February 25, 2016 by The Dog Rules
I think the idea of having children read aloud to Shelter dogs is absolutely brilliant. Follow the link to learn more about this program in a Shelter in Missouri where children aged 6 to 15 are taught to read a shelter dog’s body language and sit on the floor in front of the kennel to read to the dog. If the dog shows interest, the child tosses him/her treats as reinforcement. In this way the dog becomes acclimated to the sound of children’s voices; thus helping prepare them for family life.
From a dog handling point of view, the children sit with their side to the dog so as not to be threatening in any way to a shy, reserved or nervous dog. This would be part of the teaching of the children to make them understand that this is less scary to a nervous pooch. Helping the children understand what may or may not cause a dog to be threatened helps to ensure that they do not inadvertently set themselves up for a dog bite when encountering a strange dog in a less controlled setting that the Shelter. The more kids learn about how and how not to approach a dog the better for both sides.
Most kids are drawn to dogs and don’t have any idea how to approach or interact appropriately when they meet a dog. Many Shelter dogs are not considered suitable to go to homes with smaller/younger children because they are not accustomed to hearing and being around children. Young children often move quickly and with rather jerky movements (compared to older kids and adults) and this can be startling to a dog unfamiliar with them.
At the Shelter where I presently volunteer we are able to sit in the kennel and read or just “hang out” with a dog. And we are adults. This doesn’t give the dog a chance to become used to the higher sounds of a child’s voice, their scent, their movement. We adults also frequently have other things on our minds and in our schedules and may not be able to fully involve ourselves in “just being” with the dogs.
In addition to the benefits for the dogs there is the benefit to the children. If they struggle to read aloud because they are concerned about how well they read the dogs are nonjudgmental. They don’t care how well you read or even if you understand what it is that you are reading. They just appreciate the companionship.
It seems to me that this type of program can benefit both kids and dogs. What’s not to like about that?