Shelter staff want nothing more than to rehabilitate and find homes for all of the dogs they rescue. The biggest hurdle for a lot of these animals is the fear they harbor after prior bad experiences. Its really hard to rehome a timid dog. Everyone sees the canine ambassadors of good-will that stand front and center with a big smile and a wagging tail. A reserved dog who shies away from visitors is so often overlooked by those looking for companions, but what to do about it? The Humane society of Missouri has come up with a program that works to help the shy pups and benefits more than just the dogs.
The Humane Society of Missouri has developed the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, which teaches kids from 6 to 15 to read the body language of shelter dogs and help those who seem stressed to settle down. If a dog seems shy or nervous the children settle in front of that dog’s kennel and read out loud to him. If the dog begins to warm up, the children reward the desired behavior with a food treat.
This calm exposure to humans coupled with positive reinforcement helps the dogs to become more confident. Shy dogs become more confident around the children, and potentially the families that come to adopt them. Dogs that have a little excess energy settle down. Calmed by the children’s voices as they read. The children get to practice reading for someone who isn’t going to judge how fast they read or if they mispronounce a word now and then.
As the winter holidays approached the Shelter held an event it called Deck the Howls. Kids in the Shelter Buddies Reading Program made special handmade kennel cards to help their reading buddies get adopted. The kids read books with holiday themes to the dogs and brought a festive feeling to the shelter’s halls.
I think this program is something that should be rolled out across the country. The benefits for the dogs and the children involved could be so great if every shelter participated. What do you think?