NEW! YouTube Channel to Support Readers at Home

Although How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in the Classroom is able to make a great difference with increasing reading engagement and teaching children the tools they need to read at school, sometimes kids just don’t have the level of support we’d like them to at home in order to practice developing skills.

That’s why we have designed and launched the NEW How Dogs Help Kids YouTube Channel, which features a weekly video to reinforce and support each lesson within the program, while also providing FREE reading instruction and support for all kids at home.

In addition to the weekly featured video, we will be releasing read-alouds of favorite books we feature throughout the program, as well as Quick Literacy Tips for parents so they can continue to work with and support their children in reading and writing at home.

Part One of this series, Dozer in Space, is designed to support the 2nd grade program.
This series features a little dog named Dozer who, as a doggy astronaut, travels to imaginary planets in his dreams. On each planet, with the help of Dr. Lori, he learns five Tricky Trouble Words (featured in the at-school program), as well as reading strategies and success principles to help him learn to believe in himself – and follow his dreams!

Part Two of this series, which will be launched in January, will be designed around supporting the 1st grade program (which begins in January in classrooms).

To check out this channel and subscribe today, just click the image at the top of this page!

We look forward to seeing you again on YouTube very soon 🙂

Sincerely,

Dr. Lori Friesen

Congratulations, Sunny Sands Elementary!

Ok, so I’ve never had children, but I’ll never forget one of my best friends saying to me once that when you have a child, it’s like your heart is suddenly walking around out there in the big world, and you just don’t know what’s going to happen – how your child will be received, treated, liked, or loved. You spend years of your life investing time and nurture in that child, hoping and praying that everything will be ok, that they won’t experience rejection or hurt.

Being an entrepreneur is kind of like that. You create something from your heart, and then you put your heart out there and then – you just don’t know what’s going to happen – how your idea will be received, treated, liked, or loved. You spend years of your life investing time and nurture in that idea, hoping and praying that everything will be ok, and that you won’t experience rejection or hurt.

The differences, of course, are obvious. But much of the time you really don’t know, as a business owner, how your ideas and offerings will be accepted in the world. But this morning – this morning was one of those rare moments when I felt like it’s all been worth it. When the careful nurturing, the hours and hours and hours of focused attention and love I’ve poured into my offering, came back to me in spades. I imagine it’s the business equivalent of seeing your child get nominated for “Student of the Year.” That moment when you think, “Oh thank God, some of it is finally paying off. I’m not a terrible parent after all!”

This morning, Sunny Sands Elementary School held their 2nd Grade Reading Celebration and Adoption Ceremony as the culmination of the program I crafted from my heart and have loved from it’s beginning: “How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in the Classroom.” Over 130 children and a sprinkling of parents streamed into the large room, the children clutching the little plush dogs they have named and “fostered” over the past ten weeks, holding them close to their hearts, and proudly displaying their bright, yellow Adoption Certificates. I watched from a distance, taking it all in, until one of them recognized me.

“Hey! It’s the lady from the videos!” said one little boy. “Yeah! It’s the dog lady!” said another (no, that did not insult me in the least, if you are wondering), “Hey everybody look, it’s Dr. Lori!”

One hundred heads turned, and then chaos broke loose. Everybody needed my attention, instantly. One young boy with dark, serious eyes held his dog up to me and said, “Dr. Lori, I give my dog tons of respect. On the way here, I used my Adoption Certificate to keep him out of the sun because it’s too hot for him.” Another boy rocked two dogs in his arms. “I’m babysitting for my friend,” he explained quietly. And then voices came from everywhere, “We LOVE your videos! Thank you for your videos!”

I was almost in tears from this outpouring of gratitude when I got up on the stage to lead their Love Pledge – a right of passage before these students would earn the privilege of taking these dogs home with them to “adopt” and become a part of their forever families. I asked the students to place one hand on their heart, and to please repeat after me:

By accepting this certificate, I promise to always be kind to my dog. I promise to love my dog no matter what. I promise to never pull my dog’s tail or be mean in any way. I promise to tell my dog these things: I am so proud of you. You are so special.You are so smart, and I love you – just as you are.

