are thinking of bringing your pet to school in the Fall semester.

Those Universities allowing pets are going beyond dogs. Some of them are allowing cats, smaller and non venomous snakes, etc.

Not everyone agrees with this new policy. There are some psychologists and psychiatrists who worry that this policy can mask a serious mental problem for some youngsters. In addition, there is concern that allowing pets actually delays and complicates the necessity of learning to separate from home and parents. This concern on the part of some mental health experts includes the worry that having a pet can make it too easy for anxious students to avoid going out of the dormitory and socializing.

In my opinion, these mental health experts have good reason for their concern. Anything that makes it easier for an anxious and socially avoidant youngster to avoid interacting with other young people on campus, is not helpful to that student.

It is for this reason that I advocate dogs on campus. The nature of having a dog is that they need to be walked. As I have pointed out thousands of times to many people, there is no way to own and walk a dog and avoid social interaction. People will always stop to admire, pet and ask about your dog. Its a great way to meet people and make friends. I know this from experience:

One of my daughters decided to take her dog with her to school. She lived off campus and was allowed to have a pet with her in her apartment building. Daisy was a great friend and companion. She loved people, enjoyed meeting other students and their dogs and became a kind of mascot for the school. We love to say, to this day, that Daisy got her "barkalauriate Degree" at the school. There was no doubt that Daisy helped my daughter overcome her separation anxiety.

I am not opposed to other types of pets being brought to school, if the colleges allow it. I just believe that dogs provide a certain type of advantage for some students. I also admit that any pet, even those that stay in the room, can become a magnet for socialization. In other words, allowing college students to bring their pets to school is a "win-win" situation for everyone.

What is your opinion? Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.

Comments
  • Cathy

    After pondering this since yesterday, as always, I have a different perspective. First, that necessary separation from one's family to be on one's own didn't so much used to happen that way and in my opinion, that was a good thing because the extended family offers many benefits - think of other cultures especially. Dog or no dog, some people of all ages are anti-social or asocial. I have come across so many people walking my dog in many places across the country and some are friendly and some carry a sour look and are most likely to just grunt if you greet them if that. In the case of a shy or introvert, a dog can go a long way in breaking the ice involved with social contact and yes, that would be a winning situation. I am not sure what is causing this anit-social/asocial behavior - perhaps a lack of nurturing associated with the parents being so busy that they don't meet the psychological needs of the children - they feel that driving them around to dance, to soccer, to activities equate to caring for them but time would be better spend in just being there and having an actual exchange of emotion with the children. So, a dog won't do squat (I thought that was funny, dog-squat) for an anti-social/asocial person of which there are many but to bring out a shy/introvert, most definitely and I have seen that with people from an infant to someone well into their 80's. Now, you knew my perspective would be different.

  • jc

    This could be good with the right people and animals. Sadly, I know a depressed/anxious person who is basically a shut in. He has a dog, and we wonder if he's taking care of the dog properly. Dogs, cats, and other peets have needs, and a person with self-care issues might not be the best person to be responsible for an animal. Many dogs (and some cats) have separation issues and need to be taught to be alone for extended periods of time. Without proper socialization, animals develop phobias. I'm not sure a busy college kid would put a dog as a priority. Still, there are many animals in shelters that would love a second chance, and I'm sure many college students would do a great job.