"Audience dogs" help students reduce anxiety over public speaking

WASHINGTON -- At the dog-friendly campus of American University in Washington D.C., the Kogod School of Business gives students the opportunity to practice their presentations before a live audience -- a live furry audience.

"One in 11 people is employed in the hospitality industry," Emma Rodriguez said while rehearsing her work in front of Ellie.

Ellie is a audience dog and she's well-rewarded for her work.

"I'm happy to answer any questions you may have," Rodriguez jokingly says while feeding Ellie a treat.

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Ellie, an audience dog at American University in Washington D.C.

CBS News

Dogs are often used to reduce anxiety in places like hospitals and courtrooms.

"Being with the audience dog makes you happy and relaxed and you do a better job," says Caron Martinez, director of the Kogod Center for Business Communications.

She says they also help hear, with students who are nervous about public speaking.

"They're not trained dogs. We're looking for dogs who are very secure, who are loving, who will maintain eye contact," Martinez says.

Dogs being dogs -- it doesn't always work out that way.

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Noche, an audience dog, listens at American University in Washington D.C.

CBS News

"Hello, so today I will present on China and its currency devaluation," student Patryk Chervonay says while a distracted dog walks away from him.

Chervonay says he thinks the exercises actually work: "I think it de-stresses me and helps with my presentation skills."

One of the stars of the program is Noche, a 5-year-old Pomeranian who seems to be hanging on every word. Yes, it could have something to do with the treats.

There's no credit for the course and no extra charge. It's just a way to give students a confidence boost before they venture into that dog-eat-dog world.