What is Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)?

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is a form of therapy that uses animals in treatment to improve social, cognitive, motor, and emotional functioning. It can sometimes be referred to as “pet therapy”.

What types of animalsboy_in_tunnel_with_dog_400px are used in therapy?

Highly trained dogs and cats are most commonly used in pet therapy. Animals and their owners typically undergo several months of classes, testing, and shadowing before beginning to participate in therapy. Horses, fish, and other animals can also be used for animal assisted therapy.

How can it help?

Studies have shown that incorporating animals into therapy can lead to increased participation and fun. Typically, pet therapy creates an increase in children’s motivation to complete therapy goals. These goals can cover a wide variety of areas.


What are some examples of animal assisted therapy?

  • Physical: a child who has difficulty walking and works on this in physical therapy might better enjoy this task or walk farther than normal when charged with the task of walking the dog and providing it with exercise.
  • Occupational: If a child is working on sense of space (proprioception), they might be more aware of boundaries and be better able to follow directions if accompanied by an animal during an obstacle course.
  • Speech: A speech-language pathologist may work with a child on giving directions and using speech. This may involve commanding or instructing an animal to complete a task, e.g. fetching