Why We Should Read to Dogs More

Here at MedicAnimal HQ, the approach of September is bringing with it that “Back to School” feeling – the season most of us associate with uncomfortable new shoes and lots of shiny new stationery.

At first, we thought that the topic of school doesn’t have much in common with pets, but on further consideration, companion animals can have an important and even surprising role to play in education.

Various charitable trusts have set up projects which combine reading practice with the enjoyment of some canine company – an idea which can prove beneficial to both the child and the dog. For many (adults as well as young people) learning to read aloud can be a stressful and intimidating experience, which puts many individuals off for life. In the UK, the Bark & Read Foundation (funded by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust) takes dogs into the classroom for the pupils to read to, building their confidence by allowing them to practice their reading in front of a furry, non-judgemental listener. It seems there’s nothing like the unconditional warmth of a dog to banish nerves about stumbling on a particularly tricky word!

In the US, the guys behind the Shelter Buddies Program have also hit upon a brilliant way to make this relationship mutually valuable, by taking children into animal shelters to read to lonely or timid pets. Not only does this help the child develop their skills with the support of a cute companion, but it helps to re-socialise the animals and reduce their levels of stress. The visiting children also receive educational sessions before they arrive at the shelters, which explain the plight of abandoned dogs, and the difference that their calm interaction with the animals can make. This is a fantastic way to spread awareness, and is likely to raise a pet savvy generation who will carefully consider whether they can really commit to the lifelong responsibility of a puppy or kitten before they take one into their home. And who knows, perhaps they will also be encouraged to adopt a rescue dog when they are old enough to start their own furry family!

 

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5 comments

  1. A brilliant idea saw a documentary while living in the USA about women prisoners in Washington ( I think) who took dogs from rescue centres and trained them for people needing assistance dogs. It was good for the women and the dogs, it gave the women a purpose and they were giving something back to society and the dogs got a home. The dogs lived with the prisoner while being trained and it was heartwarming and also heartbreaking when the time came for the dogs to go to their new homes. I hope it is still continuing today.

  2. There has also been a documentary about the same thing in UK. More should be done along these lines it is helpful to prisoners who are given a supervised community based responsibility whilst learning a new skill, to the animals who might otherwise be in pens alone for most of their day, and the general public who either benefit directly from having an assistance dog, or indirectly if prisoners are turned out with a sense of purpose and a community conscience. More I say, it is a winner all round.

  3. The idea of having dogs as reading companions to children is brilliant. Children love animals and even if they are a liittle afraid of dogs because they have not had any interaction with them this scheme can be life changing for them as they get a close up one to one relationship which can make for them not being afraid in the outside world full of dog owning, dog loving people. Taking children into shelters after they have had introduction sessions is also a very good idea. Children do not get exposed to the plight of animals on an everyday basis and an understanding of the work done to help and the importance of their reading sessions to them will give children a sense of responsibility and purpose which they can use to carry on to other area of their lives. Brilliant, fun for dogs and children and helps spread awareness of the wonderful work done by animal shelters all over the world.

  4. The Pets As Therapy scheme is called Read2Dogs.and is very successful. I would love to do this with my Bilbo Baggins, but as he already visits a care home and a respite home for children with disabilities it would be too much for him, I think.

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