About The Good Dog Foundation

Background & Mission

Since its inception in 1998, The Good Dog Foundation has had a singular mission – using Animal Assisted Intervention to help children and adults heal from the trauma of disease, disability, and disaster.

Our healers are extraordinary dogs and their human handlers.

Some are volunteers who help people in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and more. Others are professionals – educators, healthcare providers, criminal justice workers and the like – who we teach to be an effective team with a dog to enhance professional practices with  Animal Assisted Therapy or Animal Assisted Education.

They all turn to Good Dog because of our commitment to safety and best practices in teaching therapy dog teamwork.

In addition, Good Dog invests significant resources in scientific research, partnering with major academic and medical institutions. As a result, The Good Dog Foundation is helping advance Animal Assisted Intervention in the United States, where it is now widely available to enhance the efficacy of traditional therapeutic approaches to human healing and learning.

Three Major Areas of Operation

1. Volunteer Services
Good Dog evaluates, trains, certifies and deploys hundreds of volunteer Therapy Dog Teams annually. Applicants are first screened online, then must pass in-person evaluation to qualify for admission to a  Good Dog six-hour, four-session Therapy Skills class. Post-training, each team is shadowed by a trainer to assure readiness. Veterinary documentation (health, vaccination history) must be provided.

Good Dog teams log some 30,000 hour-long therapy dog  visits annually. The visits are scheduled by Good Dog staff and serve 300 partner-facilities (hospitals, nursing homes, schools, libraries, trauma centers, etc.). Populations served include those recovering from illness, children with disabilities, seniors with dementia, veterans with PTSD, university students under stress, and others…with over 100,000 people benefiting  annually. Our teams also visit the offices of select corporate partners to de-stress anxious employees,  and corporate partner fees, in turn, help support Good Dog charitable work.

When working in schools, Good Dog Volunteers, under the guidance of teachers,  patiently and lovingly support students struggling to read or learn English as a second language or to enhance social/emotional skills. Outcomes include improved reading levels and increased confidence. Our anti-bullying / child abuse prevention programs, in partnership with specialists,  leverage the well of safety that comes from therapy dog interaction and lead to a dialogue on kindness, responsibility, empathy, and communication. Good Dog also works closely with facilities that serve those on the autism spectrum, such as The Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg, NY and Rebecca School in New York City. Visit outcomes include marked improvements in verbal skills and reductions in disruptive behaviors.

With our healthcare facility partners, volunteer teams visit a wide variety of units including cancer, cardiovascular and stroke, HIV/AIDS, mental health, geriatric, special needs populations, and U.S. veterans. Reduced anxiety, loneliness, physical mobility, increased verbal engagement, as well as stress and blood pressure reduction are just some of the healing benefits of healthcare-related therapy dog visits.

2. Professional Services
In response to demand, Good Dog has established a Professional Services Division for healthcare and education professionals. It is the nation’s first institution devoted solely to teaching those who want to learn to successfully and effectively team with a dog to provide Animal Assisted Education or Animal Assisted Therapy to enhance the efficacy of select practice areas (for instance, in mental health, physical therapy, or reading skills).

Among our clients is the New York City Department of Education, the nation’s largest school system, with which we are working closely to assure excellence in the city’s “Comfort Dog” program. Currently, Good Dog is building a National Academy to expand its professional services activities.

3. Scientific Research
With academic partners, Good Dog conducts vital research to assess the effects of therapy dog interventions on specific populations and environments. We regularly share information with scientists and academicians, including those associated with universities, pet care industry groups, Human Animal Interaction associations, and the National Institutes of Health. Many of our studies are published in important peer-reviewed journals. Recent research includes partnerships with:

  • Mount Sinai Medical Center New York, a study underwritten by Pfizer/Zoetis to assess AAI for patients with advanced throat and neck cancer. The findings, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology in 2015 showed that patients benefited from time with therapy dogs during radiation and chemotherapy, experiencing significantly improved emotional and social wellbeing vs the control group.
  • Yale University Innovative Interactions Lab, a study examined the capacity of therapy dogs to help children recover from stress and was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Good Dog contributed to study design protocols and provided therapy dogs. The study proved that dogs, by themselves, can improve children’s mood and ability to cope with anxiety. It is the first study to look at the impact of dogs on stress recovery in children. Of enormous potential consequence is the finding that “interactions with animals represent a promising way to reduce the burden of childhood mental illness on a large scale.”
  • Pace University Department of Criminal Justice, a multi-year study, is assessing the value of using specially trained Good Dog teams as part of an in-prison parenting curriculum for female inmates reuniting with their children. Among the world’s entire population of female inmates, one-third are held in U.S. prisons; 70% have minor children at home traumatized by severing of the mother-child bond. Inmate children are six times more likely to offend and become imprisoned than the general population. Now in its third year, the study, Parenting, Prison, and Pups, has already been hailed in the peer-reviewed Corrections Today, journal of the American Correctional Association. Once finished, it is hoped that the study will clearly show a positive, cost-effective, scalable option for mitigating the national prison health crisis.
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, a year-long survey and analysis of Therapy Dog training and fielding methods, the first-ever national assessment – a vital prelude to development of national standards. Funded by Mars Petcare, Good Dog initiated the study and was a member of the study design and advisory group. Findings are expected to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • CAPS (Child Abuse Prevention Services), a pilot to test the efficacy of using specially trained therapy dog teams as part of a three-day, in-school workshop (Safety Rules!) to teach 1st and 2nd graders to recognize, avoid and report inappropriate or abusive behavior. The dogs provide an island of safety and promote learning, serving as avatars for kids to think about what they need to be healthy and safe.

Important Initiatives

National Emergencies. Good Dog has recently upgraded its Crisis Response Training Program to enable elite therapy dog teams to deploy in the event of national emergencies. Good Dog has a history of working to help victims and first responders of national crises including the September 11 World Trade Center attack, Boston Marathon bombing, Newtown, CT school massacre, and Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

National Standards. The Good Dog Foundation has become the leading player in the Animal Assisted Intervention field advocating for best practices and national standards and has convened a Scientific Advisory Group to provide expert advice and counsel.