Pawsitive Works – Youths Team Up With Canines

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Website: pawsitiveworks.com

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What an inspiration! Julie and Maggie, Idaho Dog Bloggers have been in touch with Pawsitive Works and are happy to hear this program for youth at risk and shelter dogs will be expanding to our local Treasure Valley to serve the Canyon County Community. They will be using shelter dogs from the Caldwell Shelter and youth referred by juvenile probation. According to Karen Schumacher, Pawsitive Works Executive Director, it is a a life changing program for the youth and dogs. Pawsitive Works will be expanding to Caldwell in the Fall of 2012 and are in need of volunteers who want to make a difference in the lives of youth and shelter dogs. So let’s get excited Idaho dog lovers. Send them your support. You are encouraged to connect with Pawsitive Works on Facebook and visit their website volunteer page. We know how much volunteer spirit we have here in Idaho, so here’s your chance to get involved.

Pawsitive Works

About the Pawsitive Works Program

Pawsitive Works is making a measurable difference in the lives of at risk youth.

Our program provides at risk youth with behavior skills that are linked to increased school attendance, improved community relations and decreased problem behaviors.  The program increases self-concept and mindfulness and positively affects empathy through the care and training of homeless behaviorally challenged dogs.

This positive developmental process seeks to prevent problem behaviors by preparing young people to meet the challenges of adolescence through a series of structured, progressive activities and experiences that help them obtain social, emotional, ethical, physical, and cognitive competencies. This “asset based” approach views youth as resources and builds on their strengths and capabilities for development within their own community. It emphasizes the acquisition of adequate attitudes, behaviors, and skills as a buffer against delinquent behavior (Bazemore and Terry, 1997).   There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that youth development programs can produce individual protective factors that increase successes and decrease problem behaviors (Benson and Saito, 2000). Other early research on positive youth development demonstrated improved ego, moral development (Cognetta and Sprinthall, 1978), and sense of social responsibility and competence .

There are currently very few programs using canines in behavior modification.  Those that do are limited geographically and are not producing data that can be utilized by various agencies.  Pawsitive works has implemented the program into several communities and measures the effectiveness through rubrics, pre/post tests, a control group and statistics provided by juvenile agencies and schools and is collaborating with The Peabody Research Institute to further develop data needed to support continued and increased use of animal assisted interventions.

On the “other end of the leash” – many shelters lack the staff and/or funding to provide training and/or enrichment programs to the dogs housed.  The training, love and attention the dogs receive who are in the program is beneficial.  Pawsitive Works helps these overlooked and harder to adopt dogs become more adoptable, to highlight them in media efforts and to bring awareness of their needs to the general community.

We celebrate the completion of each program session with a graduation ceremony. We love watching the youth “hand over” their training dogs to new owners.

Organizationally our board has worked hard to collaborate with advisors and produce the framework necessary for continued growth and sustainability.   Job Descriptions and Training Manuals were primary goals for 2011 and have been achieved.   We have increased our success by adding a site-coordinator to our staff as well as a volunteer coordinator.   We understand the importance of communication with those who give of their time and energy to ensure the success of each class operation and are dedicated to keeping our volunteers informed and inspired.

Our organization is in the process producing outcomes from our program operations to support the use of community based programs as an alternative to incarceration.  This research and the publication of these outcomes will support our efforts to demonstrate best practices for juvenile justice agencies.  The need for measured outcomes for programs that utilize canines in youth behavior modification programs is vast.

A True Example of this program in action:

He had been abandoned at the age of five, literally left on the streets to fend for himself.  By age ten he had been shuffled from foster home to foster home.  By thirteen he had racked up enough points to be incarcerated for two years.  His probation officer noted that “He often speaks of death and appears to be numb and closed off to the world.”

On the first day of class the boy was exactly what the probation officer had said. Sad, closed off, quiet, and seemingly untouchable.   We introduced the dogs on day two.  We demonstrated safe touch, treat giving and simple body language.  We noticed one of the dogs was indifferent to the other youth introduced and even to some of the adults, except with this youth.  The dog clearly responded to the “very” slight gestures the youth made to give him a treat and scratch him on the chest.  It was hard to tell how the youth felt or how he would handle the dog.

Several classes later it was clear there was a bond forming between the youth and his dog. We knew trust and empathy were not ordinarily a part of this young man’s repertoire.  We all saw the smiles and pride our youth had for the accomplishments of “his” dog. Towards the end of our session the bond between the boy and his dog was heart warming. It was incredible to see them on the floor, rolling and the youth laughing!  The boy would communicate regularly with our team, giving input and suggestions.  He was very proud of what he had taught his dog. We knew that it was most likely the first time he had been able to point at an accomplishment and say “I did that, I helped this dog!”  The dog was adopted during the program but stayed to finish his “community service” to the youth. The adopted family attended the graduation. The boy was offered the opportunity to hand over his new found friend to the adoptive family. He was visibly sad. As the boy handled the dog for the last time he had tears in his eyes. The boy reached down and gave the dog a hug and told him “Be good like I know you can.”

Today our youth is finishing high school and working.  He is no longer on probation and has stayed out of trouble.  Because of a dog?  We like to think that human-animal bond played a significant role.  Empathy, trust, patience and pride – powerful gifts from our four footed friend.

We will be developing three new sites within the next 24 months.  The budget for developing each site is  $50,000.00

We anticipate that our grant writing and fund raising efforts will help with a portion of this.  It is our hope that supporters who would like to be considered foundational contributors of our program will make up the bulk of our funding efforts.

Who will these supporters be?  Individuals and corporations who see the potential of our efforts and understand the significance of assisting with a ground breaking effort to affect the way our youth learn and gain life changing skills as well as how highly effective this enrichment program is for increasing the adoptions of unwanted canines.

2 thoughts on “Pawsitive Works – Youths Team Up With Canines

  1. This is a wonderful project they havae done the same thiing in some of the prisons and the change in the prisoners was very positive. Keep up the great work!

  2. Roger, yes these are awesome programs. Maggie, the dog blogger, is a rescue dog trained by inmates at a local prison. We even met the inmate who trained her before we adopted her.

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