Review of the Research: Are Therapy Dogs in Classrooms Beneficial?

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Forum on Public Policy


Research findings on the presence of a therapy dog in the classroom are summarized. The authors reviewed 30 articles, book chapters, and other sources on the topic of the various uses of dogs in classrooms, published between 2001 and 2017. Ages studied ranged from 3 years to adolescence (high school). In our analysis, three categories of therapeutic benefit emerged: a) increased reading and language skills, b) social, emotional, and humane gains, and c) improved gross motor skills. Numerous studies have found that literacy skills can be improved from reading to dogs and that children gain confidence in reading and report an increased love of reading (Fine 2015). Therapy dogs can also provide stability and comfort to children who are living in poverty or abusive homes. Caring for a classroom animal teaches responsibility, builds confidence, and gives children a sense of pride and accomplishment. Common concerns and objections to having a therapy dog in the classroom are discussed, as well as recommended policies and procedures for having a therapy dog program in a school setting.