Read And Relax: Animal Enrichment Program
Developed at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, this innovative program allows volunteers read to dogs to provide enrichment and reduce stress.
Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, Westbrook, ME
Through the Read and Relax (R&R) program, a volunteer enters a dog's kennel, sits down on a chair and reads aloud to the dog for 30 minutes R&R helps decrease the arousal and stress levels of dogs on the adoption floor as adopters pass through.
How It Works:
The R&R program teaches shelter dogs to:
- Remain calm as people walk by
- 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 downtime, important to success in the home
- 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 session 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 will aid communication between volunteers and staff)
Now You Try It
If you’d like to develop a program like this at your agency, here are some protocols and requirements from Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland that you can incorporate into your own policies.
- 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
When reading to the dogs, volunteers at Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland:
- 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
- Be skillful at politely addressing adopters’ questions about the program or redirecting other questions to the front desk or a staff member
Other Ideas Like This
Looking to try this program with kid volunteers? Check out Book Buddies, a cat-focused reading program from Animal Rescue League of Berks County.
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