When you think of activities people do with their dogs, you probably think of things like playing fetch, going for a walk, hanging out at the dog park, swimming…and reading. Yes, you read that correctly! Reading and sharing stories has benefits for both dogs and people — and especially children.
Benefits for children
Learning to read is a big milestone in a child’s intellectual development. The more you read, the better you get at it, however, for many children, reading aloud can be a bit intimidating or even stressful. It is easier for children to practice reading with a captivated, easy-going audience to build confidence. Dogs are that perfect audience.
A calm dog creates a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere for a young reader. Dogs love the attention and will often will cozy up to a young reader. If you don’t have a dog, ask your friends or relatives who have a calm dog to see if your child can have “story time” to get in some reading practice. You can also check your local service dog organizations to see if there are dogs available for your child to read to.
Benefits for shelter dogs
Shelter dogs tend to exhibit signs of stress and find the atmosphere of an animal shelter uncomfortable. Sometimes dogs that need a forever home show these signs of stress when visitors walk through the adoption floor, which makes them seem less adoptable.
After reading reports about how well dogs responded when children read to them, the Humane Society of Missouri started the Shelter Buddies program.
“We decided to try having children read to the dogs because it was a calm activity that provided companionship without too much physical interaction,” said JoEllyn Klepacki, director of education at the Missouri Humane Society.. “This is important because animals who approach the kennel front to greet potential adopters get adopted much more quickly than those who don’t.”
Reading to dogs is not just for children. Adults can enjoy the benefits of reading to dogs. Studies show that reading reduces stress. Dogs also reduce stress. Put those two together and you have a powerful tool to combat stress. What is more, reading to a dog can improve self-confidence and public speaking skills. After all, a dog will not be judgmental—he will simply be happy to get attention.
So grab your favorite read and settle down with your dog to enjoy it together!