Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital

Facility Dog Program

Providing comfort and support to children in the hospital.

Facility dogs are expertly trained to help children cope with the most challenging of medical situations, procedures, and diagnoses and overcome the stress that they may experience during a stay at the hospital.

Meet Brea (pronounced Bray-UH), our hospital’s first facility dog. She joined the hospital as an employee and member of the Child Life team in February 2021. Brea works alongside her handler, Leah Frohnerath, a certified Child Life specialist, and together they help motivate patients to meet their goals, make the hospital environment feel more like home, and give kids a reason to play and smile, even when they’re sick or injured. 

What training did Brea receive? 

Brea started training when she was just a few weeks old. She received two years of extensive and specialized training. Brea received her training from Canine Companions, the organization that since 1975 has bred, raised and expertly trained dogs to assist people with disabilities or in hospital settings.

Facility dogs learn 40 commands that allow them to interact with and calm patients and staff appropriately. They can also pull toy wagons, push drawers and retrieve items. Facility dogs also receive special certification through a national standardized practical test and return for follow-up assessments on a periodic basis.

The Child Life team member who serves as a facility dog’s handler also completes a two-week, full-time training course so they can become acquainted and make sure the dog and handler are a good fit with each other.


Did the hospital get to name Brea? 

Canine Companions names each litter of service dog puppies according to a theme. They give the facility dogs names that are generally short, easy to pronounce, and don’t accidentally rhyme with or sound like one of their regular commands, to help facility dogs and their handlers work together more easily.

What is the difference between a facility dog and a pet therapy volunteer? 

Pet therapy animals are beloved volunteers who work with their humans to bring comfort and cheer to patients and families in the hospital. They visit patients in common areas and patient rooms. Many of these friendly pups (and a mini horse) along with their owners visit the hospital several times a month.

While both programs are helpful to our patients and their families, the support Brea can provide is more extensive due to the special training she received from the pros at Canine Companions. Both facility dogs and pet therapy volunteers help make the hospital feel more comfortable for patients, but Brea can be present during a child’s exam, scan or procedure because she has been trained to meet the psychosocial needs of patients and aid in positive coping.


Will the hospital ever have more than one facility dog? 

Our goal is to grow the program and add more dogs to our pack soon! Our facility dog program is 100% donor funded. Canine Companions provides the trained facility dog for free, but donations support ongoing care for Brea while helping us to add more facility dogs and handlers to our team.

Supporting the Facility Dog Program

Our facility dog program is 100% donor-funded. If you’d like to help the Facility Dog Program grow, you can make a donation online here. We are so grateful for the generosity of our community donors. Thank you for helping us provide comfort and support to children in the hospital.

Contact Us

If you have questions about the program, please email us at

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