Date of Award



© 2021 Timothy Smolen

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Ian Menchini

Second Advisor

Debra Welkley

Third Advisor

Ella Benson


This study employed a qualitative case study approach to explore the perceptions of teachers/staff members directly associated with the therapy dog (TD) program in their school. These perceptions were regarding the TD program’s effectiveness in (a) student social interaction, (b) stress coping and self-regulation, (c) engagement and/or attention, and (d) motivation and/or self-efficacy. The human-animal interaction (HAI) theoretical framework (Gee et al., 2017) served as a focal lens in this study. Data was collected from a middle school in the midwestern United States and through social media. Thirteen participants were from middle school and eight were obtained via social media. Further, interviews were conducted with five individuals representing both sites. Interpretation of the data and themes developed revealed that the majority of participants found perceived impacts from therapy dogs on: (a) student social interaction, (b) stress coping, (c) self-regulation, (d) engagement and/or attention, (e) motivation, and (f) social-emotional development. The study’s conclusions aligned with its research questions involving the impact of therapy dogs. The findings led to recommendations for the development of a tool to assess therapy dogs’ well-being. Designation of key canine demographic information is needed in the field as well as a centralized database to warehouse information collected. This study’s recommendations include additional research on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on therapy dog programs, the therapy dogs themselves, and teachers/staff members’ needs and benefits from therapy dogs during the pandemic. Finally, this study recommends examination of a student’s perspective of the therapy dog’s role and how that perspective affects the efficacy of the intervention.


Ed.D. Dissertation