AAT (Animal-Assisted Therapy)



The Rationale: Dogs can be powerful communication facilitators, a fact that is borne out by research. For example, it has been found that people who walk with a dog experience more social contact and longer conversations than when walking alone. Dogs offer unconditional acceptance and love, no matter if a person has a limited vocabulary, slurred speech or no speech at all.

Max is caring, loving and very gentle. He has a large amount of experience being around kids and they adore him. Speech with Max is enjoyable, helpful way to participate in speech therapy. Activities may involve the direct help of a therapy dog (Max) or be indirect, using thematically based materials about pets or animals. Therapy dogs can be especially helpful in transfers from the therapy environment to other speaking environments and in socialization activities.

Before we begin, we ask patient’s permission to do speech therapy with our therapy dog “Max”. We want to ensure that the person has no phobias, fears or allergies to dogs. We collect parental permission for children as well. The College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario requires consent for all speech language assessment and therapy. This also includes AAT sessions.

Efficacy Goals:

KMVSC incorporates the same treatment goals into AAT as in traditional therapy. Any therapy approach can be restructured to incorporate a therapy dog team.

Measure progress across sessions with usual Treatment Materials.

Create materials to meet our patient’s needs.

Cognitive communication therapy can include: Orientation, problem solving, attention or executive function activities focused on Max.

Make AAT interesting to induce imagination and creativity.

A Typical Session

Sessions will depend on the tolerance of our patient as well as the therapy dog. The goal is to plan some activities that will involve the dog directly and others that will give the animal a good break. The Speech-Language Pathologist is involved in indirect activities. It is performed in a quiet and comfortable environment for both the patient and therapy dog.


One of the joy of working with a therapy dog is that staff, patients and passers-by often want to stop and say “hello.” This is an ideal time to practice speech strategies whether the patient is adapting to an augmentative communication device or board, just starting to speak again, or shy and lacking confidence in communicating.