Skip to main content

Animal Visitation and Therapy Program

Contact Us

Questions about animal visitation and pet therapy? Email our program coordinator Allison Proctor, MSW, or learn more below.

At Children’s National Hospital, we know it takes more than medicine to meet the needs of our patients and families. Our Animal Visitation and Therapy Program is an integral part of a patient’s healing. Animal Visitation and Therapy at Children’s National consists of two programs:

  • Our full time facility dogs
  • Dedicated volunteers and their registered therapy animals, who visit patients throughout the hospital

While both types of canine friends have an immeasurable impact on our patients and families, their goals are slightly different.

A young boy holds the leashes of two Children's National facility dogs as he stands next to them after receiving his COVID-19 vaccination

Facility Dog Program

All three of our facility dogs began training for their jobs at just a few weeks old. Barney and Company are golden retrievers and Sprout is a yellow Labrador retriever.

A young boy holds the leashes of two Children's National facility dogs as he stands next to them after receiving his COVID-19 vaccination
Child hugging a dog

Pet Therapy Program

The Pet Therapy Program provides trained therapeutic dogs that visit patients at Children's National Hospital.

Child hugging a dog

Facility Dog Program

Our facility dogs undergo 2+ years of extensive special training before they are partnered with clinical staff in the hospital setting. Facility dogs work full-time with their clinician handlers to meet individualized treatment goals and enhance coping with lengthy hospitalizations or life changing illness.

Facility dogs can:

  • Help support patients during certain procedures or exams
  • Help encourage a child to walk or move after a difficult surgery
  • Assist with non-pharmacological pain management
  • Provide emotional support after a trauma
  • Ease fears related to the hospital experience

At this time, our facility dogs provide services alongside their handlers to patients on most inpatient units as well as radiology and the outpatient clinics.

How many facility dogs are part of your team?

What breed of dog are your facility dogs?

How old are your facility dogs?

Where were your facility dogs trained?

How can I meet a facility dog?


Pet Therapy Program

Our pet therapy dogs work with their owners to bring cheer and comfort to our patients and families. Our pet therapy dogs come in a range of shapes and sizes – all breeds are welcome to join our volunteer community. Pet therapy dogs visit the main campus with their owners, typically once a week.

Every dog that visits our campus has a unique personality, but what they have in common is a love for physical touch and affection. Pet therapy teams spend time in unit playrooms, hospital common areas and patient rooms. They provide joy and cheer, can perform tricks or commands, and are a relaxing companions to our patients and families.

Visits are typically self-directed by the patient and range anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes depending on the need.

How did the therapy dog program begin?

How many pet therapy teams do you currently have?

How do I request a visit from a pet therapy dog?

What kind of training do pet therapy teams undergo?

How can I become a volunteer with my dog?