An innovative new idea, called the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, train kids to read to dogs as a way of readying them for forever homes, is already making a huge difference for animals at the Humane Society of Missouri.
The Shelter Buddies Reading Program was designed to help our shelter dogs become more adoptable. Reading to the dogs helps to bring comfort to and reduce the anxiety of shelter pets, and it nurtures empathy in children. Participants sit outside of the dog’s kennel and read to them.
Reading helps shy dogs learn to relax around people and teaches high energy dogs that calm behavior is desirable. When children tell stories to the dogs, it also helps them develop their own reading skills!
Since last Christmas, kids who are 6-15 years old have had the opportunity to sign up for the reading program online and it’s now offered once a month. They then take a 10-hour course that helps them learn to read a dog’s body language, so they can see if the animal is stressed or nervous. If they see such a dog in the kennel, the children are encouraged to sit outside the shy canine’s pen and read to them. Even dogs with a ton of energy have found these events to be beneficial, since the children’s voices tend to relax them. The kids’ parents are even welcome bring them back to the shelter anytime, as long as they are supervised.
“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. “Ideally that shy and fearful dog will approach and show interest. If so, the kids reenforce that behavior by tossing them a treat.”