Sigmund Freud had an awareness of the role dogs could play in therapy long before the words “therapy dog” were coined. The celebrated psychiatrist often allowed his Chow to sit in on sessions with his patients. If the dog kept his distance from a patient, the doctor knew that patient was tense or troubled. Freud also realized that petting his dog had a therapeutic effect on many patients.He said, "So Freud wasn't all bad." To which I replied, "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day."
The thing I will give Freud is that he was good at observing, which is part of the scientific method, but not all of it. The "research" Freud contributed to the field of psychology was not really scientific - more like anecdotes. Some have followed up on his observations using scientific methods, allowing some of his conclusions to be confirmed, and others refuted. The problem I have with Freud is that his contributions gave people a skewed view about psychology, and what psychologists do - even research psychologists, like myself. I suppose that's not really his fault, rather the fault of people who encountered Freud's work.
It would be interesting to find out if others also noticed the calming effect of dogs, and see where research into therapy dogs as we know them today began. There are certainly days at work that I'd love to have a dog in my office.
Edit: Thanks to my friend, David, at The Daily Parker, here's a little history of animal-human bond research, including a funny story from 1908 about Colonel Deems and his dog Riley, as well as a summary of research on the positive effects of animals on our well-being.