Prior to engaging in this AAT intervention, all patients will meet with a Recreational Therapist (RT) and complete a pre-assessment, and a post-assessment three and six months after the program. With this assessment, the RT can gain more knowledge about the patient and will allow them to provide an effective intervention. Based on the assessment results, the RT and patient will develop specific goals to address the patients needs. During the intervention phase, the therapeutic recreation professional will complete the AAT flow sheet daily for each participant. The flow sheet is an evidence-based data collection tool used to determine if participants’ social interactions increase after interactions with therapy dogs and their handlers. The therapy team will engage in the AAT intervention in a quiet isolated area away from any distractions or loud noise. A small structured group approach will be used where four individuals will be receiving the intervention at one time. The intervention will be led by a therapeutic recreation professional. For each session, participants are to be seated in a circle where they converse and introduce themselves. The therapy animal is also introduced and talked about by the owner. Each day there will be a new topic that is talked about such as facts about dogs, breeds, equipment, training, tricks, benefits of owning a dog, and how to approach and treat a dog. During each session, participants can play with the dog, feed it treats, talk to it, brush it, reminisce about past pets and talk to the handler. After each of these sessions, the therapist will thank the participants for coming and inform them about the next session that will be held. There will be a debrief session that will occur addressing how the session made each participant feel and how it affected them in both positive and negative ways. The therapeutic professional will develop rapport and provide leadership in order to encourage communication and beneficial interactions with both the dogs and participants. The handler will also have prepared for the session by providing training, vet care, scheduling, and supplies. The therapist will offer assessments to review goals and audience prior to each intervention, monitoring in order to maintain ongoing moment-to-to moment supervision, social skills such as offering eye contact, smiles, a confident posture, and communication to the patient. The handler should always also ensure the animal's welfare and enhance the encounter that is occurring. The animal will offer nonjudgmental social interactions, provide an accepting atmosphere, reinforce a sense of responsibility and accountability in the patient, induce a calm and non-stressful environment, provide reassurance to patients, act predictable, controllable and reliable. They should also act as a model of positive behavior, assist the therapist in developing rapport and accept all humans that they encounter.


Preparation: Arrive with the written program plan, bathe the dog, having clipped their nails, look at the behaviors and well-being of the dog, feed the dog, walk the dog or allow it to run around prior to the intervention, and have a backpack with all the supplies in it. Before: ●      What experiences do you have with pets that you have owned in the past or a family member has owned? ●      How does it make you feel when you are around an animal? ●      What kinds of activities did you enjoy doing with animals as a child? During: ●      When was a time in your past that you were thankful for having a pet? ●      Do you currently have any pets? How do they enhance your life? ●      If you currently have a pet, how do they make you laugh? ●      Can you describe a time that you were thankful to have a pet in your lifetime? After: ●      How did interacting with the dogs make you feel? ●      Describe a time when you laughed during this session or felt happy. ●      Would you consider coming to a group with dogs again in the future? Why? Space/Room Recommended: o  Outdoors or in a gymnasium. An area with plenty of open space. Limitations: ○      Some participants may have negative feelings or a fear toward dogs. ○      Weather. ○      Dogs behavior and well being/health on the day of the intervention. ○      Pet allergies. ○      Temperament ○      Behaviors and wellbeing/health of the participants.

Group Size Time of Day Duration Acuity Level
Small (2 - 4) Any 30 minutes Assisted Living
Independent Living
Long-term Care
Memory Care
Skilled Nursing/Rehab
Facilitator Gender
Programming Coed
Wellness Domains



○      Certified Therapy Dog ○      Ball ○      Chuck it ○      Attendance sheet ○      Pen ○      Small treats ○      Leash ○      Water ○      Water dish ○      Collar ○      Therapy dog vest ○      Hand sanitizer ○      Brush

Supporting Research Journal article: Villalta-Gil, V., Roca, M., Gonzalez, N., Domenec, E., Cuca, Escanilla, A., ... Haro, J. M. (2009). Dog-assisted therapy in the treatment of chronic schizophrenia inpatients. Anthrozoös, 22(2), 149-159.




●      To make more challenging: ○      Teach the dog a new trick ○      Walk the dog around the area 3 times ●      To make more accessible: ○      Sit in a wheelchair and hold the leash ○      Allow all participants to sit in wheelchairs so they can move around ○      Use large handles on the brushes ○      Use a smaller dog so that they can sit on the participants lap.

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