Social-cognition and dog-human interactions: Is there potential for therapeutic-interventions for the disability sector?

M. Bellio*, S. Silveira

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The notion that dog-human interactions have the potential to mitigate impacts concerning the delay of typical development of social skills in humans is a novel concept. Research evidence concerning three aspects of social-cognition: sensory perception of social-cues, theory of mind and learning social-schemas, were reviewed with the scope to explore this notion. Literature from two different fields of research inquiry: animal-behaviour and neuroscience, was evaluated. Emerging from the animal-behavioural studies’ review was that aspects of dog behaviour could be a functional analogue of human behaviour (e.g. perception of social-cues). Neuroscience research theories concerning the functional role of the mirror neuron system in social-cognition in humans were evaluated against evidence from animal-behavioural studies investigating the relationship between dogs and children with socio-communicative developmental delays (e.g. vision impairment, Autism). It emerged that both fields of research suggested that through “embodied simulations” an alternative (e.g. to language and/or vision) approach to acquiring knowledge concerning the world of social interactions may be possible for individuals who present with developmental delays of social-competence. Within this context it is suggested that dog-human interactions may provide learning opportunities for development of social-competence in individuals with vision impairment. Implications for practice for the disability sector and specific examples for professionals who work with individuals who have vision impairment and assistance/therapy dogs are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalVision Rehabilitation International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • social-cognition
  • socio-communicative development
  • autism
  • vision impairment
  • companion-dogs
  • therapy-dogs
  • mirror neurons


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