The Humane Society of Missouri has come up with a great idea–reading to dogs! The Shelter Buddies Reading Program has been under way for over a year, with children making monthly visits to read to the dogs there. Not only does the reading seem to calm the dogs, but it helps prepare the dogs for a forever home. The shy or fearful dogs can enjoy a human interaction without being touched, and the program director, Jo Klepacki, has seen a positive effect on the dogs. The children practice their reading skills and learn about compassion for dogs and other animals.
Kids ages 6 to 16 can sign up for the program. The children are introduced to understanding a dog’s body language so they can tell if a dog is anxious, stressed, or relaxed, as the more stressed dogs are the ones most in need of interaction. After this, children sit in front of a shy dog’s kennel, and simply read a story to him. Kids can toss a treat to the dog if he approaches and shows an interest in them, which then makes it helpful for the dog to be adopted. Klepacki points out that the energetic dogs are also benefiting from being read to, noting a calming effect. Kids who complete 10 hours in the program reading to the dogs are then invited to come with their parents whenever they would like.
Klepacki says “Seeing the positive effects of reading to the dogs encourages the kids to look at things from the animal’s perspective. That helps them better connect with the animals and the people in their lives.”
Today is my mom’s birthday, and she taught first graders how to read for 35 years, and she still helps kids learn to read today. I encourage all of you to take some time to read to your dog, cat, bird, rabbit or horse. My horses especially liked to hear me read to them, finding it as soothing as I found the sounds of them chewing their hay. Reading is one more way to build a connection with your pet!