The Top 10 Ways Dogs Help Kids Learn Kindness, Responsibility, and Safety around Animals

Many people have asked me the question: “So exactly how does your program teach children lessons in compassion, responsibility, and safety around dogs?”

Although my usual preference is to write articles and stories on my blog, I decided that perhaps it was time to create a video that showcases the top 10 lessons children learn about humane education during this program. In this video I share how each lesson is taught, highlighting engaging children’s literature that helps children to learn each concept, and fun and creative activities to reinforce each skill.

But for all of you readers out there who prefer the printed word to a video screen, I’ve also included an overview of my top 10 list below for your enjoyment. Happy viewing and reading!


The Top 10 Lessons Children Learn about Kindness, Responsibility, and Safety around Dogs

  1. How to meet a new dog safely.
  2. Behaviors that are ok and not ok around dogs.
  3. How to spend quality time with their pets.
  4. How to read a dog’s body language.
  5. What a shelter dog is.
  6. To think big about how they can help animals.
  7. What a service dog is.
  8. That dogs have special needs, too.
  9. How to love themselves the way their dogs do.
  10. What it means to “foster” and “adopt” a dog.

To learn more about this program and how you can implement it at your school, please visit today!


Dr. Lori

Dr. Lori’s Top 10 Tips for Bringing Dogs Into Schools


Recently, I’ve had several school administrators and teachers ask me for advice: they have heard about all of the wonderful benefits of dogs interacting with children, and they would now like to bring a dog into their own school, either to read with children or to use as a support for children with developmental challenges. But then they inevitably run up against the same problems – what do they do about children who suffer from allergies to animals, and how do they protect children who are scared of dogs?

In this article, I would like to address both of these issues. Although real and pressing (I too am allergic to most dogs!), there are certainly ways to bring a dog into a school setting and protect all of your students. As an elementary school teacher and researcher who has brought dogs into many schools and 2nd grade classrooms, here are my top 10 tips for bringing a real dog into a school:

Preparing to Bring a Dog into Your School

10. Select the Dog Carefully: When selecting a dog to become part of your school or classroom community, if possible, choose a dog that is known to be hyper-allergenic and/or does not shed. Poodles are a great choice, as are maltese. Check out this article by the American Kennel Association that lists best dog breeds for allergy sufferers by clicking here.

9. Keep Fido Clean & Happy: Ensure that the dog is well groomed and is bathed just prior to each visit to help minimize allergens. Especially if the dog sheds, ask the dog’s handler to bring a clean dog bed or blanket (free of dog hair) for the dog to sit or lie on during the visit to help minimize potential dander transfer. To help keep the dog clean, ensure that children use a hand sanitizer before petting the dog, and to protect the children, ensure that they use this hand sanitizer again after interacting with the dog (and before they eat or come into contact with children who might have allergies). Also, ensure that the dog has been walked (and has had opportunity to go to the bathroom) before entering school property, and that you have a bowl and fresh water on hand for your visit.

8. Train the Dog and Handler: Ensure that the dog is over one year of age, has been well-socialized around children, and has received a Canine Good Citizenship Certificate. Also ensure that both the handler and dog have received Therapy Dog Training.

7. Insurance and Permissions:  Pre-arrange appropriate and necessary insurance before you bring a dog into your school. Also, ensure that you have received written consent from the parents of the children who will be interacting with the dog (some parents do not want their children in contact with dogs for sanitary, health, or cultural reasons). When requesting parental consent, be sure to clearly articulate what the nature of the interaction will be, the purpose of the interaction, the dates and number of times the child will interact with the dog, and where the dog and child will work in the school. Also let school staff and parents know about the schedule for the dog’s visits (publishing the schedule in the school newsletter and/or on the school website is helpful) so teachers can make adjustments to their plans as necessary. For example, if the dog will be working with children in an otherwise common area such as a section of the school library, teachers will want to ensure that their students do not venture into this area at that time. When determining a schedule for the dog and handler, be aware that it is not recommended for a dog to be in a school environment for more than one hour per visit, with no more than 2-3 visits per week. Although it might not appear stressful for a dog to be in this environment, research indicates that asking dogs to do this work more than this is linked to stress-related illnesses.