After the ceremony, I planned to wave to the students to say good-bye. But instead, I received over fifty hugs from thrilled, smiling new “pet parents” as they broke away from their teachers to embrace me in a rush of gratitude. I wish I could show you some of their beautiful, beaming faces.

It was one of those moments when it seemed like everyone present could feel the positive energy in the room, the elevated sense that this is what matters, that this is a slice of the good in the world, and what Aristotle must have had in mind when he wrote, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

There are moments, as an entrepreneur, when it feels like I just want to give up. When it feels like the mountain is just too big to climb, the goal is just too big, when I wonder if it’s all worth it, and when I wonder if any of this is making a difference at all. Today, these students reminded me that it absolutely is worth it, and that we really are making an incredible difference in this world, one heart and mind at a time.

Thank you, Sunny Sands teachers, for your amazing work with these children in literacy and in compassion for animals. I am deeply, deeply grateful for your time, for your commitment, and for your invitation to attend today and remind me of what really matters. You are the real reason for this program’s success, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.

 

Pamela Horton, Principal of Sunny Sands Elementary, Endorses How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed

I’m thrilled to share this video endorsement from one of the school principals who has participated in this program with her students over the past two years. This year, Sunny Sands Elementary School is participating in both the 1st and 2nd grade program in Palm Springs Unified School District with approximately 230 students. Here is what the principal, Pamela Horton, has to say about her experience with the program – and the awesome DIBELS reading scores her students are now achieving!

To learn more about how to get your school involved, please visit www.howdogshelpkids.com and contact Dr. Lori today!

The Launch of How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in 1st Grade

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in the Classroom began as an eight-week after-school program with only four children. As I’ve grown and expanded this program to become a full-year school curriculum for 2nd grade, it wasn’t long before teachers and parents began asking, “Why isn’t there a program like this for 1st grade?”

My answer? The reality is that I was so deeply grateful and surprised by the amazing results we were getting with the 2nd grade program that I wondered how on earth I would ever come up with something that could even remotely compare to it for 1st grade.

I struggled with this for a long time as I visited 1st grade classrooms, marveling at the imaginations of six-year-old children and working to understand how their minds worked, what they loved, what made their eyes light up and say, “Oh I love this! More, please!”

I struggled with what exactly might capture these children’s imaginations and hearts, while developing an innovative and solid curriculum that would meet Common Core Standards in English Language Arts.

I pondered this, that is, until sweet Dozer visited my imagination on my morning walk one day. The idea for Dozer came to me with startling clarity, and I fell in love with him instantly. And then his story tumbled out of my mind faster than I can even describe it. That’s when I knew I needed 1st grade children to help him to solve his big problem…

On Monday morning, January 9, 2017, nearly 500 children will meet sweet Dozer in classrooms across the Coachella Valley in our first pilot of this exciting program.

One adorable, plush Dozer will arrive in classrooms as a surprise gift for each class of students, along with his shiny, red Doggone Awesome Puppy Postal Service Mailbox and a mysterious letter, letting the students know that he has lost his family in an earthquake.

Would they be willing to help him by going on an adventure around the world with his two best friends, Buddy and Daisy, to solve the mystery of where in the world his family has gone?

The students won’t be alone in solving this mystery, of course! With the help of super under-cover animal agents from the C.A.R.E. (Compassionate, Appreciative, Responsible, and Encouraging) Animal Team from around the world, the students will receive videos from Dr. Lori, Buddy, and Daisy, viewed on Dozer’s Doggy Detective Video Blog, to learn clues that will help them to solve this mystery.

What does this have to do with literacy, you ask? Well, although dogs are very, very cute, the problem is that they have a really hard time with reading and writing. 🙂 Each letter the students receive via the Doggone Awesome Puppy Postal Service from Buddy or Daisy is riddled with punctuation, capitalization, and spelling errors. Once the students re-write each letter to help them fix their mistakes and fill in the missing letters, a secret word is revealed that tells the students which country they will be exploring next for clues!

