5 Ways to Use a Therapy Dog During Speech Therapy

My goal for Derby is to become a therapy dog and join me during speech therapy sessions. He is just one more “tool” in my therapy tool box of strategies to help the children on my caseload.  I imagine my list will grow as Derby becomes a therapy dog and starts his “work” in my office.  But for right now, I anticipate using him the the 5 following ways.

1. Articulation Drills

A lot of what I do with children is fixing the sounds they make wrong.  One way to do that is through Articulations drills.  Just like in sports, you have to use your muscles over and over again until you have muscle memory for that action.  That way you can do it without thinking.  Repeating target words as often as possible is not the most fun, but it’s a necessary part of the process.  I incorporate toys and games to keep kids motivated during drill work, but Derby can also help be a motivator during drill work.  For example, I can as my client to say five /s/ words to Derby before giving him a dog treat to feed Derby.

2. Following Directions

Following directions is a receptive language skill (understanding) and expressive language skill (talking).  Derby is spending a lot of time now learning how to understand directions.  This skill will be used in therapy by having clients give Derby directions (i.e., “Tell Derby to get his bone.”) or by giving them a direction to follow (i.e., Give Derby the red ball).

3. Vocabulary Development

Derby comes with so many excellent opportunities to build vocabulary for children.  You can talk about verbs, nouns, adjective, adverbs, categories, sequences, .  Derby is soft.  He barks loudly.  His nose it wet.  He is sitting.  The list is endless in terms of new vocabulary.  We can compare and contrast.  Derby is an animal like a cat, but he is bigger than a cat.

4. Social Skills

Animals are great for working on social skills.  They are eager to please, happy to wait, and offer non-judgmental support which encourages the child to interact.  A child is more likely to work on sharing with an animal than a peer, so Derby is a good first step into the world of waiting your turn. He will also be helpful with social stories as a character or someone to “practice” with when learning a new social skills

5. Reading

Many speech/language pathologists focus on reading.  This is not my area of expertise, but I do incorporate reading when working on different goals for articulation and stuttering.  Derby will be an excellent candidate to read to during therapy when a listener is needed.


Additional reading materials:

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27 thoughts on “5 Ways to Use a Therapy Dog During Speech Therapy

    1. It’s so interesting how much dogs an learn! And how fast. It doesn’t take Derby too long to learn a trick

  1. I would have never thought of using a service dog for speech therapy. However after reading your post I can see what a positive influence Derby would be, to the kids. I bet the kids would be so excited to have you as their speech therapist.

  2. This is definitely great. I think this will all help many people who’ll try it. Such a brilliant idea indeed.

  3. My brother used his dog as a way to help his son who has autism deal with everyday life. it’ been a joy watching my nephew grow up with his pup.

  4. We don’t have a dog but I think these tips and advice are really helpful. Thanks for sharing will surely let my friends who have one to read this. Thanks

  5. This is really great. Our local library branch has a dog reading program and anyone can sit and read with a dog. There is so much value in these types of programs.

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