Most dogs that end up in an animal shelter have been beaten and abused by humans who they mistakenly thought would love and care for them. Others were left outside with no food, water, or shelter.
This neglect and poor treatment makes it difficult for them to trust anyone again, so once they are put into a kennel to wait for a new family, they usually cower in a corner. This type of behavior makes it difficult for them to be adopted by someone though. So to help, the Humane Society of Missouri has started a program to gently ease dogs into spending time with humans. It is called the Shelter Buddies Reading Program.
Children who are interested in the program go through specialized training, so they can learn how to look for the signs of fearfulness in a dog. They never enter the kennel with them because this can make a dog feel even more scared. Each child sits outside and reads to them in a soft, gentle tone that draws them near out of curiosity. When this happens, each dog will get a treat as a reward, which reinforces the trusting behavior.
The program offers a valuable solution to the problem of socializing fearful dogs, and it also teaches children about how to be kind to animals. Many of the children who begin reading to the dogs love it so much that they come back to help again. The children have helped so much in increasing the amount of dogs that are adopted that the Humane Society is hoping to add to the number of shelters that offer this program.