Dogs, Dogs, DOGS!
Sunday, September 29, 2019
Posted by: Lucinda Miller, Ohio State University Extension
Animal sciences is a cornerstone of 4-H programming, and companion animals like dogs bring the life skills and benefits of caring for and raising an animal to ALL 4-H members.
The 4-H dog program provides positive learning experiences and opportunities for diverse youth, encouraging them to reach their potential through year-round active involvement in dog projects and activities. Dog projects are a catalyst for youth to experience and practice life skills, helping them develop as competent, capable, caring, and contributing citizens.
Trained 4-H volunteer advisors are fundamental to a successful dog program. Advisors teach youth responsible dog ownership and the skills needed to safely handle and train dogs. Providing an emotionally and physically safe environment for members and their dogs allows them to focus on learning the cognitive and physical skills needed to be successful with their dog projects.
What specific learning takes place? Here are some examples:
· Youth learn critical thinking skills through training opportunities in dog care, agility, obedience, showmanship, assistance dogs, and rally.
· They are engaged in hands-on learning opportunities through dog skillathons, knowledge bowl games, and county and state fair evaluations.
· Youth who are not interested in showing their dogs can still “show off” what they have learned and taught their dogs in a family dog (dog care) evaluation.
· 4-H members express creativity by designing educational dog poster displays and contests, and obedience and style patterns for dog drill team demonstrations and competitions.
· 4-H members learn how to be flexible and how to think clearly and rationally when they are confronted with situations during handling, socializing, and training their dogs. They are prepared for the unexpected.
· 4-H members practice setting short-term and long-term goals for their projects and 4-H careers.
· Youth participate with their dogs in 4-H project awareness opportunities in schools and throughout the community.
· Raising a puppy for an assistance dog organization, like Pilot Dogs, Inc., gives youth the opportunity to socialize, manner, and train puppies.
· The bond that develops between youth and dogs provides a stimulus for youth to help others in any number of ways. For example, members and their dogs visit senior adults or youth and adults with physical or cognitive disabilities (through 4-H PetPALS) and participate in walk-a-thons and other community service projects.
· Youth have opportunities to explore careers related to dogs and the dog industry.
· Dog projects can serve as steppingstones to future involvement with dogs and dog-related organizations, such as kennel and breed clubs, dog rescue groups, or humane societies.
Resources for Your Dog Program
The Ohio 4-H dog program relies on curriculum and resources available from extensionpubs.osu.edu. Your program might benefit too, with products from the nationally peer-reviewed Dog Resource Handbook to the Dog Learning Lab Kit for skillathons. Even your members who are exploring dog ownership have a project—All About Dogs. The Dog Achievement Program and 4-H PetPALS keep 4-H members interested and involved.