An Exploration of Therapy Dogs in Educational Settings as Described by Multiple Stakeholders

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Moyer, Laura A.
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In education, therapy dogs are used in a variety of manners, such as, but not limited to, reading assistance programs, stress reduction visits, or welcome ambassadors after community trauma. This study was designed to explore multiple perspectives about the reasons for and interactions with therapy dogs in educational settings. The research questions were: (a) How are therapy dog programs or visits operationalized in educational settings? (b) What are the experiences of students and educators who engage in therapy dog programs or visits? The participants included representatives from nationally-recognized therapy dog programs, therapy dog handlers, site coordinators, and students. The qualitative, multi-case study design compared the perspectives of how and why therapy dogs are employed in educational settings, and what the participants described as their sense of interaction with therapy dogs. The findings suggested that therapy dog programs or visits contributed to positive academic and social or emotional needs of students.
There are so many individuals that I must thank for their support along this journey. First and foremost, I cannot express the gratitude I feel toward my parents, Teague and Cheryl, for their unconditional love and support. You are pillars of strength and grace and I love you so much. Don’t ever change. Josh, you, Scout and Gordon have been the best additions to my life. Thank you for the unwavering faith (despite many cranky Tuesdays) and I cannot wait for our adventures ahead. Andrew and Steven, you are incredible brothers and thank you for the many memories, past and present, which created a bond I feel blessed to share. To my friends, I am honored to be part of such a fierce group of women, and I adore each of you incredibly. Cohort Eight, we are doing it! I am unbelievably appreciative of the time and efforts from all participants in this study. You are true inspirations and models for therapy animal work. Last but certainly not least, the consistent encouragement and guidance of my dissertation committee made this goal a reality. Thank you for your inspiration.