“Audience Dogs” Help Students Gain Public Speaking Confidence

Do you like speaking in front of a crowded room full of strangers? Changes are, the mere thought of public speaking starts to make your palms sweat just a bit. It is completely normal to feel nervous about talking to people or being in front of a crowd. However, what can be done to reduce the stress and anxiety surrounding public speaking? One university has found a unique solution to this common problem: they hired a group of dogs to help students.

At American University’s School of Business, students must make a very important appointment with one of the department’s assistants, who goes by the name Dexter. Dexter, along with seven other dogs employed by the University, is affectionately known as “audience dogs” and serves a very important purpose. You see, these dogs are volunteers that are used to be a judgement free, attentive audience for students who need to ultimately deliver a presentation or speech to human beings.

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The University began this program in 2016 to help students and it is believed by American University leadership to be the first of its kind in the United States. The special pooch named Dexter isn’t alone in this important role, however: there are other dogs that are available to students who need to practice. There’s a Bernese mountain dog named Ellie who loves apples, a black Pomeranian named Noche and Reggie who serves as a “pinch-hitter” to fill in the gaps.

While these dogs don’t have formal training, they serve an important purpose for students who claim the dogs help them feel less nervous and appreciate the ability to rehearse in front of an impartial audience. While students love speaking in front of the “audience dogs,” the dogs also seem to enjoy spending time around humans. Now that’s what we call a win-win situation!

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