Spend holiday with dogs

2017-11-28 06:01
A volunteer of the Underdog project and his dog.

A volunteer of the Underdog project and his dog.

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The Underdog project in Hout Bay is inviting children who want to play with rescue dogs and learn about humane education to a holiday workshop.

The workshop will take place in the Underdog classroom at the Domestic Animal Rescue Group (Darg) from Tuesday 12 to Thursday 14 December from 10:00 to noon.

The workshop costs R100 per child and all proceeds will go to the project. The workshop is open for children aged between six and 12 years.

The Underdog project was founded by Jenna da Silva Pinto in 2011 and has changed the lives of teenagers who have worked with dogs through them. She started the project to make a small, positive difference in the lives of the youth and shelter dogs in her area and to address violence using humane education.

At-risk teens are paired with young, untrained shelter dogs and taught the skills needed to train these dogs to become more adoptable. With the help of social workers and experienced dog trainers, the teens are taught to teach the dogs to sit, stay, jump through hoops, overcome their insecurities and blossom. The training and socialisation the dogs from Darg receive from their teen partners lessen their kennel stress and boredom, making them calmer, better socialised and very adoptable. They also learn basic skills that accelerate their adoption.

Anya Hollands, project manager of the Underdog project, says those who come for the workshop and spend time with the dogs will benefit a lot.

“These are fun, educational workshops which involve a shelter tour, humane education and basic clicker training. Spending time with an animal companion helps children improve flexibility, enhances balance and increases energy and self-esteem. It also allows children to make friends and teaches them confidence, compassion and how to communicate effectively.

The Underdog project brings together rescue dogs and at-risk teens through a mix of animal-assisted therapy and dog training using positive reinforcement.

“Ultimately, we are working towards creating a humane society. The dogs are stimulated, trained and de-stressed, learning to love the company of people and children – which all adds up to a better chance of finding forever homes. The ripple effect spreads through the community, as everyone who experiences Underdog becomes more conscious of treating all living things with respect and compassion,” adds Hollands.

The teens come from local schools, children’s homes and other NGOs.

“The positive impacts are so evident that we get interest from all over the Western Cape and some come from further afield.

“97% of the dogs in our programmes find forever homes. When a dog gets adopted from one of our programmes, it’s a huge cause for celebration. We have seen an enormous change in the children whom we work with and we have no doubt that those who take part in the holiday workshop will benefit as much,” says Hollands. V For more information email Anya Hollands at ­anya@­underdogproject.org.

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