Once students unlock the mystery of the next country they will visit, they fill in a graphic organizer for each country while watching a video with Dr. Lori and Buddy or Daisy from Dozer’s Doggy Detective Video Blog. As they view the video, students chart information about “What can we see? What can we do? What do they speak? What do they eat?” in each amazing country.

Then, students learn three new clues about which country they think Dozer’s family might be in next. After students make predictions about which country they think Dozer’s family could be in based on the new clues, they use Doggy Detective Magnifying Glasses to find the country using a world map.

This first grade adventure is designed to teach the writing process in a fun and meaningful way. The graphic organizers serve as pre-writing for related writing projects for each country. For example, after visiting Mexico with Daisy to discover more clues, the students create flip-books to plan what they would see, do, and pack for a trip to Mexico. Students participate in drafting, revising and editing, publishing, and of course, Author’s Chair with Dozer. 

Throughout the entire program, students learn important lessons about respect and compassion for animals around the world as they learn alongside Buddy and Daisy in each incredible country they visit.

Students learn how to care for their own pets with kindness and compassion, and learn about larger issues such as how the growing global population affects the homes of animals and the health of our oceans.

Meanwhile, parents are included throughout the entire program with weekly at-home Doggy Detective Challenges in which Dozer challenges the students to read for 30 minutes each week and learn five new sight words. Parents are provided with weekly tips, ideas, and strategies for how to practice sight words with their children at home, as well as a weekly strategy for how to help their child in reading.

When students bring their completed Doggy Detective Challenge back to school each week, the students earn a paw print on Dozer’s Special Surprises! chart in a group effort to earn a class reward from Dozer and their teacher. What a fun way to encourage the home-school connection, all while supporting parents to help their children in literacy!

At the end of the program, of course, Dozer finds his family (but the location is top secret information)! The only problem is – his family is at an animal shelter, and there are all of these other pups who need good homes… so would each child be willing to “foster” and then “adopt” one plush dog each when they come back to school in 2nd grade?

When students come back to school in the fall, their new adventure begins….!

Needless to say, I guess I didn’t have to worry about coming up with ideas to motivate and inspire children in 1st grade. I can’t wait to share the results and feedback from teachers, parents, and kiddos in the spring!

To learn more about this program and get your school involved, click on the links below:

10 Animal-Themed Ideas for RAK Week

10 Ways to Inspire Children to Express
Love and Kindness towards Animals

children being kind to animals

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.
–Edmund Burke

We often make the mistake of thinking that kids are “too little” to make a difference, but there is nothing further from the truth. Here are ten fun and engaging ways to help children express love and kindness to animals:

1. Cuddly Book Buddies: If you are a teacher, invite your students to bring a stuffed animal to school to read with a younger grade level. You could arrange for a special visit from your class to another, bringing their pups with them, to snuggle up and read a great book with them. Use this opportunity to plant the seed for children to consider reading with their own animals at home.

2. Give a Little, Get a Lot: Brainstorm a list of things dogs and cats need in their daily lives, and then challenge each child to bring one care item to school (a can of food, a leash for a dog, a cat toy, a tennis ball, a bowl, a blanket, etc.) to create a care package for a local animal shelter. Then involve your class in creating a letter to the animals at the shelter, including a class pic of the kids with their own dogs, and send it to your local shelter. This is such a wonderful way to express compassion for these often very lonely animals.

3. Cook Up Some Goodness: Involve your students in a class cooking project to make dog and cat treats for a local animal rescue group. You can invite each child to bring one ingredient from home to create your masterpiece. Then if possible, actually deliver the treats on a class field trip, along with a class letter to give to the rescue group and its’ animals.

4. Stuffed Buddies for Other Kids: Invite your students to bring a gently-used stuffed animal to school – to donate to a local children’s charity (or even to another school) so they too can have their own reading buddy. Ask each student to write a letter to another child, explaining that this is a new reading buddy for them so they won’t have to be alone as they learn to read.

5. Add a Splash of Creativity and Color: You could have your students create animal-themed bookmarks for a younger class, with each bookmark listing three things kids can do to demonstrate kindness to animals in their lives. You could combine this idea with #1 above to make that experience extra-special!

