Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Dog socialization club promotes camaraderie, boosts serotonin

Colin Day

Students gather in the grassy plain of Zilker every other Saturday to decompress, mingle with peers and play fetch with dogs. 

The Dog Socialization Club at UT meets on Saturdays for students and dogs to socialize at Zilker Park. Founded last semester by English senior Faith Avila, the Dog Socialization Club encourages both dog and non-dog owners to join. 

“I created the club because my dog, Appa, has social anxiety around other dogs and people,” Avila, also president of the organization, said. “I see other people walking their dogs in West Campus all the time … so I thought it’d be cool if we were able to talk to each other and hang out.” 

Dog Socialization Club officer John Thompson said he liked the idea of the club when Avila approached him about it last year. 

“We were kind of surprised that there wasn’t anything like that already at UT,” English senior Thompson said. “We thought it could generate a lot of interest (and) a lot of people would be down to do it.”

Biology freshman Cecilia Villasana found the club on Hornslink and became involved because she missed her dogs. 

I have three dogs in my hometown, and I missed them, and it’s a big stress reliever,” Villasana said. “If you’re having a tough week and then you go and see all these cute puppies, it just makes your whole week.”

The club hosts a variety of social events, from Painting with Pups to Bark and Bake, providing all the materials needed. 

“We had painting, and you could sit down in Zilker and paint a picture,” Avila said. “We provided canvas and paint (and) … we made dog treats from scratch, using oatmeal and peanut butter.” 

Villasana said her shared love for dogs allowed her to get along with other members when she first joined the club.

“It was the first few weeks that I was in college, I went all by myself, and I didn’t know anyone in the club,” Villasana said. “I met a lot of new people … some of them brought their dogs, but a lot of them just missed their dogs from home.”

Though the club garnered loyal members within the first semester of establishment, Avila said spreading the word to other students proves a challenge. 

“I don’t know any other dog owners at UT,” Avila said. “A lot of the dog owners that came last semester graduated, so we’re still trying to get more to come this semester.”

Villasana said her smooth integration into campus social life reflects her involvement in the Dog Socialization Club.

“I’ve been able to initiate social interaction(s) … like ‘Hey, do you want to come to (a) dog club?’ and everyone says yes,” Villasana said. “It’s helped me make a lot of new friends.”

Avila said the low-commitment club provides students with a free way to unwind and play with precious canines. Their next event will be at Barton Springs on Saturday at 11:30 am, labeled “Barking Springs.” 

“It’s a good opportunity to meet other UT students as well as spend time with dogs,” Avila said. “Dog therapy is a thing; it’s just relaxing to be able to play with dogs.” 

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