Animal-assisted therapy for children with pervasive developmental disorders

West J Nurs Res. 2002 Oct;24(6):657-70. doi: 10.1177/019394502320555403.


The present study quantitatively evaluated the effects of interaction with dogs on children with pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), disorders characterized by lack of social communications and abilities. While interacting with a therapist, children were exposed to three different conditions: (a) a nonsocial toy (ball), (b) a stuffed dog, and (c) a live dog. Prosocial and nonsocial interactions were evaluated in terms of both behavioral and verbal dimensions. Results show that children exhibited a more playful mood, were more focused, and were more aware of their social environments when in the presence of a therapy dog. These findings indicate that interaction with dogs may have specific benefits for this population and suggest that animal-assisted therapy (AAT) may be an appropriate forrm of therapy

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Nursing Research
  • Developmental Disabilities / psychology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / therapy
  • Dogs
  • Human-Animal Bond*
  • Humans