Helping shelter dogs be cool in the kennel
Developed at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland in
Westbrook, Maine, Read and Relax (R&R) helps decrease the arousal
and stress levels of your dogs on the adoption floor as adopters pass
through, and helps increase the dogs’ success in their new home.
Daily walks are an important part of a shelter dog’s life. However,
it is important to limit the number of walks as it can create dogs with
Olympic walker stamina! Human contact is the most enriching part of a
shelter dog’s day—that’s why in-kennel human contact is so important.
Dog walkers can be asked to help with this activity. However, it is
quite helpful to recruit volunteers solely for R&R duty. R&R is
appealing to “dog people” who may not be physically able to walk
A press release to your local newspaper or a page on your website
describing R&R and the need for volunteers is likely to generate
What the Dogs Learn
The R&R program will teach shelter dogs to:
- Remain calm as adopters pass through the adoption floor.
- Enjoy the presence of a human without having to be the center of attention.
- Develop exercise needs that are more manageable for adopters.
- Be accustomed to “down” time, a key element for success in the home.
- Appreciate great literature. (Just kidding.)
- Folding chairs
- Appropriate books for the public and children (Volunteers can also bring their own reading materials.)
- Kennel signs briefly describing to the public the interaction taking place in the kennel between volunteer and dog
- A session log to track the number of sessions per day, who completed the sessions, and for how long
- A behavior observation log kept out of sight from the public
for the volunteers to write notes regarding the dogs’ behavior (This
log will serve as communication among the volunteers and staff.)
When reading to the dogs, volunteers should be able to:
- Enter the dog’s kennel only when the dog has four paws on the floor and is waiting quietly.
- Ignore inappropriate behavior, such as barking, jumping, whining, etc.
- Make good judgments about when to exit the kennel if the dog continues inappropriate behavior even when he is ignored.
- Practice self-restraint in wanting to play with the dogs in
the kennel or turn the focus of the R&R session into a highly
interactive time with the dogs.
- Be skillful at politely addressing the public’s questions
about the program or re-directing other questions to the front desk or
a staff member.
- Once or twice a day, a volunteer will enter a dog’s kennel, sit down on a chair and read aloud to the dog for 30 minutes.
- Upon entering the kennel, the volunteer will post a sign on the door describing the activity in the kennel.
- The volunteer will acknowledge the dog’s presence in the
kennel by quickly patting his head when the dog approaches with good
manners, and then carry on with reading.
- At the completion of each R&R session, the volunteer will fill out the session log and behavior observation log.
Photo courtesy of Sandra Chow