Assessing behaviour and stress in two dogs during sessions of a reading- to-a- dog program for children with pervasive developmental disorders
Keywords:dogs, children, reading to dogs, stress,
AbstractPrevious studies suggest an improvement in both reading skills and attitudes towards reading when children read in the presence of a dog.This seems to be related to dogs being fully capable of acting as active and supportive listeners. However, little is known about the potential welfare implications in dogs involved in these activities. Although dogs could receive comfort during a reading session, they might also experience stress, causing a declinein their willingness to work and overall performance. Salivary cortisol and behaviours were analysed in 2 healthy dogs before, during and after 30-minute reading sessions with 4 children with pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) to identify any signs of stress. Although one dog had significantly high salivary cortisol levels on arrival at the facility, no signs of behavioural or physiological stress were detected in the dogs during and after the sessions. Thus, this particular activity did not negatively affect the welfare of the dogs. Further large-sample studies are needed to more fully explore either the benefits to PDD children or the physiological status of dogs during reading-to-a dog programs, from a “One Health-One Welfare” perspective.