Meet Katja, RDPL’s Facility Dog In Training!

We are so excited to introduce RDPL's new Facility Dog (in training!), Katja! When visiting the library, you may see Katja, so we want to make sure you know what to expect and why she is part of our library family. 

Who is Katja?

Katja is a Chocolate Labrador Retriever who loves cuddles, walks in a dog park, and her dog sister.

She has yet to meet a vegetable she doesn't love! Katja takes all her correspondence through her personal library people: Tatiana (ttilly@rdpl.org) and Karen (kdrok@rdpl.org).

What is a service dog?

There are many different types of service dogs. Each type has a different job to do for their handlers, helping them to navigate the world successfully. Katja is a Facility Service Dog.

What will a Facility Service Dog do in the library?

Red Deer Public Library has been using therapy and service dog volunteers in a number of reading programs over the years. Reading Tails, Sit, Stay, Read, and the Reading Pals programs used service dogs to help kids become better readers. However, there has always been a larger demand for these programs than we could meet.

RDPL has the opportunity to train Katja to be the resident facility service dog who will be assisting in a number of library reading programs for all ages, and we can't wait!

Why read to a dog?

Reading to dogs can boost reading skills in children as well as help with emotional and social skills. Programs in both school and public library settings are gaining in popularity because of these many benefits!

Reading Skills

  • Reading to dogs gives children essential extra practice with reading and oral skills.
  • Some children feel that reading becomes less difficult when reading to a dog and are more willing to read aloud at school.
  • Reading to dogs has motivated some children to start reading more at home, especially to their pets.
  • Children want to try reading more difficult books as they go through the reading to dogs program.
  • Kids feel more confident when answering reading related questions.
  • Research studies (see "Research Shows" below) have shown that reading fluency can increase after participating in a reading to dogs program.

Emotional Benefits

  • Children enjoy the program and think it's fun!  They look forward to coming to the library because a dog is waiting for them.
  • Children feel comfortable reading to dogs because dogs don't judge if a word is mispronounced.
  • The process of petting dogs can help with motor skills and is also known to be a calming factor that can reduce stress, blood pressure, and anxiety.
  • Some children feel nervous when reading aloud and reading with a dog immediately calms them down.
  • Kids feel safe when sitting with a dog from the program.
  • Reading to dogs boosts the confidence levels of struggling readers and gives children an increased sense of pride.
  • A child can feel like a leader by turning the book toward the dog, reading aloud, and pretending (s)he is the teacher.  
  • Children feel a sense of accomplishment by reading an entire book.
  • If a child has experienced a recent loss of a family member or pet, reading to a dog can help bring them comfort.

Social Benefits

  • Children learn to take turns while waiting for their chance to read to the dog.
  • Children can learn kindness and empathy by petting the dogs, and cuddling with them.
  • Communication skills can be improved by practicing reading aloud.
  • Participants enjoy talking with each other and sharing books they have read.

More research is found at http://readingtodogs.weebly.com/research.html

Katja's training

Katja is enrolled in the owner-based training program with Aspen Service Dogs, opens a new window, an Alberta Government Qualified Service Dog Organization. Katja regularly attends training sessions with the best service dog trainers from Aspen Service Dogs.

Where will I see Katja?

You will start seeing Katja in all of RDPL branches now. She is learning to be on her best behaviour with the public and in all library settings. If you have questions, you are very welcome to ask her handler, but please, do not approach Katja without asking her handler for permission first!

Katja has her own Instagram account, opens a new window and you are welcome to follow her training journey there!

As much as we love all furry friends, please remember that only card-carrying Alberta licensed Service Dogs are permitted inside the library!

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