Auburn, Ala.—The Alabama 4-H Good Dog Project, open to 4-H youth ages 9-19, is a statewide program where students can learn how to train a dog for agility and obedience, and ultimately compete in a dog show. This program, which focuses on the many aspects of dog companionship, covers aspects of pet care such as behaviors, health and nutrition, service project ideas, dog related careers and public speaking. Aside from just the benefits to their pets, youth develop skills in critical thinking, goal setting, time management, decision-making and problem solving.
“I got interested in the project because I wanted to learn the correct way to train my dog Paisley, not the wrong way,” said 10-year-old Emma Grace Broyles, a 4-H member in Henry county. Broyles is also excited to show off her and Paisley’s new skills at their upcoming dog show.
The Good Dog Project is being rolled out statewide this year, and is currently being piloted by a few counties. Certain counties, such as Henry and Houston, are using a local credentialed CPDT-KSA trainer. CPDT-KSA trainer stands for Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Skills Assessed. The program for Henry and Houston County currently holds two obedience-training workshops per week that lasts for eight weeks. At the end of the training period, there is a dog show to showcase the mastery of skills learned by the students and their dogs.
“Dogs are very popular companion animals and most of our 4-H families either have a dog or know someone who does. When youth enroll in 4-H, there is a section for them to indicate what they like to do as well as projects they are interested in. One of those projects is Companion Animals. As we followed up with these young people, we discovered an interest in working with dogs, especially obedience and agility training,” said Doug Summerford, a 4-H Foundation regional agent.
“They [youth] acquire responsibility and leadership skills throughout the project. They learn about the selection, care and training of a dog. They gain knowledge of a selected dog and interact with that dog on a daily basis. And, they master the dog project via showmanship and presentations,” Summerford said.
For youth that do not own a dog, there is still a way to participate. Aside from just borrowing a dog from a friend or neighbor, there are local resources in every county that can help them locate a dog to train. Youth can contact veterinarians, animal shelters, CPDT-KSA trainers and pet stores. To get in contact with these organizations, youth can call the Alabama Cooperative Extension System office in their county.
For more information please contact your county Extension office.