These kids are helping these shy shelter dogs with an innovative program, it’s call the Shelter Buddies Reading Program! This has already proved to be a great program and is make a huge difference for the animals here at the Humane Society of Missouri.
With this program, it helps the dogs to become comfortable with people and interact as the children read to them, helping them over come fear and anxiety. It also teaches the kids a sense of empathy with 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 explained. We launched the program last Christmas, but now we offer it once a month.”
At the age of 6 to 15 can go online and enroll in the program. They are trained how to read a dog’s body language to tell if they are stressed out or anxious. These animals are the ones that need the most special attention.
The volunteers are trained to sit in front of a shy dog’s kennel with a book and read to them.
Ideally a 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 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 They are more likely to get adopted if they are visible and interacting, rather than hiding in the back and withdrawn.”
Dogs that are high energy have shown improvement from being read to. Of course the timid dogs have done very well and benefit from the program as well.
“Hearing a child reading can really calm those animals,” Klepacki said. “It is incredible, the response we’ve seen in these dogs.”
When a child has completed their 10 hours of training with the animals under supervised care, they can come back with their parents any time to sit and 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.”
Although this is a new program, it has proven to be successful in helping the dogs find their forever homes!
Mostly, all the kids are excited about getting involved and being apart of the dog’s future happiness!
Their goal is to expand the reading program to all of the Humane Society of Missouri’s shelters and to cats as well!
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