26th Feb 2016
At a dogs shelter in Missouri, America, a new initiative has started up to benefit neglected animals who need extra TLC. In a programme to benefit both youngsters and animals, children are perching themselves outside kennels and reading their favourite books to shy or fearful canines hoping to?comfort them.
“We wanted to help our shy and fearful dogs without forcing physical interaction with them to see the positive effect that could have on them,” said Jo Klepacki,?programme director at?Humane Society of Missouri.
Entitled the ‘Shelter Buddies Reading Program,’ the organisers told The Dodo that the unique initiative is already making a big difference to the animals. It’s premise is relatively simple: they?train kids to read to dogs as a way of readying them for homes, all while instilling a greater sense of empathy in the youngsters, too.
Doesn’t it all sound too adorable for words?
The volunteers, aged 6-14, are asked to take a 10-hour course that helps them learn to read a dog’s body language and look for signs of stress or nervousness.?They are trained how to read a dog’s body language to tell if they are stressed out or anxious. Those pets, say Klepacki, are the ones most in need of special attention, and so, the eager readers dutifully read their favourite stories to soothe the distressed pets.
This is all done to prep the dogs for their future homes. “Ideally that shy and fearful dog will approach and show interest. If so, the kids reenforce that behavior by tossing them a treat,” said Klepacki. “What this is also 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 approaching and interacting, rather than hiding in the back or cowering.”
The timid dogs, as well as the more energetic, also benefit from this.”Hearing a child reading can really calm those animals,” Klepacki said. “It is incredible, the response we’ve seen in these dogs.”
And both the pets and the little ones are reaping the benefits of the scheme.”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,” added?Klepacki. “It encourages them to look at things from an animals perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives.”
Many of these dogs have now found new homes and organisers say sign up has been through the roof since the initiative was launched in December 2015.
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