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Children read their favourite books to comfort shy shelter dogs

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha
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At a dogs shelter in Missouri, America, is a scene that will warm the cockles of the iciest heart.

Children are perching themselves outside kennels and reading their favourite books to shy or fearful canines in hope of comforting them. 

"We wanted to help our shy and fearful dog[s] without forcing physical interaction with them to see the positive effect that could have on them," Jo Klepacki, program director at Humane Society of Missouri, tells The Dodo.

The volunteers, aged 6-14, are asked to take a 10-hour course that helps them learn to read a dog's body language and look for signs of stress or nervousness. They are then encouraged to approach those dogs and soothe them through their reading.

Timid and apprehensive dogs were found to come out of their shells, while more energetic dogs were relaxed by the children's voices. 

"Hearing a child reading can really calm those animals," Klepacki said. "It is incredible, the response we've seen in these dogs."

"What this is also doing is to bring the animals to the front in case potential adopters come through."

"They are more likely to get adopted if they are approaching and interacting, rather than hiding in the back or cowering"

Reading to shelter dogs

A young boy reads to one of the shelter dogs

The success of the first session at Christmas has led to a monthly recurring program which can now be booked online. The January event was filled within days. 

"It's encouraging children to develop empathy with animals," adds Klepacki. "It's a peaceful, quiet exercise."

"They're seeing fearfulness in these animals, and seeing the positive affect they can have. It encourages them to look at things from an animals perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and peoplein their lives."

Watch footage from one of the reading sessions below. It'll soothe any stress right out of you.

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Sejal Kapadia Pocha

Sejal Kapadia Pocha covers stories about everything from women’s issues to cult foods. She describes herself as a balance between Hermione and Luna Lovegood.

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