Saturday, March 14, 2020

Doctor Dogs – A Book Review

Doctor Dogs book cover
How Our Best Friends are Becoming Our Best Medicine

We are familiar with seeing eye dogs, service dogs, military working dogs, dogs trained to assist Law Enforcement, and dogs who work in search and rescue.  

Now, more and more as time goes by, scientific studies are finding that dogs can be trained to help people with chronic medical conditions, both physical & mental, and to detect diseases such as Cancer and Parkinson's.

Doctor Dogs, written by Maria Goodavage, relates many of these studies, along with a number of stories of individual canines and the people they are helping.  The emotional element in this book is as powerful as the science.  The book jacket states:

You don't have to be a dog lover to care deeply about what we are learning from these dogs – and if you're not a dog lover, you will be by the end of this book!

Doctor Dogs

Doctor Dogs book cover
Doctor Dogs by Maria Goodavage

Published in 2019, Doctor Dogs relates a globe-trotting journey made by journalist and author Maria Goodavage who visited top research centers around the United States, throughout Europe and England and as far away as Japan.  Through her excellent story-telling we meet many fantastic dogs, learn of their training in various areas and discover how they are impacting (and actually saving, in many cases) the lives of people whose well-being depends on these highly skilled personal MDs (medical dogs).

A Collection of (Trained) Canines in Doctor Dogs

From Angus to Zen......

  • Angus (Clostridium difficile-detection dog)
  • Baby Boo (cancer detection dog)
  • Bob (autism-assistance dog)
  • Bud (seizure-alert dog)
  • Daisy (cancer detection dog)
  • Dexter (seizure-alert dog)
  • Duke (crisis-response dog)
  • George (cancer detection dog)
  • Hank (psychiatric service dog)
  • Jedi (diabetic alert dog)
  • Leo (educational-aide dog)
  • Nina (seizure alert dog)
  • Parker (cancer detection dog)
  • Sally (malaria detection dog)
  • Zen (Parkinson's alert dog)

As you can see from the list above, dogs can be trained to help and assist in many different ways.  The training described is fascinating.  Dogs can learn to 'alert' to impending seizures (giving the patient time to find a safe place to sit or lie down), or alert to diabetic highs and lows, especially helpful in children with Type I diabetes who are too young to recognize when they are in trouble. 

There are Doctor Dogs who can detect cancers and Parkinson's Disease.  There are psychiatric service dogs who have proven to be invaluable to children with autism and people suffering from PTSD, both returning soldiers of war and civilians with trauma-induced PTSD. 

These abilities and feats dogs are being trained to do are just a few of the areas of medicine, and more, being researched at this time. 

Maria Goodavage, Author

Maria Goodavage, Author
Maria Goodavage
(Source: Wikimedia)
Maria Goodavage is a veteran journalist who has written a number of best-selling books about dogs; two about military dogs, one about Secret Service dogs who protect the President of the United States, and now Doctor Dogs. 

Maria lives in San Francisco with, among others, her yellow Labrador retriever, Gus.


The dogs trained for these medical specialties are carefully matched to the individuals they will serve and are almost always of a calm nature.  Labrador Retrievers are a popular breed in this field, but just about any breed who is friendly and calm can be trained to be a good Doctor Dog

These Doctor Dogs absolutely love what they are doing. They adore and become very attached to their 'people'. 

What is their paycheck for their lifesaving work?  All they need are heartfelt praise and a tasty treat or favorite toy.  I'd say that's the easiest fee to pay any doctor. 

(c) Doctor Dogs Book Review by Wednesday Elf 3/14/2020

Quick Link:

ReviewThisReviews Contributor Diana Wenzel (RenaissanceWoman) has written several articles here about her therapy dog Finn. Click Here to meet this delightful dog doing his own service in this field of special hero dogs.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. I found this to be a fascinating read. It went well beyond the typical surface look at common service dog behaviors and training. I was astonished by the depth of what doctor dogs are now able to do (and how they have been taught to do it).

    1. I was amazed too, Diana. I thought of you (and Finn) when I was reading this book.

  2. A very interesting review. Thanks for bringing us this information Elf.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Mary Beth. Happy you enjoyed this book review.

  3. It is amazing what dogs can do! It almost seems like we never let our pets reach their full potential until we realize how much of a difference they make in our daily lives with reassurance and love. I think these dogs are awesome and do a great work, but clearly, like people, they don't have to be MD's to change the lives of those around them. Doctor Dogs are truly most excellent!

    1. I agree. Dogs, by just being their doggy self with the unconditional love inherent in all dogs, are already heroes to their 'people' simply as pets. When put through special training, they can extend their help in many ways, both as medical and emotional health aids.

  4. Definitely a book on my to read list! Thanks for bringing it my attention!

    1. I think you'll enjoy it, Tracey. I sure did. Thanks for your visit.

  5. This sounds like an excellent book! Thank you for reviewing it. It always amazes me what dogs can be trained to do.

    1. I am amazed, too, Dawn Rae. And even more amazing is to see how our pet dogs without any training seem to know when we need a cuddle or just a warm body next to us.

  6. Dogs are so incredible. They're smart, compassionate, loving and devoted and healers. They truly are the teachers of the world. The book sounds excellent, thanks for the intro to it.

    1. I totally agree, Barbara. They are the ultimate Love Machine. :)

  7. I've been looking for something "different to read" and I think I just found it. sounds like a very interesting book indeed. I love dogs (I don't have one currently) and make friends with all of them in my building. they know me and even though they only see me sometimes, we are happy when our paths cross. Dogs are amazing!

    1. Dogs ARE amazing, Olivia. Thanks for your visit to my review of Doctor Dogs.


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