A multitude of recent studies strengthen the case for dogs in therapy and one innovative behavioral health organization has taken the use of canines to a whole other level. A new groundbreaking study to investigate how dog brains process speech has revealed canines care about both what we say and how we say it. Researchers found that canine brains are far more capable than we thought.

For example, dogs process vocabulary, recognizing each word as distinct, and further, that they do so in a way similar to humans. (See research here).

If you are a dog owner, you already know how wonderful a human dog relationship really is. So, it may not come as a big surprise that science is starting to prove that dogs can be incredibly effective in therapy.

In another 2012 article titled, “Canine Comfort: Do Dogs Know When You’re Sad?”, Live Science summarized the results of a study conducted by University of London researchers led by psychologist Debbie Custance. The study analyzed the dogs’ capacity to demonstrate empathy. Volunteers were asked to pretend to cry and hum weirdly. Custance found that, “nearly all of the dogs came over to nuzzle or lick the crying person, whether it was the owner or a stranger, while they paid little attention when people were merely humming.”

The study indicated that dogs might actually have the ability to sense distress. (See study here).

In general, it is well documented that people benefit from interacting with canines.

Simply petting a dog can decrease levels of stress hormones, regulate breathing, and lower blood pressure.

Research has also shown that petting releases oxytocin and serotonin, hormones associated with bonding, affection and good feelings, in both the dog and the human. Other research has found that people who start caring for dogs report lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and also tend to have lower blood pressure. It is no surprise then that dogs would also possibly have a positive effect on mental health. For some people, like adolescents who have experienced overwhelming stress or trauma in their life, seeking mental health services can be difficult. In fact, at least in regards to teens, one study showed that adolescents are highly unlikely to reach out to other humans for help when they sense a mental health issue.

This is where therapy dogs can step in.

Calo Programs has been facilitating ground breaking and proprietary canine therapy for almost a decade. Every client has the opportunity to interact, parent, foster or adopt a Golden Retriever.

“These dogs provide unconditional emotional support and companionship” said Chris Perkins, CEO of Calo Lake Ozark. According to Jeanna Osborn, Calo’s Canine Therapy Director, “Canines facilitate social interactions and help reluctant therapy students embrace the process. In many cases, the Calo Goldens act as liaisons between therapists and students, ‘co-therapists’ in a very real way.” Alex Stavros, Calo Programs CEO, said: “We invest a lot of resources into our Canine Therapy Program because families tell us all of the time that their Calo Golden saved their child’s life; our Canine Therapy is a treatment game changer.” For years Calo Programs has been spearheading the innovative use of pure bred Golden Retrievers in therapy. This work has been particularly effective with those that have suffered from early life emotional and relational traumas. To learn more about the Calo Canine Therapy program click on the picture.

In the end, given the compelling research and the ground breaking work by treatment providers across the country, it is no surprise canine therapy is growing in its impact and use.


Calo (“kay-low”) Programs is a behavioral and mental health provider specialized in healing the effects of complex developmental trauma.

Calo is comprised of Calo Teens, Calo Preteens – both residential programs located in Lake Ozark, MO predominately serving adoptive families, and New Vision Wilderness, Calo Young Adults – transitional living program for young adults – and Embark by Calo, a therapeutic workshop and family intensive program for those reeling from issues of trauma, attachment and adoption.