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Therapy dogs comfort passengers at Istanbul Airport

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Stressed before a big flight? Therapy dogs are now on hand at Istanbul Airport to help calm the nerves of tense travellers.

The airport has been running the program for the past month to help reduce stress and anxiety amongst passengers passing through its terminals.

Kneeling to pet therapy pooch, Kuki, traveller Anastasia Podmazova praised the service.

"It relaxes me. I love animals. It is very good," she said.

Following positive feedback from passengers, airport operator IGA wants to expand the project, raising the number of dogs on hand to comfort travellers from five to 10, said Abdulkadir Demirtas, a customer experience manager.

"Travelling can be stressful ... According to research, interaction between animals and humans reduces stress levels and anxiety," Demirtas said.

Murat Cengiz Koca, a dog behavioural expert and trainer who accompanies the canines around the airport, said the animals were trained not to react to sounds or people.

"The dogs we have chosen here have gone through a year-long process and training. They are here today because they have been successful," he said.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Lucy Marks)