Educator Perceptions of the Use of Therapy Dogs in Social Emotional Learning Programming

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ed.S. in School Psychology


Department of Counselor Education and Human Services


Elana Bernstein


Therapy dogs are often utilized in schools to promote reading skills; however, there is little research on how therapy dogs can be incorporated into social and emotional learning (SEL) programs. This qualitative study involved semi-structured interviews with administrators, teachers, and counselors regarding the potential use of therapy dogs in SEL programs in their schools. Participants described their experiences with social emotional learning, therapy dogs, and the feasibility of incorporating a therapy dog into a SEL program. Data were collected and transcribed interviews were coded for themes. Five themes emerged: Therapy Dogs Support SEL Needs of Students, Therapy Dogs Support SEL Needs of Staff, Therapy Dogs can Improve the Approachability of SEL Content, Training and Ownership Considerations, and Scheduling can Present Implementation Challenges. Implications for practice are discussed and suggestions are made for future research on the use of canines in SEL programming.


Animals, Education, Psychology, Therapy Dogs, Social Emotional Learning, SEL, Educator Perceptions, School of Education and Health Sciences, Education

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