Taking the Time to ‘Paws’ during Assessment Season

A relatively new programme at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) has students and staff taking a ‘paws’ from mid-year assessment preparations.

Four teams of therapy dogs from Corporate Canine Therapy visited SMCS students in the midst of studying this week, bringing smiles, excitement, and some stress relief. Corporate Canine Therapy is an organization that provides trained therapy dogs and their handlers for visits to workplaces and other environments to help in managing stress.

SMCS students hold Bobo the Pomeranian, a therapy dog from Corporate Canine Therapy.

St. Michael's College School (SMCS) students hold Bobo the Teddy Bear Pomeranian, a therapy dog from Corporate Canine Therapy.

“Our HR department implemented this programme last exam period and the students responded extremely well to our furry visitors,” says Liat Benzacar, Student Wellness Officer at SMCS. “Many hospitals, universities, and workplaces are providing this alternative therapeutic support to help alleviate stress and anxiety, among other health benefits.”

With mid-year assessments beginning this week, helping students minimize their stress and anxiety is a top priority for the faculty and staff at SMCS.

“One of the main goals of this programme is to provide students with an alternative way to reduce stress and take a break,” she says.

St. Michael's College School students and President Fr. Andrew Leung, CSB with Aspen, a therapy dog.

St. Michael's College School students and President Fr. Andrew Leung, CSB with Aspen, a therapy dog.

A recent study conducted by the University of British Columbia found that students who participated in a single therapy dog session “reported significant reductions in stress as well as increased happiness and energy immediately following the session.”

On December 6 and 9, SMCS students were able to meet, pet, talk to, and get tons of kisses from Mylo the Welsh Corgi, Mila the Samoyed, Aspen the Golden Retriever, and Bobo the Teddy Bear Pomeranian.

“Our students were very excited to have the opportunity to interact with the dogs and they welcomed the break from their busy schedules,” says Benzacar.

St. Michael's College School students with Mylo, the Welsh Corgi, a therapy dog from Corporate Canine Therapy.


While a visit from a few four-legged friends can be beneficial, many other best practices can also be helpful at this time of year. 

Here are some tips for students to help reduce anxiety around tests, assessments, and exams:

  • Avoid cramming last minute and begin studying as early as possible
  • Practice going through the test, question by question
  • Imagine yourself taking the test, understanding the material and confidently answering all the questions and receiving the grade you want
St. Michael's College School student taking notes during math class.

The following relaxation techniques can also help reduce anxiety before a big test:

  • Take a deep breath and slowly release it along with any tension you’re feeling
  • Starting at your head, flex and relax every muscle in your body
  • Close your eyes and visualize yourself in a place where you feel the most relaxed and calm

Click here for more information on managing stress in teens from the American Association of Pediatrics. If you’re still experiencing severe problems with test anxiety, talk to your guidance counsellor.

Source: How to Get Good Grades in 10 Easy Steps by Linda O’Brien