6. Ensure a Stress-Free Experience: It will help to minimize potential stress for the dog if you can bring the dog onto the school property several times either before or after school hours (before the program with children begins) so the dog can become more familiar with the strange smells and environment a school offers, and so they can become more comfortable with the space where they will be working.

Before the Dog Comes to the School:

5. Consistency with Entry & Exit: Ensure that the dog you want to bring into the school always enters and exits the school from the same pre-arranged side entrance, and that the dog enters and leaves the school after the bell has rung and children are in their classes. This will minimize potential contact with the dog for most students.

4. Prepare Staff and Students: On the school announcements at the end of the day before the dog arrives and on the morning before the dog enters the school, arrange for a general reminder to students and to staff that there will be a dog at the school during specific hours. Ask classroom teachers to discuss this briefly with their students, taking note of which children are afraid of and/or are allergic to dogs so they can ensure that those children are not in the hallway (or are supervised) should they need to leave the classroom for any reason while the dog is at the school.

3. Consider a Dog Stroller: If the dog is small enough, using a dog stroller can be a wonderful way to bring a dog into and out of a school. This way, the dog can be contained but still visible as he/she is in public areas such as hallways. It is also a very helpful way to carry books and other materials you will need if you will be reading with children, and will prevent small hands from reaching out to pet (and possibly overwhelm) the dog as they pass by in the halls.

2. A Safe Space for Learning: Arrange for the dog to always work in the same space in the school so this routine becomes comfortable for the dog, the students, and your school staff. If the weather allows, using an outdoor space such as a school courtyard or learning under the shade of a large tree can also be a wonderful option to minimize allergies for children. If the space must be indoors, choosing a room that is outside of the general flow of student traffic (such as a meeting room or school counselor’s office) can be a nice option for ensuring a peaceful and uninterrupted learning experience.

1. Prevent Problems through Education: Did you know that dog bites to children account for more than 400,000 emergency room visits in the United States each year? This isn’t because children and dogs aren’t a good match – it’s because we often bring children into close proximity to dogs without teaching them the necessary skills they need to interact with dogs safely and compassionately. If possible, encourage a school-wide effort for teachers to teach students how to meet a new dog appropriately, how to read a dog’s body language, how dogs are similar and different to children, and behaviors that are okay and not okay around dogs. My program, How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in the Classroom, is designed to teach second grade children these very lessons – all while inspiring them to become motivated, eager readers. Therefore, you may want to consider implementing this program in your school prior to bringing a therapy dog into classrooms.

This Sounds Like a Lot of Work

Yes, I know. It does seem like a lot of preparation and planning to bring a dog into a school or classroom, and it is.

But now ask me if it’s worth it.

I would argue that inevitably, the answer is yes. But don’t take my word for it – check out the Intermountain Therapy Animals Association for a complete listing of schools across the United States that have brought R.E.A.D. dogs into thousands of classrooms for over two decades. I wish you joy and success as you explore this fantastic, innovative, and heart-warming approach to enhancing your students’ educational experience.

With love, joy, and tail wags,

Dr. Lori

I’d love to hear from you! If you have a question or a comment about bringing a dog into your school, please contact me below:

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Featured Book: Cool Dog, School Dog

cool dogCan you imagine the trouble that a playful puppy might get up to if she romped into an elementary school classroom? This is a delightful story with gorgeous, heart-warming illustrations and high-spirited, endearing text about a little dog named Tinka who really, really wants to come to school with her favorite boy. When she finally discovers a secret way to get to school, she unknowingly breaks all the rules and wreaks havoc in the halls and in his boy’s classroom, until the teacher finally orders Tinka to leave. But at the very last moment, Tinka’s secret talent is discovered – Tinka is a reading dog! As the children bring books to read to Tinka, this playful pup happily settles down on her special little bed to listen to great stories, and is then invited to come back to school every day to showcase her talent. Artistically crafted and beautifully presented, this book would make a wonderful addition to any home or school library.

photo-20As an elementary school teacher for over ten years, I can relate first-hand to what it’s like to have a puppy in a classroom. When I first got my then-puppy Tango (who is now turning 13 in March!), my second grade students kept asking if I would bring her to the classroom to visit. After much consideration and even more careful planning, I decided that we could go ahead and arrange for this. I taught my students, before Tango even set foot in the classroom, how to meet a new dog properly, how to behave in kind, respectful, and appropriate ways around a small animal (who was much smaller than they were), and how to read a dog’s body language. They also needed to earn the letters to spell the words “Tango Time” by being kind and respectful to each other throughout the week, and when Tango finally arrived that Friday morning, each pair of children earned ten minutes of “Tango Time” in the reading corner. This was time they could just play quietly with her, talk to her, or cuddle with her. But you can imagine my surprise when my students began bringing books to read to her – and then arguing during recess over which books Tango liked most!

