Reviewing Lit
Reviewing Lit

Dog Therapy Lit Review
The use of animals in therapy dates back to ninth century Belgium where farm animals were used as rehabilitation tools for elderly patients (Turner). The beneficial effects on the patients allowed Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) to become widespread, and it is now a common tool in the healing process. Dogs, specifically, are most often used as therapy animals because of their versatility; they can travel to hospitals, nursing homes, hospice homes, schools, and even prisons due to their small size and companion personality. But can any dog become a therapy dog? Many people believe that therapy dogs must have an innately calm, collected temperament to safely work with their often fragile patients. However, with proper training, even the most excitable dog can learn the behaviors needed to become an effective therapy pet.

There are many websites that act as doggie-databases; they catalog stories of heroic dogs, allow online discussion of animal care, and provide information about canine activities. Websites that detail dog therapy often express the belief that only naturally "good" dogs can become therapy dogs. According to, therapy dogs must be polite, calm, tolerant and friendly by nature. A dog that is too shy may make the patients feel rejected, and a dog that is too exuberant may cause injury (Blackman). notes that proper therapy dogs must have these intrinsic qualities and have a tendency towards good behavior. agrees that a therapy dog should have a calm, gentle nature and that any sign of aggression would disqualify the animal as a potential therapy dog. blatantly states that unless a dog is friendly to begin with, training may as well be wasted. Many online sources seem to encompass this idea, with a few exceptions. and agree with the "good behavior" requirements, but note that dogs can be trained to exhibit these behaviors, and that conditioning dogs to new situations is often necessary. It seems that the sources informed with dog training techniques broaden their spectrum of potential therapy dogs.

Books that discuss dog therapy seem to be pretty uniform in their view that with proper training, nearly any dog can become a therapy dog. Where the Trail Grows Faint details the stories of a therapy dog Hannah and her experiences working in a nursing home. Her owner notes that on Hannah's first visit she was completely misbehaved and jumped up on several patients. As the stories continue the owner explains how with proper training, Hannah became a great therapy dog and an integral part of many patients' healing process (Hugo 3). The book is a testament to the belief that any dog can become a therapy dog. Volunteering With Your Pet supports this claim, but adds that certain breeds many be more suitable to certain environments than others. Large dogs are capable of standing next to walkers or wheelchairs, where small dogs can lay on beds or sit on laps (Burch 46). Animal Assisted Brief Therapy underlines the idea that any dog can be trained as long as the owner takes time to analyze and understand the dog (Coulter 3). A Dog Who's Always Welcome also states that learning the dog's breed characteristics and identifying its default behaviors (a dog's instinctive behaviors in times of excitement or stress) are crucial to applying effective training techniques (Long 58). The Canine Good Citizen by Jack and Wendy Volhard is dedicated to creating a perfectly behaved dog by training with respect to the dog's individual needs. All these books emphasize that with enough time and patience, even the most unruly dog can be trained. It is a fair to assume that these new polite behaviors can then allow the dog to be effective in a therapy setting.

Depending on which sources are consulted, the answer to the driving question changes. Many websites, which are often weakly informed with regards to dog training and conditioning, say that dogs must exhibit certain complacent, collected behaviors to be considered for therapy work. Books detailing the subject often disagree, stating that with proper training any dog may be eligible for therapy work. Perhaps with further research of the topic a more definitive answer can be reached.

Works Cited:

Becker, Marty, and Danelle Morton. The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy. New York: Hyperion, 2002. Print.

Blackman, Diane. "Dog-Play: Visiting Pets and Animal Assisted Therapy." Dog Play: Great Activities You Can Do with Your Dog. 23 Aug. 1998. Web. 11 Mar. 2010. <>.

Burch, Mary R. Volunteering with Your Pet: How to Get Involved in Animal-assisted Therapy with Any Kind of Pet. New York: Howell Book House, 1996. Print.

" |Therapy Dog Training." Dog Breeds: Dog Breed Descriptions, Information and Pictures. Web. 12 Mar. 2010. <>.

Hugo, Lynne. Where the Trail Grows Faint: a Year in the Life of a Therapy Dog Team. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2005. Print.

Long, Lorie. A Dog Who's Always Welcome: Assistance and Therapy Dog Trainers Teach You How to Socialize and Train Your Companion Dog. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley Pub., 2008. Print.

Marilyn. "Therapy Dogs." Therapy Dogs-Brevard County, Florida. Web. 16 Mar. 2010. <>.

"Pet Therapy: Healing, Recovery and Love ~ Pawprints and Purrs." Pawprints and Purrs, Inc. Web. 12 Mar. 2010. <>.

Pichot, Teri, and Marc Coulter. Animal-assisted Brief Therapy: a Solution-focused Approach. New York: Haworth, 2007. Print.

"Therapy Dogs - Dogs & Dog Rescue." WikiFido - Dog Breeds, Dog Pictures, Dog Rescue - Dogs & Dog Rescue. Web. 15 Mar. 2010. <>.

Turner, Judith. "Pet Therapy Information on Healthline." Health Search Engine and Free Medical Information - Healthline. Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2005. Web. 1 Mar. 2010. <>.

Volhard, Jack, and Wendy Volhard. The Canine Good Citizen: Every Dog Can Be One. New York: Howell Book House, 2003. Print.