Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

School Name

College of Health Professions


Health Professions

Major Advisor

Dr. Christy Kane

Second Advisor

Dr. Barbara Jackson

Third Advisor

Dr. Megan Danzl

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Eileen Estes


The utilization of facility dog interventions is a quickly growing practice among healthcare facilities across the country. Facility dogs have the ability to provide support, a calming presence, and socialization to patients. This intervention is increasingly popular within child life departments at pediatric hospitals. Child life specialists, who are healthcare professionals that provide psychosocial care to pediatric patients and their families, utilize facility dogs to help pediatric patients cope with hospitalization and medical treatments. The implementation of a child life led facility dog program can come with potential barriers and benefits.

The purpose of this study was to explore the benefits, barriers, and educational backgrounds that impact the implementation of facility dogs into child life clinical programs. An exploratory-descriptive qualitative research design was used to explore the benefits and barriers to implementation. Semi-structured interviews were collected from 17 child life led facility dog programs, which included the perspectives of 29 child life specialists. Data was collected using 11 individual interviews and 6 focus groups in order to gain a broad range of experiences from child life facility dog handlers. Braun and Clarke’s method of thematic analysis was used to analyze interview data. Four major themes emerged including: Pathways to Paw Prints: Navigating the Journey to a Facility Dog, Paws in Action: Adapting to a Facility Dog Inclusive Environment, Growing the Pack: Fostering Sustainable Development, and Beyond the Leash: Cultivating Future Facility Dog Handlers.

Available for download on Sunday, April 06, 2025