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Canine-assisted interventions (AAE/AAA) in the classroom

Animal-assisted education (AAE) is a planned and structured intervention directed and/or delivered by educational and related service professionals with specific academic or educational goals.


Animal-assisted activities (AAA) provide opportunities for motivation, education, or recreation to enhance quality of life. Animal assisted activities are delivered in a variety of environments by specially trained professionals, paraprofessionals, or volunteers in association with animals that meet specific criteria.



Best Practices for School Visits

1. Where should visits take place?  Choose a space that is large enough to allow for free-flowing movement and is quiet, such as a media room, where all participants can spread out. The dogs should have the space and freedom to engage or disengage.  Please ensure that the space is clear of all debris, food, and potentially hazardous items.  


2. Consider the welfare needs of the animals and eliminate unnecessary contact and/or stress for them. Think At what time of day should visits occur, and how long can they be?  Many schools decide that lunchtime is the best time to conduct visits. The visit, however, should not take place in the cafeteria and there should be NO FOOD in the vicinity of the therapy dogs. Visits 45 minutes to one hour are generally best for our therapy dogs.  


3. How do I prepare for and help facilitate a visit?  Prior to the visit, ensure that students understand ground rules such as staying calm and quiet and showing respect and consideration for the dogs. Ask your students to consider the environment from the dog’s point of view.  (For example, a dog’s hearing is about four times as sensitive as a person’s hearing.) You may want to have students watch and discuss the Canine Consent Test video and/or the Dog Body Language video in advance of the visit.  Instruct participants that they will need to take turns petting the dogs. Participants should not rush up to or crowd the dogs, or hug or kiss the dogs. Preferably, only one or two participants should pet a dog at the same time. Since each dog is an individual, it is best to ask the dog’s handler how their dog likes to be petted. See “How Not to Greet a Dog'' poster by Lili Chin: hownot.jpg   


4. How else can I ensure that a visit goes well?  Safeguard participants’ welfare by monitoring students during the visit. In advance of the session, obtain valid consent from participants and gather information on allergies and phobias. Have participants wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after interacting with the dogs. Posting a sign-up sheet or otherwise limiting the number of participants may be useful. 


5. Where can I learn more?  We invite you to explore the resources on our website and the articles, books, and websites below. If you have any questions or feedback, please email us at  


Brelsford, V. L., Dimolareva, M., Gee, N. R., & Meints, K. (2020). Best Practice Standards in Animal-Assisted Interventions: How the LEAD Risk Assessment Tool Can Help. Animals, 10(6), 974. 


Fine, A. Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy: Foundations and Guidelines for Animal Assisted Interventions, 5th ed.; Academic Press: Cambridge, MA, USA, 2019.


IAHAIO. White Paper 2014, Updated for 2018. 2018. Available online: (accessed on 16 Jun 2022).


Lincoln Education Assistance with Dogs (LEAD). Available online: (accessed on 16 Jun 2022).

Meints K, Brelsford VL, Dimolareva M, Maréchal L, Pennington K, et al. (2022) Can dogs reduce stress levels in school children? effects of dog-assisted interventions on salivary cortisol in children with and without special educational needs using randomized controlled trials. PLOS ONE 17(6): e0269333.

See also

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