I didn’t know it then, but this experience marked the beginning of my thinking about How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed In the Classroom. This program has, in truth, been over twelve years in development, and this wonderful story, Cool Dog, School Dog floods my heart with warm memories of the very first time I brought my sweet Tango into my own classroom. Thankfully, Tango was invited (she didn’t have to find a way to sneak herself in, though I’m partially convinced that she would have done so had I not invited her) and the students were prepared – but I can only imagine the fun and chaos that might have ensued had she discovered her own way in the way adorable Tinka did!

Thank you, Deborah Heiligman, for this delicious and delightful poetry-as-story, and Tim Bowers, for your bubble-gum lovely illustrations that have danced into my heart. It’s no surprise that this book made its way onto my “Featured Books List” for inclusion in this program, and it is my hope that it will soon be in thousands of classrooms across the country! To learn more about this great author and illustrator and about their many entertaining books, please visit their websites at: and

You can also purchase Tinka’s other books on Amazon – just click on the pics below!

snow dog

sun dog

I’d love to hear from you! If you have a question or a comment, please contact me below:

Max file size is 52 MB.

Featured Book: May I Pet Your Dog?

51kFwEGsTqL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_This book is a must-have for every elementary school classroom and family library, regardless of whether or not a dog lives with you in your home. Children and dogs seem like they were made for each other in so many ways, but unfortunately, many children are never taught how to behave safely and appropriately around dogs – which can lead to accidents such as dog bites.

May I Pet Your Dog teaches children how to be kind, safe, and compassionate around dogs with the loving support and guidance of the adults in their lives. It illustrates for children, step-by-step, what they should do when they meet a dog they don’t know when they are out on a walk, asking first: “Is your dog friendly?” If the answer is yes, the child can then ask: “May I pet your dog?” If the answer is again “yes” (because his or her owner has indicated that the dog is friendly), children should then hold their hand out, fingers down, and let the dog sniff their hand.

When the dog feels safe (which children learn to know by reading the dog’s body language), it is ok to then pet the dog – but not by reaching over a dog’s head, because this can be scary for a dog. Instead, children should pet a dog gently on their back.

This book takes children through different scenarios as they meet dogs with different personalities, preferences, and temperaments, and teaches children that not all dogs want to be petted. This is significant because in a recent survey I gave to nearly 120 children in 2nd grade, 49% of the children said that “when you meet a new dog, it’s ok to run over and pet them.” This tells me that nearly half of the children I surveyed did not know how to meet a new dog safely!

May I Pet Your Dog teaches children how to stay safe when they meet a dog who growls at them, and it teaches them how to give a dog a treat safely. It teaches children to avoid reaching out to pet dogs who are in cars (because they can be territorial), and teaches children not to pet working dogs (such as guide dogs). There are so many great lessons packed into this little book!

To get your own copy of May I Pet Your Dog today, you can order it on Amazon by clicking here.

To learn more about the author, Stephanie Calmenson, you can visit her author page by clicking here, or visit here website at

Take This Quiz to Find Out if Your Child is Dog-Safety Savvy

Why Is It So Important to Teach Young Children to Be Safe Around Dogs?

“The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that of the 80,000 Americans seeking medical attention for dog bites each year, half are children. The rate is highest among children aged 5 to 9 years, and that rate increases the younger the child. By the time children turn 12, half of them have been bitten by a dog, the overwhelming majority of which belong to friends or family. Sadly, many injuries may be the result of inappropriate behavior on the part of the child, as most children have not learned how to act around dogs. Teaching children appropriate behavior around dogs can significantly help reduce their chances of being bitten. By learning appropriate ways to act around dogs, children will not only be safer, but will also develop respect and responsibility for their actions. Finally, by understanding how dogs feel in certain situations, children will hone a sense of empathy for the feelings and needs of others.”

