Incorporating Animal Assisted Therapy and Assistance Dogs Into Practice

Animals have been a part of health care settings for decades and their service has been described by many terms—pet therapy, therapy dog, service animals, and pet-facilitated therapy. AOTA provides a variety of resources for occupational therapy practitioners about using animal assisted therapy (AAT) in practice.

dog with girl in hospital

Animal Assisted Therapy Overview 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Animal Assisted Therapy for Occupational Therapy Practitioners Member only content
Get definitions, qualifications, and steps for implementing AAT in your practice.

The Canine Connection: Animal Assisted Therapy and OT Member only content
Watch a webinar recording about how animals can improve clients’ physical, cognitive, and psychiatric performance.

Handout from Student Conclave Presentation on Animal Assisted Therapy (pdf)
Find definitions, requirements, and examples of how animals can complement therapeutic activity.

Integrating AAT in Your Practice

Animal Kindness: Best Practices for the Animal-Assisted Therapy Practitioner (pdfMember only content
Read this OT Practice article (pdf, p. 10) to get suggestions for screening participants, implementing intervention techniques, measuring outcomes, and addressing liability concerns.

Using AAT in Corrections and Residential Facilities (pdfMember only content
Read this OT Practice article (pdf, p. 20) on using AAT to address clients’ occupational goals in corrections facilities, residential treatment centers, reintegration centers, etc.

How Service Dogs May Assist Veterans With PTSD to Reintegrate Into Their Communities (pdfMember only content
When participating in training service dogs, veterans are released from the stigma of mental health intervention while tapping into the military ethos of never leaving a fallen comrade behind and living a life of service to a cause greater than themselves.

Evidence Resources for AAT 

Animal Assisted Therapy and Agitation and Depression in Nursing Home Residents With Dementia: A Matched Case-Control Trial (pdf)
Study results suggest that AAT seemed to have an impact on stabilizing nursing home residents’ behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.

Staff Members’ Perceptions of an Animal Assisted Activity (pdf)
Study results showed that most staff viewed AAA positively and wanted it to continue at their facility; however, this view was not universal.