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Petting a dog is soothing for both giver and receiver. It can lower your heart rate, calm you down, improve your mood and reduce stress. Researchers call it the "pet effect." It's no wonder that dogs "volunteer" in assisted living and nursing homes, children's hospitals, libraries and schools.

The latest is the dog listener. "The philosophy is simple," Rachel Rodriguez said in a recent CNN article. "Children who are just learning to read often feel judged or intimidated by classmates and adults. But reading to a dog isn't so scary. It won't judge, it won't get impatient, it won't laugh or correct if the child makes a mistake. In a nutshell, dogs are simply excellent listeners. And for shy kids or slow readers, that can make all the difference." The dogs also can provide confidence.

Although some dogs are trained as a registered therapy dog, your own dog could become your child's listener. Help them find a comfortable spot together. Let your child know that some dogs can still hear you when their eyes are closed. Happy reading with Fido!

Thanks to the readers of this column for submitting your favorite kid tips this week.

Pets adjust to newborns

Household pets can have just as much difficulty adjusting to a new baby in their home as an older sibling does. Parents can help a dog or cat adjust to a new baby by placing a blanket that has the baby's smell on it in the pet's sleeping area, preferably a day before the baby comes home. When the baby arrives home, allow the pet to gently sniff the baby as you're holding him carefully in your arms. Also, make an effort to give your pet some quality attention in the presence of the baby, thereby creating some positive associations between the pet and baby. - P.F., Minneapolis

Remedy for coughing

Someone told me that honey works better than cough medicines. Is there any truth in that? - J.T., Oakland, Calif.

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Note: I found the information that you were looking for. Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine discovered that a small dose of buckwheat honey before bedtime improved cough symptoms and helped children sleep. Remember that children should never eat honey until they are 1 year old. (T.M.)

'Mommy, I wet my bed'

Hearing this comment at 3 a.m. signifies the beginning of a 20- to 30-minute routine: taking off the wet sheets, remaking the bed and cleaning up the child. The worst part is remaking the bed. To avoid this step, I place two complete sets of sheets and rubber pads on the bed before my child goes to sleep. After a bedwetting accident, I remove the wet sheets and the rubber pad under them, leaving the second layer of dry sheets and rubber pad on the bed. The child gets to go back to bed immediately, making it easier for him to go back to sleep. - A.J., Chico, Calif.

Quiet morning time

When our kids were younger, my husband frequently took them out for breakfast on Saturday morning, while I slept or just took my time getting up and having some quiet time. After breakfast, they usually stopped at one of the parks so I could have at least one to two hours to myself. - J.G., Devils Lake, N.D.

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