Tom and Toto are working in partnership with UEA+sport, UEA(su), and the University of East Anglia (UEA) to deliver a brand new dog walking programme for the students studying at UEA. The programme has been made possible thanks to funding from BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) and Sport England, and aims to improve student mental health and wellbeing.
Every Wednesday afternoon, Tom and Toto walkers take 10-12 dogs to meet the UEA students for a 1 hour dog cuddle and a walk. Playing with or petting an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol. These hormonal changes can benefit physical health and wellbeing. We help the students get out of the classroom, meet new like-minded people and walk in the fresh air. We stop along the way for lots of dog fuss, cuddles and to give the dogs lots of treats!
Dr Sarah Hanson, Lecturer, Health Sciences, UEA, said: “What an amazing thing to do to bring in dogs…Kids really miss their pets when they go to university and the whole idea of getting out and doing an exercise you enjoy is brilliant. And the dogs have been fantastic.”
Oli Gray, uea(su) Activities and Opportunities Officer, said: “University can be a stressful time for students, with many feeling pressure from academic deadlines, financial worries and being away from home for the first time.”
Research by UEA academic Prof Andy Jones from the Norwich Medical School suggests that the benefits of dog walking are significant, he said: “Our studies have shown that dog walking helps people to maintain their physical activity levels. In addition it is known that there are a wide range of social and mental health benefits.”
This project is close to our heart and is running until the end of the university semester (June) with the hopes of opening it out to faculty and postgraduate students as well. We could not be prouder to have our Tom and Toto dogs helping the students at this stresful time of year and we thank all the dog’s parents for letting them join the programme. They really are making a big difference to students’ lives.
Click here to see the footage broadcast on the news: ITV Anglia news
We also featured in the EDP and Norwich Evening News: EDP 24 News
You can also see a ‘Pug’s eye View’ from one of our walks. ‘Lola cam’ captured some fantastic footage: @tomandtoto