– Excerpt from American Humane Association, 2009

Take This Quiz With Your Child to Find Out if He or She is Dog-Safety Savvy:

IMG_1329Part of what we teach children in the How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed program is to become aware of which behaviors are good and kind around dogs, and what kids might be doing that could cause their dog to become scared, nervous, or sad (and often without kids even realizing it). Take this 12 question quiz with your child to find out your child’s behavior could be triggering your dog to defend himself:

Ask your child to answer true or false to each question below:

1. When you meet a new dog, it’s ok to run over and pet them.

2. If a dog chases you and you’re scared, run.

3. It’s all right to pick up a dog you don’t know.

4. You should never pet a dog you see in a car.

5. It’s a good idea to share your toys with your dog.

6. You should always ask before petting a dog you don’t know.

7. Dogs like it if you run, yell, and jump around them.

8. Dogs usually like it if you stare into their eyes.

9. It’s not ok to pull a dog’s ears or tail.

10. You can take your dog’s toys away from him or her whenever you want to.

11. It’s ok to wake up a dog by yelling or poking him or her.

12. If a dog is shaking, licking his lips, and panting, he’s probably feeling stress.


1. When you meet a new dog, it’s ok to run over and pet them.

False: Just like us, dogs have personalities. Some dogs may be shy or sick and might not like to be touched by strangers. Instead of running over and petting a dog you don’t know, first ask its owner if the dog is friendly. If the answer is yes, then ask if you can pet the dog. Put your hand out slowly and gently for the dog to sniff before reaching out to touch them, and then pet them under the chin or on their chest. Reaching out over a dog’s head can be scary for them!

2. If a dog chases you and you’re scared, run.

False: If a dog is chasing you because he wants to play, he will see this as a game if you run away from them. If a dog is chasing you and (s)he seems unfriendly, still don’t run. Instead, act like a tree and be very still and quiet. If the dog still keeps bothering you, roll up into a little ball on the ground and don’t make any noise. Usually dogs will become bored with you and will go away if you do this.

3. It’s all right to pick up a dog you don’t know.

False: Many dogs don’t like to be picked up, especially if (s)he doesn’t know you, is in pain, or is afraid for any reason. It’s best to ask the owner if this is ok before picking up a dog that you don’t know well.

4. You should never pet a dog you see in a car.

True:  Dogs who are in cars can be territorial and therefore may not be friendly to strangers who approach them.

5. It’s a good idea to share your toys with your dog.

False: This can be confusing for your dog. Instead, give him or her toys and stuffed animals of their own, and put your toys away.

6. You should always ask before petting a dog you don’t know.

True: See explanation in #1.

7. Dogs like it if you run, yell, and jump around them.

False: Quick movements can scare dogs, and when dogs are scared, they will defend themselves. One of the ways that dogs defend themselves when they are scared is by fight (growling or biting) or flight (running away). Either way, yelling or jumping around dogs can make them afraid to be around you.

8. Dogs usually like it if you stare into their eyes.

False: Staring into a dog’s eyes can be scary for a dog, while other dogs may see this as a challenge However, if you know a dog really well and they feel comfortable with you, looking into their eyes can be a really nice way to connect with your pet. But if you see your dog beginning to lick his or her lips, pant, and blink a lot, they are feeling nervous and uncomfortable so you should stop.

9. It’s not ok to pull a dog’s ears or tail.

True: This hurts a dog and can make them not trust you.

10. You can take your dog’s toys or food away from him or her whenever you want to.

False: This can be dangerous because your dog will try to protect his food and toys. When a dog is protecting his or her food or toys, one of the ways they do this is by growling or even biting.

11. It’s ok to wake up a dog by yelling or poking him or her.

False: If you frighten a dog, they might bite because they are trying to defend themselves.

12. If a dog is shaking, licking his lips, and panting, he’s probably feeling stress.

True: If you see your dog exhibiting these behaviors, remove him or her from the situation that you think is causing him or her stress. Crowded places, loud noises, and sometimes even other animals around can cause your dog to feel stress. Learning these signals will help your dog to stay calm, happy, and relaxed – and keep you safe!