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What Makes a Good Therapy Dog? Identifying Factors Associated with Calm Behavior in Therapy Dogs

By Kristen Cunningham, Zachary L. Darwish, Rosemary Strasser

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Dogs offer a variety of benefits to society, including the use of therapy dogs to provide therapeutic and physiological benefits, enhancing the lives of a wide range of recipients. Unlike service or emotional support animals, therapy dogs provide support to a multitude of individuals, often in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, or other venues. While many studies have examined behavioral assessments of service dog programs, little research has investigated the factors that make a good therapy dog. Therapy dogs must undergo strategic training before becoming certified. The present study seeks to illuminate what factors might distinguish therapy dogs from pet dogs and make a successful therapy dog. Twenty-eight therapy dog owners completed the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) and provided additional background and history on their therapy dogs. Behavioral and physiological data (cortisol) were collected during a therapy visit to a hospital, school, library, or nursing home. Data collected on- site were compared to survey data provided by owners in order to determine if certain characteristics could be identified in the dogs that displayed more calm (less reactive) behavior. This research may be useful to therapy dog training programs as well as provide helpful information in further developing future therapy and service dog assessments.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 3 January 2019
Format Powerpoint
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  3. Dogs
  4. Mammals
  5. open access
  6. therapy animals
  1. open access