School Children and Shelter Dogs Learn Cross-Species Communication

Through the Shelter Buddies Reading Program the Humane Society of Missouri partners with local elementary schools to help shelter dogs learn to relate to people in a scary shelter environment. The students are trained to read the shelter dogs’ body language to pick out those that are most anxious. The project is currently being piloted at the St. Louis shelter location.

Shelter Buddies started around Christmas and quickly became a popular volunteer effort for these children. They enter the shelter with blanket and book in hand, select a dog, and begin reading. The scared, anxious dogs learn to feel comfortable around human voices and movements and soon move to the front of their living area and begin interacting more confidently with potential pet parents. Shelter workers report that the dogs quickly learn to greet the kids and appear to look forward to the reading time as their confidence grows.

Each step these shelter dogs take in learning to relate to people increases their chances of adoption. Prospective dog moms and dads want pets who are able to be around other people, children, and/or other pets in the home without fear of a harmful interaction or worrying that the new dog won’t get along.The kids learn empathy and compassion – life skills they’ll use to become caring adults. This innovative program is a win-win for the dogs and the kids.

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