The Humane Society of Missouri has created a program where kids are trained to read to dogs as a way of making them ready to go to their forever home.
Through the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, kids are helping shy shelter dogs to get out of their shells. According to The Dodo, this program also benefits the children as it instills a greater sense of empathy in them. “We wanted to help our shy and fearful dog without forcing physical interaction with them to see the positive effect that could have on them,” program director Jo Klepacki told The Dodo. “We launched the program last Christmas, but now we offer it once a month.”
Children ages 6-15 are encouraged to sign up for the program online, and they will learn to read a dog’s body language to tell if they are anxious or stressed. Those stressed animals will be in the most need of special attention.
“Ideally that shy and fearful dog will approach and show interest. If so, the kids reinforce that behavior by tossing them a treat,” said Klepacki. “What this is also doing is to bring the animals to the front in case potential adopters come through. They are more likely to get adopted if they are approaching and interacting, rather than hiding in the back or cowering.”
Klepacki has seen a positive response in these dogs saying that “hearing a child reading can really calm those animals.” The training program is 10 hours, and after they learn to work with the animals under supervision, they can return anytime with their parents and sit and read to the dogs.
The program is “encouraging children to develop empathy with animals. It’s a peaceful, quiet exercise. They’re seeing fearfulness in these animals, and seeing the positive effect they can have,” said Klepacki. “It encourages them to look at things from an animal’s perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives.”
Plus, this reading program has been very successful in helping dogs find forever homes. It’s a win-win for the stray animals and the kids who helped them!
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[Featured Image Credit: YouTube- hsmolovesanimals]