To see two friends mutually needing each other is a beautiful sight indeed.
A training program at the Humane Society of Missouri is pairing timid, untrusting shelter dogs with kids who are learning to read, for the mutual benefit of both. And it has seen some remarkable results.
The organization’s Shelter Buddies Program provides these kids, aged 6 to 15, with a non-judgmental audience to practice their reading in front of. Meanwhile, these frightened dogs, who are often found cowering in the back of the kennel, shy of human interaction, get a chance to acclimatize themselves to humans in a low-stress situation.
We ❤️ this PAWsome article from The Dodo about our Book Buddies Reading Program! Limited spots remain for upcoming training sessions – register your Kind Kids today! www.hsmo.org/education
“We started this for two reasons,” said JoEllyn Klepacki, the assistant director of education at the Missouri Humane Society, in an interview with ABC News. “Dogs in a shelter environment exhibit a lot of signs of anxiety and show stress signals, so we wanted to do something to comfort them, and we have a lot of children in our area who are really engaged and they ask, ‘How can I help? How can I make a difference?’”
It’s been proven that the timidest dogs that tend to avoid human contact are also the least likely to be adopted into a forever home. Such dogs are the most in need of attention, but it has to be delivered under the right conditions. Giving them a chance to successfully warm up to humans is giving them hope for a better life.
#KindKids from Captain Elementary's 4th Grade class learned about HSMO and read books to our shelter dogs this week ❤️
“These dogs, if you had seen them before the kids sat down, these were the dogs who would stay at the back of their kennel, scared,” said Klepacki. “The goal is to get the dog to come to the front of the kennel by the time they finish their book, or a few books.
“We know that dogs that approach the kennel front get adopted more quickly, so they are helping these dogs get a home.”
Meanwhile, aside from the extra reading practice they are afforded, the kids learn a valuable lesson in empathy for their K-9 companions. They are taught to recognize the stress signals that dogs exhibit and understand how they communicate through body language.
The shelter staff have observed that the dogs often like to approach the children as they read, an indication that the method works, which Klepacki attests to.
***This event is full!***Calling all Kind Kids! "Deck the Howls" for HSMO shelter pets on Dec. 12! Read holiday…
“Hearing a child reading can really calm those animals,” she told The Dodo. “It is incredible, the response we’ve seen in these dogs.”
The kids are instructed to give the dogs treats when they come to the front of the kennel as positive reinforcement for the good behavior. They are allowed to bring their own books or borrow the shelter’s own animal-related literature.
After completing a 10-hour training program working with the dogs under supervision, the children are then free to come back to the shelter with their parents anytime to sit and read with the lonesome animals.
The program has been hugely successful. Klepacki told The Dodo that the program has helped the dogs find adoptive homes. Meanwhile, kids who are excited to join in the four-legged buddy program are signing up in droves. If the success continues, Klepacki says, they plan to introduce the program to all of the Humane Societies in Missouri.