Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Laura L. Hayman

Second Advisor

Ling Shi

Third Advisor

Martha A.Q. Curley


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of dog visitation on the child’s mood change.

Background: Hospitalization of a child is a source of stress and discomfort to the patient and family. The child is in an unfamiliar environment away from the comforts of home. For some, one way to decrease the stressors associated with hospitalization may be to have an animal present creating a more comfortable holistic environment.

Methods: The study was a mixed method, prospective quasi-experimental single-group, pre- post-test design. Ninety children ages 3-12 years receiving a first time dog visit were studied. Mood was measured pre- and post-dog visit using the Facial Affective Scale (FAS) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children (STAIC). Dog and child behavior were analyzed through video analysis for content and themes related to mood along with analysis of child drawings. Wilcoxon signed rank test was used to examine change in FAS/STAIC scores. Logistic regression models were used to examine changes in mood controlling for patient demographics and unit characteristics.

Results: Post dog visitation, child FAS and STAIC scores showed improved mood (.33 to .23; P = .007) and decreased state anxiety (31.02 to 29.19; P = .01). Parents’ scores on the improvement in their child’s mood post visit was significantly higher than the child’s self report (child Mean = -.07, SE = .30; parent Mean = -.21, SE = .22; P < .001). Video analysis revealed that children who were more engaged with the dog during the visit were more apt to score happier post visit. Analysis of the child’s drawings reflected positive feelings about the visit (86%; N= 14).

Conclusion: Results of this mixed methods study demonstrate support for dog visitation in hospitalized young patients aged 3-12 years. Improved mood and decreased anxiety after dog visitation may translate to improved patient outcomes but this requires further study. These data support the development of policies and procedures to support implementation of dog visitation in hospital settings and support further research in this area. This study adds to the limited literature of dog visitation with the hospitalized child.


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