6. 100 Acts of Kindness: Challenge your students to list 100 kind acts towards animals in their lives for the week. This could mean making sure your pet has clean water every day, offering to take your dog out first thing in the morning, feeding your fish every day, cleaning your hamster’s cage, offering to walk your neighbor’s dog, giving a special treat to your grandma’s cat, or spending extra quality time with your pet this week.

7. Kindness for Animals in Your Community: Cleaning up trash in your neighborhood or even on your school grounds helps to keep both people and animals healthy and safe. Challenge your class to pick up 10 pieces of trash each to help your school stay beautiful and clean, while also preventing animals from eating foil and other items that can be dangerous for them. Remember, animals in the wild do not have doctors or veterinarians to help them if they eat a candy wrapper or some Styrofoam – one way we can help to protect these animals is by cleaning up our trash.

8. Raise a Little Love Money: Hold a “class garage sale” where each child brings in one toy or stuffed animal to donate to the sale, or organize a Valentine’s Day Candy Sale – with all proceeds going towards an animal shelter of their choice!

9. Kindness in Our Everyday Lives: Here’s a great way to encourage children to think about ways they can express simple acts of kindness. In different parts of your classroom, place five poster board signs:
1. Home
2. School
3. Classroom
4. Store
5. Community
Divide your students randomly into five groups, and then have each group brainstorm and list ideas for how they can show kindness to both people and animals in each place. Then come back together as a group to see how many ideas you can generate together. Finally, challenge your students to actually do these acts of kindness over the next week, placing a heart-shaped sticker beside each act of kindness children carry out. ☺

10. Think Beyond Ourselves: Challenge your students to think big about ways they can continue to help animals in their lives, such as asking for donations for an animal rescue group for their next birthday party instead of asking for gifts. There are some wonderful examples of how other children have done this on the Humane Society of the United States website at: http://www.humanesociety.org/parents_educators/kids/kids/.

You might also want to consider subscribing to the Humane Society magazine, Kind News (http://www.humanesociety.org/news/magazines/kind_news/) , which features child heroes for animals.

Download your free “Outstanding Kindness to Animals” certificate for your students now 🙂

Certificate

 

12 Days of Holiday Gifts for Your Students!

It’s hard to believe it’s already almost that time of the year again! I know we are all rushing around preparing for Thanksgiving, but the reality is that Christmas really is just around the corner. It can catch us by surprise because the week we get back from Thanksgiving break, it’s already December. And then the question always comes up: What should I do for my students this holiday season for a gift? Because we don’t want to spend a lot of money – or let me rephrase that – because we don’t have a lot of money to spend – each year, I found myself trying to find class sets of some kind of a little trinket that ultimately probably just ended up getting lost or thrown out in the trash. So finally, I came up with an idea that not only truly demonstrated how much I cared about my students, but also lasted 12 school days, didn’t cost me a lot of money, and really brought back the beauty, joy, and magic of the season. It isn’t about the gift – it’s about the thoughtfulness behind it, and I know my students felt loved and thought of every single day since I began this tradition in my classroom. I hope you enjoy this little gift from me to you! Just click the image below to get access to this video and free template now!

12 Days Pic

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 www.howdogshelpkids.com today!

Warmly,

Dr. Lori

5 Ways to Give Your Dog the Best Holiday Season Ever

PIC_0525 (2)Here are my top five tips for ensuring that your dog has a wonderful holiday season – and please note, I do NOT suggest dressing your pup in swanky holiday outfits like these ones. No, that’s usually just for my enjoyment, and I know I can only get away with this for about 5 minutes at a time before Tango (the white dog in the picture who is clearly not impressed), has had enough. (Sparky is her little brother, who has since passed away but who was much more willing to pose for treats than Tango). Anyways, I hope you enjoy these tips and that you have a wonderful holiday with your pups!

5 Ways to Give Your Dog the Best Holiday Season Ever!

11090-234941. Make your pup his very own stocking – complete with secret, wrapped surprises!

