Dogs Help with Dyslexia

For years, the PISA study has provided uninspiring figures on the reading skills of German-speaking students. About 20 percent of young people in Austria have difficulty reading. A weakness that is due, among other things, to a lack of motivation, a lack of a sense of achievement, and a lack of emotional and social stimulation. Fear and shame also play a role.

Specially trained educators have been able to observe in everyday school life for years that dogs have a positive influence on the learning behavior of children. The use of dogs in the classroom is widespread, especially in the USA. Now it has also been possible to prove in a first pilot study that dog-assisted reading promotion is effective, reports the Research Group for Pets in Society.

For several years, committed teachers have been taking their dogs to class to promote skills such as consideration, attention, and motivation in the children. A currently successful educational concept is the use of animals as so-called reading dogs. A student reads to the appropriately trained dog as part of a remedial lesson.

A controlled pilot study at the University of Flensburg in Germany has now shown that such exercises improve reading skills. Special education teacher Meike Heyer divided 16 third-grade students into four groups. All pupils received weekly reading support lessons over 14 weeks: two groups worked with a real dog, and two control groups with a stuffed dog. Before, during, and after the remedial lesson, reading performance, reading motivation, and the learning atmosphere were recorded using standardized tests.

“Our study shows that the use of a dog improves reading performance significantly more than a conceptually identical support with a stuffed dog,” says Heyer. “One of the reasons for this is that the presence of the animal improves the motivation, self-concept, and emotions of the students, but also the learning climate.”

A dog relaxes and motivates, it listens and does not criticize. Animal therapists have also been working with this knowledge for some time. Children with reading disabilities or learning problems become more self-confident with the dogs, lose their fears and inhibitions about reading, and discover the joy of books.

Another positive effect of reading promotion with a dog: The control groups were also able to improve their reading skills through the promotion with the stuffed dog. During the summer holidays, however, the improvements achieved in the control group declined. The learning gains of the dog-assisted students, on the other hand, remained stable.

A prerequisite for the success of dog-assisted pedagogy is a well-founded training of the human-dog team as well as an animal-friendly use of the dog. The dog does not need any special training, it just has to be stress-resistant, fond of children, and peaceful.

Ava Williams

Written by Ava Williams

Hello, I'm Ava! I have been writing professionally for just over 15 years. I specialize in writing informative blog posts, breed profiles, pet care product reviews, and pet health and care articles. Prior to and during my work as a writer, I spent about 12 years in the pet care industry. I have experience as a kennel supervisor and professional groomer. I also compete in dog sports with my own dogs. I also have cats, guinea pigs, and rabbits.

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