Saving Lives

Read and Relax

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 dogs on the adoption floor as adopters pass through, and helps increase the chance for success in their new homes.

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 interest.

What the Dogs Learn

The R&R program will teach 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 "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 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)

Volunteer Requirements

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
  • Be skillful at politely addressing questions about the program or re-directing other questions to the front desk or a staff member

R&R Protocol

  • 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

More Lifesaving Resources

Got cats? Check out Book Buddies, a cat-focused reading program from Animal Rescue League of Berks County.