Canine-Integrated Therapy

Social Isolation, Depression, Anxiety, Trauma, Social Work, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy

Giving Retriever provides a Canine-Integrated Therapy curriculum that employs the use of Assistance Dog training as a means of facilitating goal-based treatment interventions for individuals experiencing physical, social, emotional, cognitive and communicative functioning and development challenges.


The program transforms the “simple” act of training a dog into a unique opportunity to learn and rehearse the skills necessary to achieve: emotional regulation, frustration tolerance, bonding-relationship building, anticipation, timing, synchronicity, and success while receiving direct immediate feedback and reinforcement from a non-judgmental, unconditionally accepting and forgiving audience: a dog.


Therapy sessions are facilitated by a Canine-Integrated Therapy Provider and a Licensed Clinician, Therapist, or Educator who work collaboratively to measure a participant’s progression of skills in areas of: non-verbal communication; verbal communication; interpersonal interactions; problem-solving and planning.  Together, they ensure that each participant receives the maximum therapeutic benefit from every session.


The outcome of this therapy is directly related to its intrinsically motivating nature. Intrigue, excitement, fulfillment and the desire to be part of the dog’s success in training creates a conduit for self-discovery, personal development and enrichment.


Participants are grouped based upon their established therapy goals, physical ability and developmental age.  Pre-school, Kindergarten, Elementary, Teenage/Adolescent, Adult and Senior populations will benefit from participation.

Animal-Assisted Therapy Research

Research_ADHD (pdf)


Research_ASD (pdf)


Participation Testimonials

Were the initial goals for the program addressed?

“Yes, interacting with the dog(s) and therapists, my son’s need to be right was negotiated and other ways of working with him developed.  My son really loved working with the dog and the therapists.”


“Yes, I have noticed significant changes in my daughter’s ability to successfully navigate social situations that would have otherwise ended in withdrawal or meltdown.”


“Participating in canine therapy has boosted my son’s confidence.  He now has a unique set of skills and improved communication ability that he demonstrates with his siblings. It’s been wonderful to see him flourish within our family!”


“I see her excited to come to her class with the dogs and the other children appear happy to be there too – it’s the only form of therapy she looks forward to!”

Has the program been helpful in the current therapies being implemented?

“Yes, this program has been helpful in supporting my son and his progress in expressing and understanding himself.  He enjoyed expressing himself and discussing ideas.”


“My son is currently receiving weekly SLT (speech-language therapy) and participating in the dog program has been a great motivation for him to communicate while training the dogs.” 

“My daughter receives therapy for her mood disorder and participating with the dogs gives her something she genuinely enjoys and can help lift her up when she’s struggling.” 


“Yes, training the dogs helps my son to practice his motor skills – brushing the dogs, giving treats, holding the leash, throwing the ball.  He currently receives OT (Occupational Therapy)”

In what areas, if any, have you seen changes and improvements?

Behavioral and Emotional Responses

Concentration and Attention to Tasks

Peer Relationships

Reduction in Anxiety


Family Relationships

Frequently Asked Questions

Autistic Child with dog

I don’t have a disability that requires an Assistance Dog, why should I participate in this therapy?

Individuals with disabilities often wait more than two years to receive an Assistance Dog because the demand far exceeds the availability of qualified dogs. By participating in the training of an Assistance Dog, you not only will receive the therapeutic benefits yourself, but the satisfaction in knowing the Assistance Dog you helped to trained will go on to create independence for a disabled individual.  

I have a dog at home, why isn’t that enough to be therapeutic?

Comfort and companionship are only part of the therapeutic experience.  The process of learning and applying skills necessary to train an Assistance Dog are the central components of this goal-based clinical therapy.  It is a dynamic, engaging and progressive activity that builds cognitive, social, speech, and motor skills while simultaneously training the dog.

What types of skills can I develop or improve while participating in this therapy?

Training an Assistance Dog requires patience, compassion, frustration tolerance, accountability, consistency and team work.  You will have the opportunity to develop and refine those skills during every training session.

I would like to overcome my fear of dogs.  Will this therapy help?

We have experience working with individuals who are fearful of dogs. For these people, limited participation and observation from the periphery of the group is beneficial in developing coping mechanisms to manage and potentially overcome this fear.

Is there a minimum age for participation?

The curriculum is structured so that individuals can begin participating once they reach pre-school age with the accompaniment of a parent.   School-aged children, adults, seniors and special populations, such as Veterans, will benefit from engaging in this form of therapy.

I don’t have any previous dog training experience, can I still participate in the program?

A Canine-Integrated Therapy Provider teaches the skills you need to assist in the training of the Assistance Dog.  No previous dog ownership or training experience is necessary.

What types of dogs will I train? 

All of the Assistance Dogs in training are retrieving breeds.  We use purpose-bred retrievers because of their propensity to retrieve dropped items and their desirable personality traits: versatile, sensitive, intuitive, amiable, and resilient.

What stage of the dog’s training will I participate in?

We try to provide dogs in training that range from puppy through adulthood to provide participants with the opportunity to experience the different stages of the dog’s training and development.

What is an example of something I may learn how to teach the dog?

Assistance Dogs in training learn basic manners such as sit, stay and down.  They also learn how to open doors, turn on/off lights, retrieve dropped items, and alert to different sounds and movements.  You may have the opportunity to teach the dog all of these skills and more.

What happens to the Assistance Dog when he completes his training?

We determine what type of “work” the dog will do based upon his personality and his aptitude for assistance.  A dog may continue to work in clinical environments under the guidance of Giving Retriever or he may be placed as a working Assistance Dog with a disabled individual.  It depends on where he is best-suited and most content.

Is this Canine-Integrated Therapy “right” for everyone?

Our initial assessment helps us to determine if this alternative therapy would benefit you.  Although many people find just being around dogs is therapeutic, this program is focused on individuals who will benefit not just from the comfort of the dog but from clinical outcomes as a result of participation in training the dog.

How long is a training session?

An individual session is approximately 60 minutes and a group session is approximately 90 minutes.  This includes time allocated to grooming and training the dog, a review and evaluation of the training session, and unstructured time to interact with the dog. 

How frequently can I participate in this therapy?

We establish a participation schedule based upon your therapeutic needs and goals.  Your initial assessment will provide us with the information necessary to make a recommendation.

Who is a Canine-Integrated Therapy Provider?

A person who has extensive experience working with the disabled population, an education in Assistance Dog training, and a comprehensive working knowledge of Giving Retriever’s Therapeutic Application of Assistance Dog Training Curriculum.