The Top 10 Ways Dogs Help Kids Learn Kindness, Responsibility, and Safety around Animals

Many people have asked me the question: “So exactly how does your program teach children lessons in compassion, responsibility, and safety around dogs?”

Although my usual preference is to write articles and stories on my blog, I decided that perhaps it was time to create a video that showcases the top 10 lessons children learn about humane education during this program. In this video I share how each lesson is taught, highlighting engaging children’s literature that helps children to learn each concept, and fun and creative activities to reinforce each skill.

But for all of you readers out there who prefer the printed word to a video screen, I’ve also included an overview of my top 10 list below for your enjoyment. Happy viewing and reading!


The Top 10 Lessons Children Learn about Kindness, Responsibility, and Safety around Dogs

  1. How to meet a new dog safely.
  2. Behaviors that are ok and not ok around dogs.
  3. How to spend quality time with their pets.
  4. How to read a dog’s body language.
  5. What a shelter dog is.
  6. To think big about how they can help animals.
  7. What a service dog is.
  8. That dogs have special needs, too.
  9. How to love themselves the way their dogs do.
  10. What it means to “foster” and “adopt” a dog.

To learn more about this program and how you can implement it at your school, please visit today!


Dr. Lori

Featured Book: Maggie’s Second Chance

51Sz8IatmNL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_If you have ever been lucky enough to have a rescue dog rescue you right back, this book is for you. This is an incredible story about a beautiful Lab mix named Maggie who is left behind when her family moves. It illustrates, with heartbreaking images and text, the sad reality that so many dogs face when the family they love turns their back on them. Maggie is left alone in the icy, dark house with no blanket, food or water.

When she is rescued (thankfully), it is clear to the animal services workers that Maggie is pregnant. She is taken to a place where she gives birth to her puppies, is fed, and is given what little love busy volunteers are able to find time to give her. But because she was black and difficult to see in photos, she didn’t get adopted.

But Maggie’s luck changes when a young boy sees her picture in the newspaper and asks the question, “What happens if Maggie doesn’t find a home?” When he realizes that Maggie would likely be euthanized, he engages his classmates and teacher in creating a plan to propose an animal shelter at the next town council meeting. When the plan passes, the entire class gets involved to help. Maggie is rescued at the very last minute as she finds a new, and hopefully temporary home, at the new shelter.

This is a wonderful book to help open children’s eyes to ways they can get involved in helping animals in their own community, and may inspire classrooms of children from across the nation to do their small part. Just imagine the impact we could make – and how many dogs’ lives we could save – if everyone did just one small thing.

Thank you, Nancy Furstinger and Joel Hyatt, for such an inspirational and meaningful book for children and their adults.

Teachers and parents, if you are looking for a wonderful addition to your library, this is it!

To order your copy of Maggie’s Second Chance, just click here. If you would like to read more books by this author, please visit Nancy’s homepage here:

Just a little update: I contacted Nancy Furstinger to let her know how much her work has impacted the 125 children who participated in the pilot of this program, and I wanted to share her response with you! She wrote that Maggie’s character was inspired by the real life story of a dog named “Jolly,” and the class of fourth grade students featured in the book created this incredible organization, “Dawgs n Texas,” which has saved over 7,000 animals to date! To read more about these inspirational students and how they are making a difference, “One animal at a time, One child at a time, One day at a time,” just click here.

What One Teacher Said that Surprised and Thrilled Me

IMG_1346When I first designed this program, How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in the Classroom, my intention was to help children become stronger, more confident readers while learning to be kind, safe, and compassionate towards dogs and other animals. We are now rounding the corner to enter our sixth week of the program, and on Friday I had a lunch meeting with the teachers to check in with them and see how everything was going. They told me that “The kids absolutely love this program” and that things were going really well. I was happy to hear all of this, of course, but something one teacher said next took me by surprise.

51tej6UL-lL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_This teacher looked me straight in the eye and said, “Well, this program has certainly taught me to be kinder to my dog.” I looked at her. “What do you mean?” I asked. She explained that she had just taught Lesson 5, which features a wonderful book called Before You Were Mine by Maribeth Boelts. This book tells the story of a little boy’s wonderings about what kind of a life his dog had before his family took him home from the shelter.

The teacher explained that she too had adopted a dog from a shelter, and that he had all kinds of undesirable behaviors that frustrated and annoyed her. But then she explained that not only this book, but all of the lessons the children had been learning, had given her new insight into her dog’s behaviors and gave her some context for why, perhaps, her dog didn’t behave in ways that we would hope for. Sadly, especially when an animal has been abused, the fear and trauma from the abuse can lead to excessive chewing, barking, and other anxiety-related behaviors that are sometimes transferred (often temporarily) into their new home. This is not unlike adopting a child who has spent time in foster care and may suffer from separation anxiety or have other special needs. (But certainly, the many benefits of adopting a dog from a shelter outweigh the risks – most of these dogs are already house-trained, and are through the challenging “puppy phase” of their development). Having empathy for what so many of these poor animals have been through before they come into your home can often mean the difference between responding with kindness and love or anger and punishment (which just makes things worse), when your dog exhibits some of these behaviors.

As this teacher explained the shift in her understanding about the life and “special needs” of some shelter dogs, I began to think about the 125 or more parents who have been participating in weekly “BoneWork” (homework) assignments with their children each week during this program. Although I believed that this program would help children to become increasingly compassionate around dogs, I hadn’t really considered the impact it would have on the adults in these students’ lives. It is my hope that these activities and challenges have inspired conversations between children and their parents at home in which these children, now armed with increased knowledge and insight about dogs, can help their parents to learn to interact with increased empathy and compassion around their family pets, just as this teacher was learning. This is especially important because parents of children this age are generally the primary care-givers for family pets.

Stay tuned and I will be able to share more once I send home surveys for the parents to complete at the end of this program (in only a few more weeks) to find out what their learning and their experience has been!