Animal-Assisted Therapy

Texas Children’s Pawsitive Play Program is designed to enhance the emotional well-being of patients and families in the hospital. The animal-assisted therapy dogs provide support to those who may be having trouble coping with a hospital stay, new diagnosis or certain medical procedure. 

Our dogs are specially bred and trained to work as a service dog in a pediatric hospital setting, receiving over a year and a half of training before beginning their roles at Texas Children’s Hospital. Our dogs work full time alongside our child life specialists and coordinate with the multi-disciplinary team to provide goal-oriented, therapeutic interventions and emotional support for hospitalized children as well as families and staff.

Just like any other employee, the dogs have a badge and enjoy a lunch break. They spend time outside of their vests playing with toys and each other. To ensure they always looks their best, they are groomed weekly and their paws are wiped down daily.

Animal-Assisted Services

  • Facilitating therapeutic play
  • Encouragement and support during physical, occupational and speech therapy
  • Providing comfort and distraction during a medical procedure
  • Patient andfamily psychosocial support

Evidence-Based Benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy

  • Increased: Emotional well-being, happiness, calm, relaxation, healing, adjustment to hospital environment, and self-confidence
  • Decreased: Anxiety, perception of pain, fear and isolation 

Frequently Asked Questions

How should we approach one of the dogs if we want to meet them?

If you see one of the dogs and want to pet them, ask their handler. Everyone who pets them should use hand sanitizer before and after to help limit the spread of germs. If the dog and their handler are unable to stop, it is likely because they are on their way to visit a patient.

How do I request one of the dogs to visit?

Currently our dogs cover many units. Patients with long-term coping needs, have been hospitalized due to a traumatic event or are in critical care areas are some of the first patients the dogs see. Unit Child Life Specialists regularly assess patient needs and consult Animal-Assisted Therapy accordingly.

Are the Animal Assisted Therapy dogs hypoallergenic?

No. Our dogs are groomed at least once a week for infection control purposes. During a patient intervention, the handler will always use a sheet as a barrier on a patient’s bed to control shedding.

What should I do if I am allergic or afraid of dogs?

Child life specialists will not consult the dogs to see a patient or family who is fearful or allergic. If you encounter the dogs in the hallway please let their handler know if you or your child are allergic or scared of dogs. We understand that not everyone likes dogs and we will make every effort to respect your wishes.

Where do the dogs live? What do they do when they are not working?

Our dogs go home each night and live with their handler. Their handler cares for them 24/7. When the dogs are in the hospital they know they are at work and have a very important job to do; however, at home they are just like any other dog. They love to run and play outside when they are off the clock!

Bow Wow Buddies Program

Texas Children's Hospital has a volunteer animal-assisted activity program called Bow Wow Buddies. This program is supported by volunteers with a certified therapy dog (Bow Wow Buddies Handlers) and anyone who loves pets (Bow Wow Buddies Escorts). These volunteers work with our coordinator to connect patients and families with these therapy dogs that help make their hospital stay more enjoyable.