“The Dog Whisperer” and The Therapeutic Role of Animals

Many of you have seen The Dog Whisperer on The National Geographic Channel on Friday nights. People vary in their opinions about Cesar Milan’s approach to training. I decided to include his resources here for two reasons:

First, I include him on a page about the therapeutic role of pets because Cesar Milan’s philosophy is that dogs come into people’s lives to teach them important truths about themselves. Often, the way they respond to their pets mirrors their social interactions. Sometimes, changing their responses to their animals encourages them to change their responses to people. Talk about therapeutic! Watch some of the online videos to see if you agree.

Second, I am grateful to Cesar Milan for what he has taught me. The other day when I was walking BigDog, two German shepherds charged us. Big’s hackles went up, and he was prepared for battle. I started to panic, but then the words “calm, assertive” quieted my mind. I did not give eye contact to the shepherds. Instead, I walked in front of Big, and much to his frustration, put him in a down. When he tried to look at the shepherds, I turned his head back toward me and told him quietly, “No, watch me.” The shepherds stopped their charge but continued to bark a few times. When they stopped barking, I told Big to heel and kept his focus on me. We took a few steps, and the dogs charged again. We went through the same process. It took a few times, but eventually the shepherds stopped trying to engage us and walked away.  If I had continued to panic, I hate to think what the outcome might have been. I did not learn these skills from any of the obedience classes I’ve taken. What good would a clicker have done in this situation? No, I learned how dogs view the world from watching Cesar Milan onThe Dog Whisperer.


Are you ready for a new best friend in your life?

If so, try a shelter or rescue organization. Please remember to spay or neuter! If your heart is set on a particular breed that you can’t find through Petfinder.com, make sure you find a reputable breeder. Many “purebred” and “designer” pups sold in pet stores and on the Internet come from puppy mills (Warning: graphic photos 1photos 2, photos 3, photos 4).  Beware also that some unethical puppy mill breeders realize you will look for a “reputable breeder” and advertise themselves as such online. Backyard breeders should also be avoided! Protect yourself from heartbreak and animals from a horrible fate. Do your homework! Visit the kennel and see the sire and dam.

Boy with helmet in wheelchair petting Golden Retriever links to Chenny TroupeElderly man pets Izzy, a border collie.Logo links to Humans and Other Animals.Logo links to Delta SocietyLogo links to CHAMP Prison Program.

This program is one of a growing number that demonstrate how prisoners and dogs can make a difference in each other’s lives. The prisoners train dogs to become pets or service animals. In turn, the dogs give the prisoners acceptance, affection, companionship, and purpose.

Logo links to Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society.

The research center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine sponsors conferences and produces publications. The authors of Animal Assisted Interventions in Adolescent  Mental Health explore the results of animal-assisted programs for teens with emotional and behavioral disorders.

Website provides links to national and international research centers on human and animal interactions.

Logo links to Deer Hill Ranch.

This innovative program provides opportunities for students who are at-risk or who have disabilities to experience therapeutic farm-animal interactions.

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Chenny Troupe dogs work tirelessly to

increase clients’

mobility and


Logo links to Chenny Troupe.A man and girl laugh as they pet a dog.Logo links to Open GroveDog listens to computer

Read about Izzy’s support of hospice patients  in an article by Jon Katz.

Animal Breed Zip Code
Text Box: Petfinder.com

Horseback riding can make a significant difference in physical, occupational, and speech therapy for people with disabilities.

Logo links to American Hippotherapy AssociationText Box: Business Name

The Therapeutic Role of Animals

Logo links to Hand in PawLogo links to Center for Human-Animal Interaction

The Delta Society promotes the human-animal bond. Their Pet Partners® program registers and insures handlers and animals to participate in animal-assisted activities/therapy.

The only center of its type located at a medical school. this Virginia Commonwealth University program researches the health benefits of animal interactions. Click the dog to hear CHAI director, Dr. Sandra Barker, in an interview from Open Grove, discuss pet loss and grief, an important topic for those involved in therapeutic pet activities.

Read about programs in the Chicago area that benefit children with emotional and physical disabilities.

This Alabama program comprises a variety of animal-assisted activities. Their Sit-Stay-Read program is one of many across the country demonstrating that dogs can help kids improve their reading skills. The Pawsitive Living program helps at-risk kids break the cycle of child abuse.

Disclaimer: Although these organizations and individuals have given me permission to link to their websites, their permission does not imply that they necessarily agree with or endorse other organizations, products, or content on this webpage. We all agree, however, that animals can play an important healing role in people’s lives.

Certain images and/or photos used in this template are the copyrighted property of Jupiterimages and are being used with permission under license.

To Contact Me: drshankwebsite@suddenlink.net

Note: I make no guarantees for any individual or group about the benefits or lack of harm of any organization or products listed on this website. My purpose is to provide them for you to explore and make personal decisions about their applicability to your situation.

Marilyn with Spockie, Big Dog, and Mowgli.Toto dressed in bridal gown and Spockie dressed in tux.Bama lying on bed.

This page is in loving memory of BigDog, Toto, Spockie, Mowgli, and Bama, some of my best friends.

Dr. Shank's This and That

Recognized as a leader in animal-assisted therapy,  Green Chimneys provides residential treatment and education for children with emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities.

Purposes include ending animal violence, promoting the human/animal bond, and providing a platform for animals.

Green Chimney's logo.Animals and Society Institute logo.

Overview, groups, resources, and stories will help you get started with your pet. Site provides links to several national registries.

Logo links to Dog Play.
Girl hugging senior citizen petting a dog links to Pet Therapy.Marilyn and Big Dog dressed as Elvis with a little girl who has cancer.Text Box: BigDog dressed as Elvis for a Halloween visit to a hospital’s pediatric ward.

The song “Oh, You’re My Best Friend” was written and performed by Rick Charette, and the clip is used with permission. To purchase the complete version of the song, click the photo or logo for Rick’s website.


Photo of Rick Charette links to his websiteLogo links to Rick Charette website

Kids learn respect and empathy by sharing their pets for Pet Therapy®,

a Florida program.

Healing Power


The power of an animal to heal is extraordinary. Once when I took BigDog to a women’s shelter, a little girl greeted us in the parking lot and followed us inside the building. BigDog seemed to sense her need and patiently sat beside her as she hugged and stroked him. This child, who had never met me, continued to pet BigDog as she said, “I bet someday BigDog is going to have a wife. And when he has a wife, he’ll always be good to her and love her. He would never hurt her. And he would never hurt his kids neither.”

She made eye contact with me for the first time, pleading for my response. “I think you’re exactly right,” I said. “BigDog would always be good to his wife and kids.”

Her faced relaxed, and she nodded her head. Then she gave BigDog another hug.

                          — Marilyn

Click logo for lots of programs and links:

“Oh, You’re My Best Friend”

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