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Santa Lucia Open Dog Obedience Group's

Therapy Dog Program for Children

Children reading to dogs.. What better way to strengthen the bond between children and dogs while enhancing their reading abilities. Children who may have low self esteem, a lack of confidence and unsure of reading aloud will often open up in the presence of a quiet listening dog.

Caring Canines' Therapy Dog group is thrilled to offer a new service into the local Elementary School system. Our 'Reading 2 Rover' program provides calm, quiet 'listening dogs' which children can read to on a 'one to one' basis, or maybe two children per dog. These special dogs MUST be quiet, calm and enjoy the company of children close to them, with some students even leaning on the dogs while reading.

After a few months of visits with a new class, I was told that immediately the student's interest heightened in wanting to 'read because 'special dogs' were coming to listen to their stories. Soon the students were picking their favorite story to read days in advance of our anticipated visit; planning ahead with which dog they want to share their reading adventure. The only stipulation is they must 'read out loud. We, as handlers, just sit nearby and make sure our dogs are quiet and respectful while the students read to them.

When we started with this class the students were mostly using 'picture books' and when the dogs arrived they knew in order to be part of the 'Reading 2 Rover' group they must read out loud. This opened a whole new world for them by encouraging them to speak the written words of a story.

It's as simple as children bonding with dogs over a shared story in a low stress environment. Reading skills improve, self esteem boosts, and a sense of trust encourages them to open up verbally, all resulting in a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

Listening dogs offer a way of accepting without judgment. They don't care how a child dresses or what they say, whether they read fast or slow, or miss-read the word, they're forgiving and uncomplicated. They lay quietly next to the child absorbing everything they hear, all the while encouraging them to read aloud. Some students who were not eager to read in the beginning have TOW brought a friend to class and they take turns reading to each dog. Before they know it a half an TOUT has gone by, they've read consistently for thirty minutes and they don't want to stop to say good-bye. They've made bonds with their favorite dog and know them each by name. We're informed that they absorb more in this half hour of reading than any other day of the week.

We've been told their interaction with each other and their patience in class has greatly improved, and the only deduction the teacher can come up with at such a sudden change, is that they have a new twist in their reading curriculum .... "Listening Dogs".

Our Therapy Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, breeds and ages, all having something in common of great personalities and lots of love to share. Our 'Reading 2 Rover' program is a great way to teach children how to interact with dogs in a positive manner. The importance of Therapy Dogs with children is how they can help struggling children come out of their shell to realize the warmth, encouragement and security that dogs can provide. Dogs don't judge, laugh, criticize or correct them, they just accept unconditionally what they're hearing and offer strength and love in return while boosting self esteem.

Our requirements to participate in the Reading 2 Rover group is actually an extension of the Caring Canines' Therapy Dog Program.

The Reading 2 Rover program requires the current Caring Canines' members to first visit for one year with the Caring Canines' group. One year will be 24 visits and at this time, providing all visits have gone well, is when you might wish to schedule an interview to discuss becoming a part of the Reading 2 Rover family.

Reading 2 Rover