Friday, August 23, 2013

Quinn and a Camper

Camp is coming to an end, but this last week was one of the most rewarding weeks for me.  A few days ago one of the campers attending our two-day camp burst into tears and started to panic when the counselors brought a Yorkshire Terrier puppy into the room.  It turns out that several years ago she was attacked by a dog and has a severe phobia to dogs. 

We decided that anytime we had a dog out the camper would be given the option to leave the room and go with a group that was visiting with a different animal.  And that worked really well the first day of camp.

The second day of camp as the kids were arriving I let the kids train my dog Quinn as I described in the blog post from a few weeks ago.  The girl with the phobia hadn't yet arrived, and when she approached the door to the room where we hold camp, one of the counselors reminded me about her fears.  I told her that we could have one of the counselors take her to another room with a guinea pig until the kids were done working with Quinn.  To my surprise she decided to come into the room, and took a spot as a human tunnel. 

After a time she started to visibly relax, and I was amazed when it was time for the kids to take turns becoming the "trainer" when her hand shot up.  She actually wanted to work with Quinn, and she got that chance.  While she wasn't 100% relaxed, she had a smile on her face as she led Quinn through the room and clicked and treated him for stepping over the kids laying on the floor as "logs" and through the legs of the kids acting as "tunnels".   We think that she felt comfortable with Quinn because he is a very low-key mellow dog. 

While I wouldn't recommend that parents use HAWS Kids 'N Critters Day Camp as a way for their children to work through animal phobias, it was nice to see a girl who is afraid of dogs enjoying herself with Quinn -- a dog who has a few fears of his own. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Kids 'N Critters at Cozy Nook Farm

During the summer our week-long campers take a field trip to an animal related location.  We go to different locations throughout the summer so that repeat campers get new experiences. 

One of our favorite field trips is to Cozy Nook Farm in Waukesha.  Cozy Nook is a small family owned diary farm with 65 cows and a couple of goats. The kids get to learn about life on a diary farm; milking the cows twice a day, how calves are raised, the work it takes to bring in crops of hay and corn, and other cow related information. 

For some of the kids this is their first visit to a diary farm and while the start out a bit cautious while interacting with the cows, after a short time they're enthusiastically hand feeding hay and petting their soft noses. 

It never fails that the campers are excited to see the barn cats -- which always astounds the counselors since they just spent most of the previous week at HAWS with many cats and kittens.  But one of the nice things about Cozy Nook is that all of their cats are spayed and neutered.  This helps support the message we give the kids the importance of spay and neuter to combat the cat over-population problem.  As a matter of fact Cozy Nook has used HAWS Project Guardian Program which offers free spay and neuter services for barn cats and other cared for out-door cats. 

One of the final aspects of this field trip is a hay ride to see the hay, corn, alfalfa and corn fields, and Cozy Nook's honey bee boxes.  The kids learn just how important bees are to pollinating crops. 

Hopefully our campers think about all the work that goes into their food the next time they drink a glass of milk or take a bite of cheese. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Kids N Critters Camp and Dog Training

One of the benefits of my job at HAWS Waukesha is that not only do I get to bring my dogs to work with me, but I get to have use them in our education programs.  This turns out to be a win both for my dogs and myself, but also for the kids since I know my dogs will be safe for the kids to handle.   

During camp the kids take my dogs on walks, give them baths and help with training.   Over the years campers have helped me with honing Mystic's tricks, helped me proof him in behaviors such as stay and leave it, and have been entertained and educated as I used him for training demonstrations. 

This summer has seen the addition to my household of Quinn, a 9 month old border collie mix, which means that Quinn has also been an addition to our camp program. 

Quinn is a very different dog than Mystic.  He's a bit more mellow and laid back, but he also lacks confidence.  While he really loves kids, I've started to see him become more cautious in new situations.  Adolescent dogs can go through a fear period in which they exhibit fear in situations that they wouldn't have been afraid of when they were younger.  When this happens it's important to help them develop more confidence in these situations. 

The most important thing to remember about fear and animals is that it's not wise to force them to interact with something that scares them.  Locking me in a room for an hour with hundreds of spiders isn't likely to make me love spiders, but may actually traumatize me further and cause me to be even more afraid.  Helping me feel more comfortable around spiders by encouraging me and allowing me to make progress at my own pace is much more likely to be effective. 

Recently Quinn started displaying fear by barking and backing up at a park when he saw a woman who had been doing sit ups suddenly stand up.  I decided I needed to address this before his fear people doing unusual things escalated, and since we have so many kids at camp it's the perfect opportunity.  Additionally using the kids allows them to learn about dog training, and actually do some training with a dog themselves. 

Below is video of Quinn at camp.  One of the kids is his trainer luring him over kids who are laying on the ground.  Quinn is starting to enjoy this game, gain some confidence, and the kids think it's a lot of fun to not only be stepped over, but to have a turn as his trainer. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Kindness Tickets

Part of humane education is teaching children respect and empathy for all living things, including people.  While we encourage kids to be respectful of each other, our curriculum has been focused on teaching children about animals.

This year HAWS started a new program at our camps called Kindness Tickets.  The first day of camp each camper is given 10 tickets and they are asked to write their names on the tickets.  They are encouraged to give the tickets to each other for any acts of kindness they might observe their fellow campers performing.  Counselors are also encouraged to hand out tickets. 

Several times throughout the week Kindness Tickets are counted and campers with the most tickets are rewarded.  Their own tickets don't count towards the total, nor can they count more than two tickets collected from the same person.  This prevents kids from swapping tickets in an effort to win.  Once they've been awarded a prize the winner's tickets are disposed of and they start without any, although they can win a second time. 

Initially our rewards were items from a prize box, but the enthusiasm for the program was lukewarm.   Then the dog trainer in me thought about what would really motivate the kids.  The answer is time with animals -- which is why the kids attend camp at an animal shelter to begin with.  Kindness ticket winners get 15 minutes with the animal of their choice with the option to ask a friend to share their animal interaction. 

Campers have told me that they really like the program.  One girl told me that at the beginning of the week she made an effort to be nice because she wanted to earn enough tickets to win, but by the end of the week she was being nice because it seemed like the right thing to do.    Maybe coming to Kids 'N Critters Day Camp will help kids learn to be kind not only to animals, but to each other.