The Pawsibilities Program (for Academically and Behaviorally Challenged Students)
Through the Youth-Canine program, youths learn how to nurture, understand, communicate with, motivate and reward (vs. punish) their dogs. Many of the principles the youths learn in the program transfer to their own lives since they see the benefits they are providing their dogs. We just catch them doing something right!
The personalities of the youths are matched with their dogs’ personalities so that more individualized goals can be achieved. For example, high-spirited dogs are paired with high-spirited youths or youths who are easily distracted (e.g. learning disabilities, developmental delays), so that the students learn to focus and follow-through. Even when the youths are not always able to make good choices for themselves, perhaps because of fear of failure or criticism, they will respond to the challenges presented in the training sessions in order to benefit their dogs. Shy dogs are matched with shy youths or students with low self-esteem so that they stretch their comfort zone and learn to be more confident.
The Pregnant Paws Program (for Single Teen Parents)
Pregnant and single teens learn positive parenting skills, which can even break the cycles of child abuse and neglect. The program is modeled from the Pawsibilities Program above with additional emphasis on effective parenting skills (e.g. identification of needs, effective communication, consistency, parenting vs. friendship, depersonalizing behavior, and progressive discipline).
The Pawsitive Corrections Program
Incarcerated juvenile offenders often express a “tough exterior” to their peers and adults, but they spontaneously drop this demeanor when working with their dogs. They see how their dogs respond to the positive instruction they are providing, and affirming comments from their peers serve as an added incentive for the youths to manage their behavior and participate in the program. The youths may also serve their community during their probation, training additional shelter dogs.
Special Needs Programs for At-Risk Youths
Graduates of the above youth programs may teach special needs students (e.g. students with learning disabilities, developmental delays such as autism, or behavioral problems) through one-to-one or group instruction in a variety of settings.
Programs for Youths not considered At-Risk
We involve well-adjusted, non-risk youths in service learning projects, the training of service dogs, and our animal assisted activity/therapy programs. The youths may also give presentations to service clubs and other organizations for additional positive attention.
After School Programs
Group presentations and programs are available for groups of students e.g. school programs for disability awareness, after-school programs, and summer camps. The content of these programs centers around character development, responsible pet ownership; bite prevention and positive training.
Reducing Canine Euthanasia
All the above programs are not just about the youths…the dogs in the shelters benefit, too. As the dogs interact with the youths in positive ways and are taught manners and skills (e.g. how to greet people and other dogs, how to wait at doorways, how to go to their mats), they are socialized to the expectations of the human world. They are thus more likely to be adopted from the shelter and to remain in the home, reducing their risk of euthanasia. This also increases the youths’ self-esteem as they see the impact of their efforts. Special dogs from these training sessions are adopted in our service-dogs-in-training program.