The pups over at The Humane Society of Missouri are benefitting from a new and innovative idea called the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, but they’re not the only ones getting something out of this program – the kids are learning a lot, too!
How the program works is pretty simple – they are training kids to read to the dogs as a way to prepare the dogs for being adopted into their forever homes and the kids are gaining a true sense of empathy while reading to them and interacting with 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.”
Kids can sign up for the program online, which accepts kids from ages 6-15, but first they must complete training on how to read a dog’s body language. This will help the kids know when a dog is stressed out or experiencing anxiety. Those are the pups that need special attention.
The little volunteers sit outside of the dog’s kennels and simply read books to them out loud. This may not seem like a huge deal, but this will help the dogs in many ways. When dogs that are shy or scared approach the front of the kennel to show interest in the child reading to them, the kids will notice their behavior and throw a treat in for them.
This helps the dogs by bringing them to the front of the kennel to interact with others, instead of hiding in the back of the kennel. People coming through the shelter to adopt a new pet rarely go after the skittish dog squatting in the back of the kennel.
In addition, the dogs are calmed by the sounds of the child reading to them. Brave and outgoing dogs are also benefiting from the program in the same way the scared and frightful dogs are.
After the child has completed the 10 hour training course, they can come back anytime to read to the dogs with their parents.
“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.”
Since the program launched a short time ago, it has been very successful in assisting the dogs in finding their forever homes. Also, it’s been a huge hit with the kids and they’ve had a ton of sign-ups for the program.
Check out the video below and SHARE with your animal-loving friends and family on Facebook!
[SOURCE: The Dodo]