Dog Therapy: How Effective Is It?


Assisted Animal Therapy (AAT) has not been widely recognized but is a fast-emerging program that is utilized by schools, clinics, and hospitals in the United States. Animals are incorporated into therapy programs to help students improve school performance. Adults also benefit from AAT in their recovery from depression, anxiety, and other mental concerns. The dog is the most used ‘co-therapist’, being man’s best friend and one of the most intelligent pets that can be easily trained. Let us discuss the different benefits of dog therapy on the road to recovery of adults as well as the youth needing help.

Dog Therapy for Children

Among of the programs that have been trending recently in the United States is READ (Reading Education Assistance Dogs), where children are encouraged to read to dogs to improve their literacy skills. This program has helped thousands of kids increase their reading ability and in the process boost their self-esteem. Research has shown that kids who were timid and mentally challenged tend to be more comfortable interacting with pets than humans. According to Dr. Steven Lazarus, PsyD, “Therapy animals also work well for metaphors, such as helping a child understand the need to care for and care about others.”



Overwhelming success has also been reported in aiding autistic children to develop their social skills. They are incorporated in their rehabilitation to encourage them to interact better through talk and play. Studies have shown that autistic kids and kids with disabilities tend to be more interactive when pet dogs are included in their formal treatment regimens. They were said to follow instructions and were in a brighter and happier mood with their assigned dogs around.

Children with certain fears also seemed to demonstrate positive results with dog therapy. Bringing their child to the dentist is one of the difficulties of a mother, but some of these moms have found out that taking a dog with them helped their kid ease up and begin to get rid of their fears. “The presence of an animal in therapy sessions is a goal-directed intervention, a form of creative therapy, which uses the human-animal bond as an internal part of the treatment process,” says Melissa Burns, LCPC, LLC.


Additionally, occupational and physical therapists who handle patients with Down’s syndrome and ADHD have found therapy dogs to be effective motivators in encouraging their patients to perform tasks that require focus and consistency. They can maintain sitting for long periods and they are not easily bored because of their pet companion.

Dog Therapy for Adults

The combination of psychotherapy and dog therapy has produced positive results in the alleviation and cure of adults with anxiety and depression. In the formal therapy sessions, the presence of dogs helps ease the tension between the client and therapist. It also makes the session enjoyable and entertaining. People who are grieving are encouraged to express their emotions truthfully and efficiently.



Patients with post-traumatic disorders can experience moments of peace and comfort. They are able to control their feelings and their moods which make them generally better. Sometimes, they opt to talk to their pet companions first before interacting with their therapists, so that they will feel more relaxed when they begin their treatment. Megan Walsh, LCPC used to say, “It’s truly amazing the lessons humans can learn from animals. Pets rejoice in life’s simple pleasures.”


It is important to gather sufficient information about pet therapy before deciding to pursue it. Individuals who have fear of animals or have allergic reactions obviously cannot engage in this program. Learn more about it through the web, or talk to a therapist to help you decide if it’s a suitable program for you or your loved one.