Shelter Dogs And Kids Reap The Benefits Of Reading Together

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Deck The Howls

The Humane Society of Missouri, based in St. Louis has an awesome way of building the confidence of both children and dogs: The Shelter Buddies Reading Program.

Volunteers aged 6 to 15 receive ten hours of training in interacting with animals and how to read behavioral clues from their new furry friends, such as anxiety or fear.

Deck The Howls
Source: hsmolovesanimals via YouTube

Program Director Jo Klepacki told The Dodo. “We wanted to help our shy and fearful dogs without forcing physical interaction with them to see the positive effect that [the volunteers] could have on them.”

Dogs that are fearful or shy of new people tend to cower in the corner when prospective owners come to view them, meaning they can be harder to find homes for. The children are encouraged to read aloud to these pooches to get them used to the sound and nearness of humans, and to learn that they do not need to be afraid of them.

After a naptime story or two, the dogs generally become curious and start approaching their reading buddies, where they are rewarded with treats for being so brave!

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Source: hsmolovesanimals via YouTube

“Hearing a child reading can really calm those animals,” says Klepacki. The program even has an effect on the more boisterous dogs at the shelter. The calming influence of a child’s voice seems to help relax them too!

The shelter dogs gradually learn to associate good stuff with humans, making them more confident in approaching and interacting with them. This means that they are more likely to be spotted in the crowd when potential forever families show up!

It’s not just the dogs that benefit from the program. The children improve their reading and communication skills and also learn about how to treat animals with respect.

“It’s encouraging children to develop empathy with animals…They’re seeing fearfulness in these animals, and seeing the positive effect they can have.” Klepacki continues.

Deck The Howls
Source: hsmolovesanimals via YouTube

The children read to the dogs once a month and has been extremely popular. Although the program has only been running for a short while, there has already been results, with some dogs being adopted. There are plans to extend the scheme further to include shelter cats and all of the Humane Society of Missouri shelter locations.

The program is teaching children to empathize and engage with animals at a young age, meaning that there will hopefully be less animals in shelters n the future.

What a fabulous idea!