Shake-A-Paw can help dogs have happy hearts!
The whole idea of Shake-a-Paw sprung from our 12-year-old adoptive son who argued against adopting out one of our rescue dogs because “her new home will break down and then DeeDee will get a broken heart”.
What's the mission of Shake-a-Paw?
Shake-a-Paw is an intervention program that pairs traumatized young people with hard-to-adopt rescue dogs for a 8-week workshop in positive, reward-based dog training in an effort to make the dogs more adoptable and to empower youth with empathy, impulse control, social conscience, and hope.
Who are the program facilitators?
In Shake-A-Paw, a dog trainer and an animal-assisted therapist will work together as a team to facilitate the participants as they learn to train the dogs. The animal-assisted therapist is Kelowna psychologist, Dr. Kim Dawson. The dog trainer is Jan Dawson. Jan has published numerous articles and educated about the importance of treating animals humanely. Kim and Jan are also the co-founders of the Mary Ellen Humane Education Society.
What about safety?
To promote learning, safety must be established. Discussions about safety are paramount. Animal bylaws will be reviewed with staff and students during the orientation to the program. On Day 1, Week 1, students will participate in creating a code of conduct focusing on safety and respect. Students who do not respect human safety or the safety of the dogs - depending on the severity of the safety risk – either will not be allowed into the program, will be given a second chance after an infraction, or will be expelled. Moreover, to maximize supervision and thereby minimize safety risk, the student-staff ratio will be 2:1, with three staff to supervise 2 participants and 2 dogs.
Your age group (12-25) seems a little wide. Will a 12-year-old relate to a 25-year-old?
At Mary Ellen Humane Education Society, we believe people of different ages can learn to get along, much like members of a family or like workers in a workplace. But even in families or on the job, relationships can go awry. We also want to consider how individuals of more similar ages might naturally relate more easily and at roughly the same level of maturity. For these reasons, we will group those aged 12-18 separately from those aged 19-25.
What will the participants be learning?
Humane Education is about how to treat other living beings with respect, reverence, and responsibility.
Topics and themes covered in Shake-a-Paw are: Empathy, Mastery, Future Orientation, Literacy, Social Conscience, and Staying the Course. Each week, one of the following social values will be emphasized.
- learning to care
- recognizing the feelings of others
- inhibiting impulses
- building ties to others
- gaining control & experiencing success
- preventing relapse
- creating a positive self-image
- collaborative problem solving & research
"People demand more of themselves, conquer problems, defer gratification, and put the needs of others ahead of their own only when they believe that the effort they make today will contribute to a better tomorrow."
Quoted from: Lynn Loar, Ph.D. and Libby Colman, Ph.D. Teaching Empathy: Animal-Assisted Therapy Programs for Children and Families Exposed to Violence. Latham Foundation, 2004.
Literacy provides a way
- to experience personal and social influence
- to express empathy
- to develop and demonstrate their growth into mastery, empathy, and conscience through group activities, journal writing, and developing dog resumes for the dogs they are training
Social Conscience involves:
- accountability & responsibility
- community safety, and provides a context for young people:
- to look beyond themselves
- to be effective in their communities
Staying the Course
Both before and after the dogs have gone to their adoptive homes, there will be discussion and debriefing about ways of coping with:
Follow-up will include multiple ways to stay connected with Mary Ellen Humane Education Society:
1. volunteer to mentor new participants
2. co-facilitate a group of graduates who wish to reconnect on a regular basis
3. volunteer to help out with the Society's programs doing fundraising, social media, writing articles for local newspapers or magazines
4. move on to Stand-by-Me, a program in which graduates of Shake-a-Paw develop a business plan for their own animal-related job, business, or non-profit