Play is a powerful force, not only in the lives
of children, but also in the natural world. Many animals have
active play lives, and this is particularly true of companion
animals, such as dogs and cats. Research on the human-animal
bond has clearly illustrated many important benefits of this
ages-old relationship, and the evidence that Animal Assisted
Therapies (AAT) are beneficial for a wide range of developmental,
educational, and clinical outcomes for children and adults is
The Playful Pooch Program is designed to provide
canine-assisted play therapy services to children and families
and to offer training
in the involvement of canines in play therapy to mental health
professionals. Canine-Assisted Play Therapy is a combination
of the well-established fields of Animal Assisted Therapy and
Play Therapy. Playful child-canine interactions are systematically
used to make progress toward therapeutic goals. Substantial research
has clearly demonstrated the importance of the human-animal bond
as well as the value of properly trained animals for treating
children with a wide range of difficulties. The Playful Pooch
Program is just one part of the child’s overall treatment,
but it can facilitate progress on many dimensions. It can be
appropriate for all ages.
This website is designed to provide information about the involvement
of animals in child therapy and play therapy, and especially
dogs. Related articles, research, and resources are included
a brochure about the Playful Pooch Program.
Definition of "Pet Play Therapy"
Pet Play Therapy (VanFleet, 2006) has been defined as “the
integrated use of animals in the context of play therapy, in
which appropriately-trained therapists and animals engage with
children and families primarily in play interventions aimed at
improving the child’s psychosocial health and the animal’s
well-being. Play and playfulness are essential ingredients of
the interactions and the relationship.”
Use the link below or click
on the photo to read a recent article about canines in
play therapy, written by Dr. VanFleet. The article is posted
and made available here by the generous permission of the
Association for Play Therapy, who published it in the March
2008 issue of the Play Therapy magazine. All rights
The PDF is large (6.8MB), so please
be patient while it downloads and do not close the browser
window that opens, the article will load in that window.
This article was
a finalist in the Dog Writers Association of America
2008 competition for best feature in a special interest
VanFleet, R. (2008). What's this dog doing in my playroom?
Play Therapy, 3 (1), 18-21.
Meet Dr. Risë VanFleet
Ph.D., RPT-S is a licensed psychologist and
registered play therapist-supervisor with 35 years of
clinical and leadership experience in a variety of settings.
She is the president of the Family Enhancement & Play
Therapy Center, Inc. in Boiling Springs, PA. She is the
clinical consultant for the Beech Street Program. Dr.
VanFleet is the founder of the International Collaborative
on Play Therapy and a Past President/Board Chair of the
Association for Play Therapy. She has authored several
books on filial/family therapy, numerous chapters on
play therapy, and is featured on 4 DVD workshops. Risë has
trained thousands worldwide, and she has received 2 prestigious
national awards for her work. She is also the author
of award-winning Play Therapy with Kids and Canines:
Benefits for Children’s
Developmental and Psychosocial Health.
She is an Approved Evaluator with the American Kennel
Club’s Canine Good Citizens Program, a full
member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the
Dog Writers Association of America, and an affiliate
of the International Society for Anthrozoology. She is
responsible for the
Playful Pooch Program and offers training programs in
Canine-Assisted Play Therapy. She is also involved in
ongoing research on the use of animals in conjunction
a trained play therapy dog. She is a 4-year-old rescued
border collie mix. She is very playful and she truly
enjoys being with children and families.
Henry is a 2-year-old Labradoodle
(half Lab and half Poodle), recently adopted by Cindy Sniscak,
President of the Beech Street Program, and her family.
Henry's original human companion died recently, and her
wish was for Henry to work with children in the Playful
Pooch Program, so he moved here from quite far away to
do just that!