Animal Assisted Interventions

What is a “therapy dog”? What about  “pet therapy”, “canine-assisted therapy,” “dog therapy”, etc.? What does it all mean?

These words have been used to label the therapeutic effect of dogs on humans. However, a volunteer visiting dog does a different job than a dog involved in professional interventions. We hope to clarify the differences through sharing the terminology agreed upon by leading organizations including:

Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) describes goal oriented and structured interventions that intentionally incorporate animals in health, education, and human service for the purpose of therapeutic gains and improved health and wellness. Animal assisted therapy (AAT), animal assisted education (AAE) and animal-assisted activities (AAA) are all forms of AAI.

Services provided at SunDog Therapy primarily fall under the category of animal assisted therapy. However, we are involved in all forms of animal assisted interventions.


Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT):

  • Formally goal-directed and designed to promote improvement in physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive functioning of the participants.
  • Directed and/or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise and within the scope of practice of his/her profession.
  • There are specific goals for each individual involved and the process is documented and evaluated.
  • A specially trained animal-handler team is an integral part of the treatment process.

Animal Assisted Education (AAE):

  • Same as AAT but focusing on educational/cognitive goals and directed or delivered by an educational professional.

Animal Assisted Activity (AAA):

  • Commonly seen as volunteer teams in hospitals, schools, nursing facilities, etc.
  • Provides social, emotional, and recreational benefits to enhance quality of life.
  • Goals of this session are not necessarily part of a formal treatment/educational plan.
  • Teams are specially trained, evaluated and registered.
Animal Support (AS):

  • AS is not an intervention but is a support given by professional organizations that train animals and their handlers (ex: members of Assistance Dogs International).
  • These organizations train animals to work alongside healthcare, social service, religious affiliations, or educational practitioners.
  • Evaluates the dog with the handler, setting, population, activities, etc.
  • Advocates for health and welfare of the dog.