Thursday, December 15, 2022

Reading to Your Dog

 


Azul Loves to Read!

OK, so dog's can't read, but they can enjoy hearing people read and there is great value for both the dog and the human. I could go on and on about the human animal bond and how strong connections with positive associations can increase health and happiness for both the human and the dog. But instead I want to take a moment to talk about the Bow Wows & Books program at our local library.

Once a month Therapy Dogs show up at the library to listen to kids read stories. Reading out loud can be very stressful for kids (and many adults) but can be a super important life skill. Students are often asked to read in front of classmates which can be scary and cause mistakes. Reading to a non-judgmental dog can be calming and create positive associations for the child which helps them build confidence. This can improve the child's oral reading skills helping them to become a better student.

This program isn't all able the children who sign up to read. The dogs benefit from the program too! Therapy Dogs are always very social dogs and find human interaction enjoyable. But often Therapy Dogs participate in activities that are less then relaxing. Some Therapy Dogs work in an office or school environment where emotions or stress might be extreme at times. Some Therapy Dogs work in hospital or nursing home settings where health issues in clients can be challenging. In essence, Therapy Dogs do jobs that are designed to comfort humans and bring them happiness, which isn't always easy for the dogs. Azul being a Service Dog, sometimes has a stressful job to do taking care of me. But the reading program helps the dogs to bring cheer in a relaxing environment where they can be a bit silly, inviting belly rubs, giving chin rests, and spreading cheer in their own ways. 

Another way that reading to dogs is beneficial to both human and dog is the act of listening. We tend to tell our dogs what to do quite a bit during the day. We talk to our dogs quite a bit when we are feeling stressed or trying to figure something out. Our dogs all hear other people talking throughout the day. But there is something different that comes out in the voice when we read something we love. Some kids choose books that have jokes, action heroes, or rhyming sentences and these make the kids smile and giggle as they read. That giggle and happiness relaxes the dogs and brings out their inner puppy. 

Adults can read too! I wonder just how many people practice giving a speech or teaching a class by doing so at home with their dog hanging out nearby. One of my Christmas activities to do with your dog is read a book and that is because it will be a great opportunity to share some time doing nothing and enjoying each other's company. So please pick up your favorite book, snuggle into a comfortable spot and instead of reading in your head read out loud to your dog. After 10-15 minutes check to see how you and your dog are feeling? Are you relaxed? Are you comfortable? Is your dog?

Therapy Dog Teams from the Bow Wows & Books Program
Team Diogee with Hannah
Team Azul with Penny

The Dickinson County Library hosts the Bow Wows & Books Program on the 2nd Wednesday of the Month from 5-6 PM at the Main Branch. Parents can call the library to schedule a time for their child.

We also have Therapy Dog Maverick who is now attending the Library's teen program, SHH...Out! This event is geared to supporting the LGBTQ community to help teens that might be struggling at other social events. There Maverick can play with the kids and provide a feeling of safety and comfort for teens in the library setting.

In January, I'm joining a day of activity where library staff from around the U.P. will be visiting Dickinson County Library to discuss programming opportunities.  Azul and I will be there presenting information about Therapy Dogs and how they can add this to library programming in other communities.  I'm excited about the possibilities that 2023 bring to the Therapy Dog teams and the youth of our community. We hope to be scheduling some activities at the Norway branch in the near future.

Team Azul, Team Diogee, & Team Maverick are all Certified Therapy Dogs with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. If you'd like to learn more about becoming a Therapy Dog Team, check out this website: https://www.therapydogs.com/  Then reach out to Yooper Paws for help getting ready for the Therapy Dog Test and Application Process.  We'd love to add more Therapy Dogs into the community.




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