One of the things I love to do for my Tango each Christmas is to wrap 5-7 of her very favorite treats of all time individually, and then place them into her very own stocking. She loves to sniff and scratch and dig and explore as she tugs each little treasure out of her stocking, then lays down with her legs splayed on the carpet, holding her gift in her paws, as she delights in ripping the wrapping off of each one in shreds, and burying her nose into the delicious-smelling reward. Few things make me happier than watching her munch away on her special treat, joining in the holiday fun with the rest of the family.

Just a couple words of warning: If your dog isn’t a picky eater and will happily swallow paper and/or tape as a snack if given the opportunity, a great trick is to place each treat into an empty paper lunch bag and then roll it up or twist it shut, and/or use an empty paper towel roll with the treat inside, folding over each end to secure the treat. Using paper bags ensures that your dog does not ingest the artificial colors and dies in most Christmas wrapping paper.

IMG_28542. Prepare his very own doggy holiday dinner.

And I don’t mean fatty turkey skin or chocolate, both of which can be dangerous for dogs! Holiday meals are delicious for us, and because we love our pets, we want to share all of the goodies with them as well. But many foods can make Christmas a nightmare for your pets, so be sure to keep your dog away from the following: avocado, bread dough, any kind of alcohol, macadamia nuts, grapes or raisins, onions or garlic, or chocolate (as previously mentioned). For a more complete listing and for more information about how these foods can harm your pets, check out the SPCA’s website by clicking here.

Instead, to make the holidays a wonderful experience for your dog, give him or her a serving (ok, maybe two!) of some chicken breast, a little piece of steak, and/or a little bit of pork chop with the fat cut off and a few carrots or other veggies (if they will eat them – I’ve never been able to convince Tango to eat her vegetables). Your dog will likely gobble up this special treat AND will stay happy, healthy and safe during the holiday!

madison-wrapping-paper3. Let him re-use your wrapping paper (before you re-cycle it)!

One of Tango’s favorite games has always been to play “Let’s shred the wrapping paper!” This game is very, very complicated, as you can imagine. Here’s how to do it. After you unwrap each gift and revel in the beauty and gratitude of the moment, simply dangle the used piece of paper above your dog’s head. I almost guarantee you, this game is instinctual for most dogs. They seem to be born having read and comprehended detailed instructions on what to do next: Wag tail furiously, pounce into thin air, clamp down on dangling paper and shake head like mad. Once said-paper is firmly on the ground, pounce on it and shred it to smithereens. Yes, it’s a little messy with clean-up, but free and fantastic entertainment for the entire family, and likely will remind you yet once again why having a dog is so much fun.

Again, just a word of warning – make sure you supervise your dog to ensure that he’s not ingesting heaps of dyed paper. If you notice him actually eating the paper, stop the game and give him a goodie to chew on instead – he might just be hungry. 🙂 Tango would never dream of eating paper; there are just too many other delicious things around that she would rather munch on!

IMG_10554. Give your dog a safe space to retreat to during this busy season.

Although it can be fun for your dog to play and visit with the many guests you may have coming and going from your home, it’s important to remember that dogs have unique personalities, just like humans do, and that some dogs are more out-going and extroverted than other dogs. Tango will happily mingle and soak up attention from anyone and everyone who is willing to admire her for the first 45 minutes of any party, but then she seems to wilt and look up to me for help in finding a retreat. Sparky, on the other hand, was much more wary of new people and would want to escape to his secret hiding place the moment guests arrived, and would then gingerly peek his head out about mid-way through the evening, and only if he smelled food. Tango’s favorite place to retreat to would be under the Christmas tree in the warmth and the protection of the lights, while Sparky preferred to escape to the depths of his kennel with a good treat to munch on to soothe his sensitive nerves. Large crowds and noises can be challenging for even the most out-going dogs to handle, so it’s important to have a couple of safe-retreat options available for your pets at all times. Can you spot Tango resting under the tree in this picture?

DSC_92805. Remember that your love and attention is the very best gift you can give your dog.

