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Tag: confidence

You’re just the cutest little audience ever … Yes … Yes … Yes, you are!

A business professor at American University is using dogs to help students overcome their fear of public speaking and hone their oratorical skills.

Bonnie Auslander, the director of the Kogod Center for Business Communications, started the program on a trial basis last year, pairing anxiety-prone business school students with patient canine listeners.

The thinking behind it is similar to that of programs around the country in which much younger students read to dogs to gain confidence in their reading skills.

“Addressing a friendly and nonjudgmental canine can lower blood pressure, decrease stress and elevate mood — perfect for practicing your speech or team presentation,” says the program’s promotional material.

For now, evidence of the benefits is mostly anecdotal, reports the New York Times.

With therapy dogs arriving on campus regularly during finals, Auslander got the idea to use dogs as a practice audience and she recruited six dogs with calm personalities.

They included Teddy, a Jack Russell terrier, and Ellie, a Bernese mountain dog.

We think it’s a great idea — assuming the dogs are willing to put up with all those speeches. On top of gaining confidence, students can learn the importance of inflecting their voices and gesturing to hold audience attention — though treats are proving to work better than either of those.

Auslander joked about having “an audience cat program some day that will be for speakers who are overconfident and need to be taken down a peg. The cats will turn away and lick their paws.”

Although we feel a little sorry for them, we wish the best to those dogs taking part in the program. And having had our own issues with public speaking, we wish great success to those students taking part.

We’re confident they will get their MBA’s and become great orators — identifiable only by their tendency to throw Milk Bones to their audiences.

In this program, kids read to shelter dogs to help them (the dogs) become more confident

bookbuddies1

Programs in which kids read to dogs are nothing new, but the Humane Society of Missouri is putting a new twist on the idea — having children read to shelter dogs to boost the dog’s confidence, as opposed to their own.

In the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, young volunteers — from ages 5-16 — read to shy and withdrawn shelter dogs, helping them grow comfortable with visitors.

As a result, those shy dogs become less likely to cower in the back of their glass-enclosed kennels and more likely to get adopted.

“We saw more and more rescue animals that were shy, fearful, and stressed out in the shelter environment,” JoEllyn Klepacki, the society’s assistant director of education told Today.com. “Unfortunately, these dogs are less likely to get adopted, since they tend to hang back instead of engage when potential adoptees come through.”

bookbuddiesWhile it’s aimed at primarily at helping dogs, the program is benefiting the volunteers as well.

In addition to helping them hone their reading skills, they learn about dogs, and their body language, and how to draw them out of their shells — all with the help of a good book and some treats.

The volunteers go through training sessions (with a parent) to learn how to interact with dogs, and the shelter has a library of about 100 donated books the children can read from, though many choose to bring their own.

Not a whole lot of staff supervision is required because the dogs remain in their enclosures — likely for liability and safety reasons — and one parent is required to accompany each child when they come to read.

Even though physical contact is limited, Klepacki believes the program is making a difference.

“These were dogs that before were hiding in the backs of the rooms with their tails tucked. You can see the connection — you can see them responding to those kids.”

Klepacki thinks other shelters could start a similar program at little expense.

“For next to no cost, the payoff is immeasurable.”

(Photos courtesy of the Humane Society of Missouri)

Dogs better walking companions than humans

walking

 
Dogs are better walking companions than humans on almost all counts, a new study shows, with the possible exception of conversation (though I generally favor them in that category as well).

Research at the University of Missouri has found that people who walk dogs are more consistent about regular exercise, walk at a brisker (therefore more healthy) pace, and show more improvement in fitness than people who walk with a human companion, according to the New York Times health blog, “Well.”

In a 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted living home, 35 people were assigned to a 5-day-a-week walking program — 23 walking with a friend or spouse, 12 walking dogs at a local animal shelter.

The dog walkers showed a big improvement in fitness, while the human walkers began making excuses to skip the workout. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just a 4 percent increase among the human walkers.

“The improvement in walking speed means their confidence in their walking ability had increased and their balance had increased. To have a 28 percent improvement in walking speed is mind boggling,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, a nursing professor and director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Johnson said the dog walkers were far more consistent in sticking with the program than those who were walking with humans: “In the human walking group, they were regularly discouraging each other from walking,” she said. “Missouri is a hot state. We would hear them saying: ‘It’s hot today. I don’t want to walk, do you?’ ”

The dog walkers, on the other hand, were nearly always up for the task:

“When the people came to the animal shelter, they bounced off the bus and said, ‘Where’s my dog?”’  Johnson said. “And the dogs never gave any discouragement from walking.”

The study, not yet published,  is continuing, and Johnson said she suspects differences will show up in other areas, like depression and anxiety.

Already, though, Johnson said, many people in the dog-walking group stopped using canes and walkers. “They would say, ‘Now I’m physically fit enough to take my dog for a walk,”’