Date of Award



© 2022 Katherine T. Race

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Gizelle Luevano

Second Advisor

William Smith

Third Advisor

Francis J. McCabe


Over the past decade there has been a drastic increase in students’ reporting and exhibiting feelings of overwhelming anxiety, depression, anger, and disengagement in the school setting (Relevette, 2020). To better appreciate these increases, one must first grasp the notion that two-thirds of school-aged students are experiencing toxic-stress, also known as long-term stress, on a daily basis. Toxic stress has been directly related to the halting of brain development in children (Rossen, 2020).

These experiences, often referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), are various traumatic events children have been victims of, or directly exposed to, during their first seventeen years of life. The underlying effects of these events have left students unable to engage in their learning environment, thus changing the dichotomy of school, the role of the teacher, and the effectiveness of the classroom (Rossen, 2020). Noddings (1984) ethics of care theory, suggests that when a caring relationship or encounter occurs, the cared-for recognizes the caring and responds in some detectable manner. Supporting Noddings theory (1984), Bustad’s Human-Animal Bond theory (HAB) (1984), along with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943) theory, the practice of using pets as support mechanisms to those with physical, mental, and social struggles (Fine, 2019) should be common practice in all school settings (Bradley, 2013).

A case study design was used to conduct this study. One administrator, three teachers, and three support staff from the research site were interviewed to gain their perspective and hear their observations regarding the impact a facility dog had on elementary student’s engagement in their learning environment. Interviews were conducted via Zoom®, transcribed using®, and coded using Atlas.ti®. Findings supported ta gap in literature pertaining to the use of a facility dog in a school setting to assist students with their mental health challenges, thus increasing their engagement in their learning environment. The results of this study confirmed that a facility dog improved relationships among all stakeholders in the building. Any and all students that had the opportunity and the desire to interact with the facility dog were observed to be happier and more engaged in school. In addition, the decrease in anxiety, angry outbursts, and students that typically were unable to remain in school for an entire day due to extreme sadness was noted. The seven participants interviewed shared their personal and professional experiences and all felt strongly that the presence of a dog helped the entire school community; young and old.


Ed.D. Dissertation