Congratulations to Dr Jenny and her Labrador, PopCorn, on recently completing the Canine Assisted Learning Program! This program is run by The Business Education Network Inc (BEN or “THE BEN”) , which is a non-profit organisation based in the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
The mission of BEN is to work with businesses, community organisations and schools to create a better future for young people. They do this by assisting young people in need – those who are disadvantaged, or experiencing difficulties and challenges which prevents them from successfully transitioning into adulthood.
The BEN organisation provides vocational skills, welfare promotion and harm prevention activities, with the purpose of relieving helplessness and adversity, to adolescents under the age of 25 years.
Evidence shows that working with dogs can do so much for our youth especially experiencing the non-judgemental pure love that only dogs can give. Working together with local youth workers, the program aims to assist the group by:
- Developing resilience skills for life
- Learning effective and positive ways to overcome challenges
- Developing social skills
- Modelling healthy relationships
- Providing real time, immediate feedback to social cues
- Emotional support with reduced stress and anxiety
Popcorn was initially assessed by a behavioural specialist, to ensure she was a suitable candidate, as they need dogs with very specific traits and skills to work with our young people. After passing the assessment, Dr Jenny and PopCorn, along with a number of other local dog owners, volunteered every Tuesday over a 10 week period at a facility in Ingleside.
Youth worker program facilitators started the sessions off with discussion about a resilience skills, such as optimism and positive thinking, and how this skill can help in life and how it can develop. The students were then given a challenge that they must achieve with a dog using a specific resilience skill. This could include getting the dog to sit, stay or to come.
After spending time working with the dogs, there was open discussion on the challenges associated with instructing the dog, and how it impacted on the adolescents resilience. This could be questions such as “Was the dog listening to you? When he didn’t listen how did it make you feel? How did you overcome this feeling?”. These questions will allow us to draw similarities between the challenges faced by young people and positive ways in which they can overcome these challenges.
Dr Jenny is passionate about promoting the important role pets play in our community, and she and PopCorn had a fabulous time being involved in this pilot program! PopCorn was even awarded the “Trick Queen Award”!
If you would like more information on how to be a part of this program, simply head to The Business Education Network’s Volunteer Dog Therapy Program page.