The Shelter Buddies Reading Program is an innovative initiative that aims to make dogs living in shelters more desirable for adoption. The dogs receive comfort, reduced anxiety, and improvements in confidence when they are read to on a regular basis.
The children that read to the dogs benefit from improved literacy and the development of empathy. Children from the ages of 6 to 15 are eligible for the program. Each child sits on a blanket in front of their dog’s kennel and reads aloud to the dog. The children are trained to read the body language of each dog to determine when they are nervous or anxious. The dogs experiencing emotional distress are read to the most.
In an information video about the program Jo Klepacki, a program director, says the goal is to help shy and fearful dogs become more comfortable without the use of forced physical interaction. The ideal response to the children’s reading is for the shy and fearful dog to approach the front of the kennel and show an interest in the reading. When this happens, the children are instructed to give the dog a treat to reinforce the behavior.
Klepacki says the dogs are more likely to find a home when they are friendly and interactive with visitors to the shelter versus cowering in the corner of their kennel when people approach.
High-energy dogs have also shown that reading has a positive effect on them. The reading successfully calms the dogs so that their energy levels are more manageable. Klepacki explains the effect the reading has on the dogs is unbelievable. The children taking part in the program are required to spend 10 hours training for the duties. Once training is complete, the children are allowed to return to the shelter, accompanied by a parent, anytime they desire to read to the dogs.
Klepacki acknowledges the obvious benefits to the children as students but explains the program offers much more to the children. She says the students can see the initial fearfulness in many of the dogs only to observe the positive effects their reading has on the dogs. Klepacki explains this empathy developed towards the dogs can benefit the children in all aspects of their lives.
Klepacki says the program has been successful at finding homes for the dogs since its inception. She says the children in the area love the program and the number of sign-ups is unbelievable.
Klepacki says if the program continues the success that has been realized so far she has plans to extend it in a grand fashion. She says she wants the program to become active at every shelter maintained by the Humane Society in Missouri. She says she would also like to see the program service cats as well as dogs.
What are your thoughts on the reading program? Are you surprised at how well the dogs respond to the reading? Send this article to all the people you know. It will be a favorite for many, especially the dog lovers in your life.