It seems as though the role of therapy and comfort dogs has no boundaries. We regularly see them in airports soothing anxious passengers, in elementary schools standing by as children gain confidence reading, and in courtrooms providing comfort as witnesses testify. And now, they’re also working in a business school setting helping students build public-speaking skills.
The Kogod School of Business at American University in Washington, D.C., offers an “audience dog” program, which allows students to rehearse upcoming speaking engagements to dogs. The dogs participating come from the local area, have student handlers, and represent a diversity of breeds, from a tiny Pomeranian to a giant Bernese Mountain Dog.
What they all have in common is an ear to lend. “Presenting to a non-judgmental canine reduces students’ anxiety and elevates mood, helping improve their quality of speaking,” the program’s website explains, citing that about 70 percent of college students have anxiety surrounding speaking in public.
The program has gained the attention of the media, being featured in The New York Times and most recently CBS. “It kind of gives you a chance to step back from your presentation, to step out of that track you get stuck in,” one student, Jessica Lewinson, told the Times last year.
See a video about the program here: