Puppy Power

Last week, for the first time in my life, I got teary-eyed while getting in a workout at the gym. No, it wasn’t the intense burn of 35 enduring minutes on the elliptical (I only wish I was that moved by a workout). It was actually something that caught my eye on the TV screen ahead.

ABC was featuring a news story on therapy dogs, and the ability they have to help improve a child’s reading skill. The sound wasn’t even turned on, but the images of this boy and a dog, combined with the little snippets of hope appearing in the captions, just got to me.

If you didn’t catch it, the video says that a recent study done over a 10-week program showed that children who were struggling to read increased their skill level by 12% when working with a dog. The kids in the study who didn’t read to a dog did not increase their skill level at all. In short, it’s the non-discriminating nature of a dog that builds a child’s confidence, which in turn improves their reading.

Reading with kids is a part of therapy that I have yet to do with Frankie, but one I keep saying I want to try. She adores kids, and I can just imagine her looking up at them with her big, brown puppy-dog eyes, giving them an encouraging kiss on the cheek, and then offering her paw —  so she can hold their hands while they work their way through each page.


P.S.  Just in case you’re wondering…that sweet black dog with the big-ole ears wasn’t Tito, but now I can’t help but want to get him registered, too…



Filed under frankie therapy, life with fur

2 responses to “Puppy Power

  1. paws4love

    My dog Lilliann and I are a therapy dog team and our local library system has a reading program using therapy dogs. It’s amazing how the handler (me) becomes “invisible” during the interaction. It’s really adorable watching the child read to the dog. Many of the children return month after month to find “their dog” that they’ve bonded to. Like this ABC news segment reported, research has shown that when a child is given repeated opportunity to read to a dog, the child grows more confident in their reading ability and develops a desire to read on their own. The UC Davis study that identified third graders reading out loud to dogs for 10 minutes, once a week, showed those students improved their reading fluency by 12 to 46 percent, compared to no improvement for the class that had regular classroom instruction.

    Lilliann and I also visit facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, psychiatric facilities, homeless and children’s shelters and retirement communities. Medical studies have provided a growing body of research proving that animals have tremendous healing potential. These studies have shown that simply petting an animal can lower blood pressure and heart rate, and lessen anxiety and depression. Exposure to friendly pets can also play an important role in patient treatment and recovery by relieving feelings of loneliness and isolation thereby providing a distraction from persistent pain.

    And – it’s really rewarding for me too!

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