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In a school setting, dogs have been used in a variety of ways. Dogs in the classroom were observed to not detract from attention to the teacher and contribute to a reduction in aggressive and hyperactive behavior in students.[iii] (Risks relative to allergies or cultural differences need to be identified and managed as necessary.[iv])
Use of dogs in one-to-one therapeutic settings arguably dated to the beginning of the field with Sigmund Freud, who was reported to include his dogs in many of his sessions. The practice was more formerly developed by therapists such as Boris Levinson. Currently, Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) and Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) are recognized as potentially beneficial with a wide range of children.[v]
In a counseling setting, dogs can significantly augment a reassuring human presence[vi] due to their attention being interpreted as implicitly supportive and non-judgmental.[vii] Thus the presence of a dog can assist in more rapidly and successfully establishing a relationship of trust between a child and a counselor.
Dogs may also be used in specifically educational settings. For example a dog as audience has been shown to increase reading behaviors, reading fluency and enjoyment of reading.[viii],[ix]
Across all of these applications it has been shown that an appropriately trained dog can be used to assist children in achieving a calm, alert and emotional positive internal state[x] that reduces stress and facilitates communication and learning.
[i] Sobo EJ, Eng B, Kassity-Krich N. Canine visitation (pet) therapy: Pilot data on decreases in child pain perception. Journal of Holistic Nursing;24:51-57.
[ii] Marianne Dellinger, Using Dogs for Emotional Support of Testifying Victims of
Crime, 15 Animal L. 171 (2009),
[iii] Kotrschal K, Ortbauer B. Behavioral effects of the presence of a dog in a classroom. Anthrozoos 2003;16:147-159.
[iv] Gee NR. Animal in the Classroom. In Animals in Our Lives
Human–Animal Interaction in Family, Community, and Therapeutic Settings Edited by Peggy McCardle, Ph.D., M.P.H., Sandra McCune, Ph.D., James A. Griffin, Ph.D., Layla Esposito, Ph.D., & Lisa S. Freund, Ph.D.
[v] Chandler C. Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling and School Settings. Greensboro, NC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services; 2001.
[vi] Morgan TD. An Examination of the Anxiolytic Effects of Interaction with a Therapy dog. Doctoral thesis: Indiana University of Pennsylvania 2008.
[vii] Oian CE. Animal-Assisted Therapy Using Dogs: The Benefits to Children. Master’s thesis: University of Wisconsin-Stout 2007.
[viii] Shannon M. The Benefits of Children Reading Books to Dogs in Public Libraries and after School Centers: An Exploratory Study. Master’s Thesis: Queens College of the City University of York 2007.
[ix] Friesen L. How a therapy dog may inspire student literacy engagement in the elementary language arts classroom. In LEARNing Lanscapes 2009;3:105-122.
[x] Schultz EE. Furry therapists: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Implementing Animal Therapy in Schools. Master’s thesis: University of Wisconsin-Stout 2006.