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Need a Reading Buddy? These 5 Dog Breeds Are the Best Listeners!

The Labrador Retriever, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and three other breeds earn the bookworm crown!

Lynn M. Hayner  |  Jan 6th 2017


As a child when I read to my Miniature Schnauzer, Holly, she’d obligingly cock her head when plot-lines took a twist. Today some dogs are listening to young bookworms not only at home, but in schools and libraries. Children improve their skills by reading aloud to dogs in programs such as Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) in Salt Lake City, and the Bow Wow Reading program in Partnership with Austin Dog Alliance in Austin. While any individual dog may shine as a library listener, these five breeds maintain they’re exceptional book buddies. How about reading their viewpoints aloud to your dog, noting his reaction? Our family’s Australian Shepherd, Cooper, is apparently a dog of action, not words. He trotted off when he realized I wasn’t reading about new herding techniques.

1. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever, courtesy Al Weber

Labrador Retriever, courtesy Al Weber

Chickens shouldn’t praise their own soup, but I’m about to brag. Although I’m delighted with my breed’s companionship popularity, I’m especially honored with our service record. We can guide the vision-impaired, offer comfort to individuals with PTSD, or help autistic children. We also offer a fine audience for early readers. Adaptable and hardy, we were bred to work with fisherman off the Labrador Sea shores. The Brits later perfected our talents for hunting and retrieving. But despite my sportiness, I’m content to sit still for a long story, especially after a good playtime. And while we may be smart enough to know when a child mispronounces a word (we rank in the top intelligent breeds!), we’re far too kind-hearted to judge or snicker.

2. Australian Terrier

Australian Terrier courtesy Alexa Samarotto and Claudia Coleman

Australian Terrier courtesy Alexa Samarotto, Claudia Coleman, Australian Terrier Club  of America

I’ll risk throwing some beloved cousins under the bus and go on record as saying I believe many Terriers may be too busy (or bossy!) for quiet reading sessions. We Aussies, however, are a tad less independent and a smidgen more merry and cooperative than many Terriers. After all, we were developed as companions as well as ranch working dogs in the rugged outback. We kept barns clear of snakes and mice, and then cheerfully accompanied ranchers with chores. Our gracious nature and responsiveness means we’re an awesome choice for reading buddies. We only weigh 15 to 20 pounds, so we’re readily approachable, even by cautious children. Now let’s talk about book selections: We’re mellow, but we are Terriers, with an affinity for mice endeavors. Perhaps we can read Stuart Little or Mickey Mouse selections?

3. Newfoundland

Newfoundland, courtesy Newfoundland Club of Seattle

Newfoundland, courtesy Newfoundland Club of Seattle

Peaceable and confident, we’re rightfully classified in the working group. We were developed on Newfoundland to work alongside fishermen, enduring icy-cold water. A renowned swimmer, we’re also celebrated for our patience with children. If you’ve read J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, you’ll remember that the children’s nanny, Nana, was a Newfoundland (not a Saint Bernard, as often portrayed in film). Weighing in around 130 pounds, we’re a super-sized reading buddy with a good-hearted acceptance for children’s liveliness. While we may occasionally drool on a book (sorry!), we’re pleased to offer children extra practice with their reading and oral skills. The process of petting my big soft body calms children as they read too. And returning to my nautical theme, may I suggest we read something like Newfoundland: Water Rescuer?

4. French Bulldog

French Bulldog courtesy Deb Stevenson

French Bulldog courtesy Deb Stevenson

Who better to choose for a reading chum than me, the agreeable, affectionate Frenchie? I would delight in making children feel confident about their reading. Bred from English Bulldogs, we Frenchies were developed mainly for friendship. I’m open and social not only with my own family, but also with new friends coming to read. Now don’t let my serious expression mislead you; I have a silly side that children will especially enjoy. I’m also reliably kicked-back most of the time.  And while I’m an avid napper, I’ll stay awake to bask in the little children’s smiles. I admit I might doze off if they read Goodnight Moon. Have you read Soaring Soren? We Frenchies dream big!

5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel courtesy Al Weber

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel courtesy Al Weber

With our calm, soft, and generous nature, we’re exemplary reading partners. Throughout history we’ve brought rays of sunshine to our families, as well as warmed their laps and beds. Our namesake, the merry monarch King Charles II, kept us at his side even during meetings and royal portrait sessions. With our sporting spaniel ancestry, we appreciate exercise, but our focus today is companionship. Along with bringing joy to our families, we work happily as therapy dogs, brightening the days of new friends in hospitals, schools, and senior living communities. I especially love accompanying my handler to the library, sharing cozy reading time with little ones. Few breeds can match our patience:  we’ll even listen to every last word of Green Eggs and Ham!