Understanding Therapy Dog Terminology

by | April 8, 2023 | Blog

Learn common acronyms used in Therapy Dog terminology

It can be overwhelming to hear all of the acronyms used in Therapy Dog terminology. Here’s what they mean.

If you’re considering volunteering with your dog as a therapy team, you may have encountered various acronyms and terms related to therapy dogs. To help you navigate this world, we’ve compiled a list of common terms and acronyms that you’ll likely come across. Understanding these terms will make your journey into the world of therapy dogs more enjoyable and help you communicate effectively with fellow therapy dog teams and professionals.

AAI: Animal-Assisted Interventions

Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) are structured interventions used by professionals to help clients achieve specific goals. These interventions involve an animal, usually a dog, and can be applied in various settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and mental health facilities. AAI can help improve an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

AAT: Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) refers to the use of AAI by professionals in their work. AAT can be conducted by a range of professionals, including nurses, occupational therapists, and mental health professionals. These experts use therapy dogs to help clients reach their therapy goals and improve their overall quality of life.

AAA: Animal-Assisted Activities

Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) are interactions that aren’t goal-oriented but still provide benefits to others. These activities are usually carried out by volunteers with their therapy dogs, bringing joy and comfort to people in various settings. Volunteers can also partner with professionals for AAT, allowing them to provide more structured and goal-oriented interventions.

AAE: Animal-Assisted Education

Animal-Assisted Education (AAE) is a form of AAI specifically designed for educational settings and academic goals. Educators use therapy dogs to help students develop social, emotional, and cognitive skills. AAE can also reduce stress and create a positive learning environment for students.

ARE: Animal-Related Engagement

Animal-Related Engagement (ARE) refers to activities or interactions that involve animals but don’t include the physical presence of the animal. These activities could be virtual interactions, such as video calls with a therapy dog, or activities centered around learning about animals. ARE can still provide therapeutic benefits, even without direct contact with the animal.

AACR: Animal-Assisted Crisis Response

Animal-Assisted Crisis Response (AACR) teams consist of therapy dog handlers and their dogs who provide comfort and emotional support during large-scale crises, such as natural disasters or tragic events. These teams help alleviate stress and trauma for individuals affected by the crisis, promoting healing and recovery.

CGC: Canine Good Citizen

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is a program developed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) to evaluate a dog’s basic manners and obedience skills. This evaluation is often used as a basis for therapy dog skill assessments, ensuring that therapy dogs are well-behaved and safe to interact with clients.


By understanding these therapy dog terms and acronyms, you’ll be better prepared to embark on your journey as a therapy dog volunteer. Whether you’re involved in AAI, AAT, AAA, AAE, ARE, AACR, or striving for a CGC certification, you’ll be making a positive impact on the lives of those you and your therapy dog encounter. So, grab your leash and get ready to make a difference with your pup!


  1. Pet Partners: Terminology
  2. American Kennel Club: Canine Good Citizen (CGC)

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