Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Dogs-Therapeutic use, Dog-human, Interaction, Cognitive, Evolutionary, Therapeutic, Benefit, Criticism, Dog, Human relationship


Humans and dogs have been interacting and building relationship for what is thought to be tens of thousands of years. Within the last few generations, attention has been paid to the potential therapeutic effects of this relationship. Beneficial effects have been observed for many years. Recently, criticisms in methodology from primarily qualitative and anecdotal data have suggested that evidence is weak. Ethology, the study of animal behavior, is accustomed to experimental procedures. Typically studying wild species, ethology presents a fortunate opportunity to apply its rigorous scientific methodology to the therapeutic literature being critiqued. Ethology has evolutionary theory as its foundational principle, making cognitive, behavioral and evolutionary theory a superb comparative perspective. Additionally, investigation of potential negative effects has been largely unexplored to round out a well balanced investigation of existing dynamics. Investigation through controlled, experimental research from cognitive, behavioral and evolutionary theory of the underlying mechanisms involved in this relationship is compared with the more experiential and anecdotal findings from the therapeutic literature, to understand how the more recent cognitive research may help inform clinical social workers both of therapeutic interactions within mental health treatment, and also within the household. Beneficial effects have been found within the therapeutic literature, and complex relational dynamics have been identified within the cognitive literature to support the existence of a highly developed relationship.




iii, 90 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. 79-90)