For “Spencer,” “Vonda” and “Howie,” it was all about learning the basics: focus, sit and shake.
For the kids enrolled in Critter Camp, it was all about teaching them these basic manners to help the dogs become more adoptable.
Critter Camp, a two-session program held at the Kaua‘i Humane Society, attempts to teach second- through fifth-graders compassion and respect for animals.
Students have hands-on interaction with the animals at the humane society and learn how animals communicate and behave in the wild and at home. They also participate in daily training sessions with dogs and cats in the shelter.
Before the students worked on their daily training with the dogs, some of whom have had no training, Carol Everett, certified humane education specialist and camp coordinator, explained the proper way to train the dogs.
Everett demonstrated how using a treat as a lure is more helpful than just shouting at the dog when training the animal. She also stressed the importance of patience when working with animals.
“It’s really important to have patience as a trainer,” Everett said. “Be positive and patient. The rewards are so great — you are helping these dogs get adopted.”
Once the class of 19 students was briefed, they were shown by Ellen Carscadden of the Kaua‘i Humane Society how to make eye contact with the dog, have the dog sit, shake and walk while on a leash.
“This training makes the dogs more friendly, sociable and adoptable,” Carscadden said.
Once the dogs accomplish the tasks, a checklist on the front of their cages will reflect their progress.
“This is what the folks see when they come to adopt a dog,” Carscadden said.
Everett said the daily training sessions will empower the campers to say they have trained the dogs, to ready them for potential adoption.
“If their dogs get adopted, we want them to know it is a happy day, not a sad one,” Everett said. “Getting them adopted is what we want, it’s our goal.”
Though daily dog training is a highlight for the kids, it isn’t what the camp is all about.
“It’s not just working with dogs,” Everett said. “That’s just a piece of the puzzle.”
Critter Campers also learn about endangered habitats and shearwaters, the importance of spaying and neutering pets, disaster preparedness and search and rescue with animals. The kids will also be qualified to be foster parents to kittens to help socialize them.
This week’s session will end with a show-and-tell and graduation.