During the holidays, we often get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season that our dogs end up being left alone for long hours as their humans attend parties and race around fighting the crowds at busy malls. Do your best to take a little time each day, both for you and for your dog, to play, to rest, and to let him know how much you love him. One of the ways I do this with my Tango is to tell her, each and every day, the Love Pledge that I’ve taught the many children who have participated in my program, How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed In the Classroom, to do with their own pets. You can modify this Love Pledge based on your own relationship with your dog. Here is what I tell my Tango each morning as she wakes up, and each night before I go to sleep. While stroking her softly, I say:

Tango, how did I get this lucky to have you for my dog?

You are so special.

You are so smart.

And I love you.

Then I place a kiss on her sweet little nose, and I go to sleep knowing that she knows how well-loved she really is. (And this is a wonderful way to then begin your own love pledge for your children, if you have them). I wish you and your family, both human and non-human, all the love in the world during this holiday season!

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: http://www.nancyfurstinger.com

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.

The Invisible Link Between Child and Animal Abuse

37e2255f75a4a95a258385f34e6e538bAs an elementary school teacher for ten years in North America and teaching children in Hong Kong, Australia, and Japan, I’ve come to understand that a child’s behavior towards him or herself, others, and animals is intimately connected to the way they have been treated by the adults in their lives. Too often, when I’ve witnessed a child being cruel to another on the playground, when I’ve seen them spit, hit, or bully another child, it later becomes clear that that child has himself been the victim of bullying, neglect, or another form of abuse. Children are the ultimate imitators – whether or not we are aware, they are constantly watching the behavior of the adults in their lives to learn patterns of behavior for themselves. And sadly, when adults in these young children’s lives are abusers, too often, children tend to become abusers themselves.

The American Humane Association clearly documents the connection between animal abuse and domestic violence, and has found that “71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims; 32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals.” Further, “68% of battered women reported violence towards their animals,” and 75% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the children to psychologically control and coerce them.

Children who have been abused tend to imitate their parents behaviors in an effort to re-direct their anger onto another victim. And because pets live most frequently in homes with children, with 64.1% of homes with children under the age of 6, and 74.8% of homes with children over the age of 6 having pets, animals can become the ancillary victims of children’s re-directed hurt and anger.

Bob Ferber, former Animal Abuse Prosecutor and Los Angeles City Attorney, states that the FBI has found that animal abuse is one of the greatest indicators of future violence. He notes that because of this strong connection between child abuse and animal abuse, we need to do all we can to help prevent animal cruelty. To learn more about Bob Ferber’s incredible work, please watch the 7 minute video below.

In all my work with children, it isn’t uncommon for me to witness or to hear stories about children interacting with animals in a way that might not seem humane, but often, children just don’t know any better, or haven’t observed a positive model for how to develop a kind and compassionate relationship with the pets in their lives.

How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed In the Classroom teaches children to act in compassionate ways towards animals by helping children to understand that just like us, dogs have feelings, and that dogs can feel lonely, scared, and vulnerable, just like we can. We teach children that it isn’t ok to hit or hurt a dog when he or she makes a mistake (and it’s not ok for us to hit another person when we are angry with them). We help children to understand that it is our responsibility to take care of our dogs’ unique needs by ensuring that they have fresh water and food every day, by teaching them that they need love, companionship, and a warm, clean, and comfy place to sleep. We teach children that dogs need to see their own kind of doctor, a veterinarian, not only when they are sick, but to help prevent them from becoming sick, and that dogs need to be spayed and neutered so they don’t have unwanted puppies who later end up in shelters – or worse.

But we don’t stop there. This program also encourages the parents of these children to become more compassionate towards animals by engaging them in weekly “BoneWork” challenges that provide a natural extension and application of the lessons their children are learning at school. For example, the children are challenged to write a list of 5 ways they will show love and appreciation for the animals in their life that week, and then receive a star from their parents for each action they take. The parents are also challenged to show love and appreciation for their children in 5 ways that same week. Encouraging this ongoing cycle of love and compassion offers families a positive model for how to shift from possible pain and neglect to empathy and respect for the incredible and vulnerable animals in their care.

As Mahatma Ghandi so eloquently said, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” To learn more about How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed In the Classroom and to find out how you can get this program in your child’s school, please click here.

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