Monday, January 6, 2014

Education through Experience

HAWS Kids 'N Critters Winter Camp ran during the school's break and was huge success.  Because of how the holidays fell during the week this year, for the first time we ran 5 single day sessions rather than 2 and 3 day sessions.  This allowed families to have more options and work around their own schedules, and it also meant that we were able to accommodate more children -- many of whom were new to HAWS. 

The last two days of camp ran during a cold snap in which the outside temperature was in the single digits.  Normally our schedule would have had kids walking dogs outside, but we modified it to allow small groups of kids to work with dogs and do some training in the comfort of the indoors instead.  

Before we brought the dog in to the kids I prepared them for how to behave around the dog, what we were going to be training, and how to safely deliver treats so that fingers didn't go into the dog's mouth.  
One of the kids asked what kind of dog was going to be coming into the room.  When I told him she was a pit bull mix, he said, "My dad says pit bulls are dangerous."  I started to explain to the boy that wasn't true about all pit bulls, and that the news tended to overly report pit bull attacks compared to attacks by other breeds, causing people to be prejudiced.  (For a great information on this see Dr. Ian Kupkee's blog post.)

I quickly realized that he wasn't hearing me and didn't want to believe what I had to say, especially since it was contradicting his dad.  I finally said, "Well, why don't you spend some time with Cider and then make up your own mind." 

Cider came in the room and we proceeded to work on sit for polite greetings, and then taught her to navigate obstacles in the form of crawling under chairs and walking through a tunnel.  Initially she was a bit fearful about them, but the kids did a great job using treats and their voices to encourage here.  She very quickly felt more comfortable and the kids felt proud of their accomplishment. 

After a half an hour of work Cider was a bit tired, and the kids were able to pet her as she relaxed on the floor.   And the boy who thought pit bulls were dangerous admitted that she was a really nice dog.   Sometimes showing people is better than telling. 

1 comment:

Terry Marach said...

Wow, what a great story, thanks for sharing. The work you do at HAWS is so important to help shape our future generations, as well as helping the animals. Your programs rock!

Thanks for bringing in those amazing speakers too.