Dogs that cower in the corner take longer to find a forever home than friendly animals that approach shelter visitors gently. To encourage the behaviors that increase the chances of adoption of shy dogs, the Humane Society of Missouri has introduced the Shelter Buddies Reading Program. The program, which offers help without forcing physical interaction, has already made a difference, according to director Jo Klepacki. The average stay for a dog that comes to a shelter is 12 weeks. However, dogs with special needs, such as these shy pets, can remain in the shelter for four or more times longer. In some shelters, hard-to-adopt dogs stay two years or longer.
The Shelter Buddies Reading Program lets children ages 6 to 15 sign up online and take special classes that teach the understanding of animal body language and how to tell when an animal is feeling tense. The volunteers then sit in front of the pet’s kennel and read. Over time, most of the pets become interested in what is happening and approach the front gate. The program trains the readers to reward such positive behavior with a treat.
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For high-energy dogs, the reading program has a calming effect. The high energy level is another reason some dogs are less adoptable.
The program is also beneficial to children. Therapy Dogs International has a program that brings dogs to libraries to encourage reading. Children that have difficulty reading aloud benefit from a nonjudgmental listener. Practicing their reading skills makes children more confident and helps them enjoy the skill more.
Shelters are filled with dogs that need forever homes. While some of these dogs may have special issues, such as the ones in the reading program, they need a loving family nevertheless. Read more stories, like the story of Reecie, about dogs that needed some extra love to make a great pet.
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