Research on Impacts of “Read to a Dog” Programs

Solid peer-reviewed research is starting to be available on the “Read to a Dog” program. It isn’t as extensive as the “Reach Out and Read” program which has been around slightly longer.

As you review the following articles, think about the quality of the research. Generally, researchers consider the quality of research to be best if published in a journal that has a blind-review process, followed by book chapters in books published by an academic press. Some Ph.D. dissertations and some self-published books are excellent (and some aren’t). One of the best gauges of the reputation of the article is the number of citations by other authors. Naturally, there is a lag-time on citations so very recent articles often do not have high citation numbers even if they are excellent.

“Research and Results” on Intermountain Therapy Animals website

Intermountain Therapy Animals started the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program in 1999. It cites nine research articles on reading to dogs. However, not all of these are peer-reviewed.

“Research” in Reading to Dogs: A Library’s Guide to Getting Started

This site, developed by faculty in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, shares nine articles on reading to dogs and summarizes two.

Additional Articles on the Read to a Dog Programs:

Jalongo, Mary Renck. “What are all these Dogs Doing at School?’ Using Therapy Dogs to Promote Children’s Reading Practice” Childhood Education. 81, no. 3 (2005): 152-158. Taylor & Francis Online website.

The article gives tips on implementing a “Read to a Dog” program and summarizes the literature of 36 prior articles.

Jalongo, Mary Renck, Terri Astorino, and Nancy Bomboy. “Canine visitors: The influence of therapy dogs on young children’s learning and well-being in classrooms and hospitals.” Early Childhood Education Journal 32, no. 1 (2004): 9-16.

Abstract from the article: “Trained therapy dogs are becoming an increasingly common sight in many educational and health care settings. This article, co-authored by a college professor, a Therapy Dogs International, Inc., Evaluator, and local program director, and a registered nurse reviews the research on using registered therapy dogs as adjuncts in school programs and health care treatment plans for children ages 5–8. It addresses the most commonly raised objections to allowing dogs in classrooms and patient rooms and offers practical guidelines for maximizing the positive outcomes of animal-assisted activities and therapy (AAA/T).” It cites 30 other articles but does not provide direct empirical results on reading to dogs.

Gee, Nancy R., Shelly L. Harris, and Kristina L. Johnson. “The role of therapy dogs in speed and accuracy to complete motor skills tasks for preschool children.” Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals 20, no. 4 (2007): 375-386.

This study found that the children completed the tasks faster when a therapy dog was present than when it was not. The interaction between dog presence and type of task was also significant in the rating data, indicating that the presence of the dog increased performance accuracy in some types of tasks while decreasing it in others. “Based on these results and the strong connection between motor skills and language development, the authors recommend a role for therapy dogs in speech and language development programs for preschool children.”