Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is a meaningful and goal-directed therapeutic intervention designed to promote an individual’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning. It is a planned, structured, and documented intervention approach, directed by a licensed and trained health and human service provider. AAT differs from volunteer therapy animal teams that participate in animal assisted activities and visitation programs.

Learn more about types of animal assisted interventions (AAI) here.

Through interacting with animals, people of all ages can experience the power of the human-animal bond. “Care of pets” is an important aspect to many families and is recognized as an instrumental activity of daily living in the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework. Occupational therapists with advanced knowledge and experience are well equipped to incorporate animals into treatment sessions in order to promote independence and participation in activities of everyday life.
At SunDog Therapy, animal assisted therapy can be incorporated into occupational therapy treatment by Dr. Karen Ni and her canine co-therapists, Dottie and Tater Tot. Typical treatment sessions involve positive relationship-based training, grooming, feeding, and interacting with the dogs for all or part of the session. Karen keeps up with Dottie and Tater’s training and continuing education related to animal behavior and dog training. They are regularly groomed and current on vaccinations and monthly preventatives.

Getting Started

Clients will be carefully screened and evaluated for participation in AAT, as this intervention approach may not be appropriate for everyone. While it may be scheduled for Dottie and/or Tater to participate in a therapy session, clients should understand that their welfare is a priority and it is ultimately up to the dogs to decide the duration and amount of engagement in each session. When the dogs are resting, clients may engage in animal and dog-related games, make toys/treats for the dogs, or focus on other skill areas. Please contact Dr. Karen Ni if you are ready to complete a new client packet.