It’s a sad fact of life. Some shelter dogs just don’t get adopted. Although just about everyone loves a puppy, adult dogs have to win your heart. Dogs that are shy, withdrawn, or overly rambunctious are often overlooked inside a shelter. One shelter in Missouri has found an ingenious way to help dogs socialize, which increases their chances of adoption. It’s a program that has kids reading to dogs.
The Shelter Buddies Reading Program was founded on a very simple idea. But it sends ripples of benifets to the children and shelter dogs alike. The shelter trains children to read to the dogs.
“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.”
“Kids age 6 to 15 can sign up for the program online, after which they are trained how to read a dog’s body language to tell if they are stressed out or anxious. Those pets, say Klepacki, are the ones most in need of special attention.”
According to The Dodo report, the kids are encouraged to sit in front of a dog’s kennel with a book and just read to the shy canine.
“Ideally that shy and fearful dog will approach and show interest. If so, the kids reenforce 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”
The report goes on to say that even the high-energy dogs are helped by the kids reading to them. It has a calming affect.
“It is incredible, the response we’ve seen in these dogs.” Jo Klepacki
To participate in the program a child must complete the entire training program. The 10 training teaches the children to work with the animals (they are under supervision) and the children learn to read the animals body language. After their training is complete they can come with their parents anytime to read to the dogs.
“It’s encouraging children to develop empathy with animals. It’s a peaceful, quiet exercise. They’re seeing fearfulness in these animals, and seeing the positive affect they can have,” said Klepacki. “It encourages them to look at things from an animals perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives.”
The shelter reports that the reading program is a huge success. Children are signing up like mad. Dogs are having much more success in finding their forever homes, and children get to practice their reading skills.
Wouldn’t this be a wonderful project to help your child, or grandchild, who is a reluctant reader overcome their shyness about reading aloud? Not to mention create an opportunity for bonding.