KIPU — Imagine trying to learn a behavior when you cannot understand what it is you’re supposed to do.
A critter camper at the Kaua‘i Humane Society had that task, being reinforced with an M&M when she came close, and getting a dose of cheering and a handful of M&M candies when she finally turned off the light switch.
“It takes a lot patience,” said Carol Everett, the leader of the Critter Camp which started Monday and continues through Friday. “You need to reinforce the positive behavior and eventually, your pet will develop a wide vocabulary of ‘tricks.’”
The exercise was a prelude to the dog training exercise which involved the students breaking up into groups of three and working with Kaua‘i Humane Society dogs to train them with a clicker on making eye contact.
“Eye contact is the single most influential behavior which gets a pet adopted,” Everett said.
Kathy Hetherington, a certified dog trainer with Wagmore University, was on hand to help the children using the clicker method.
Critter Camp is open to students completing the second through fourth grades. To get the students to have the clicker bug out of their system, Everett had the kids clicking continuously for a full minute.
“You’ll see a big difference in the dogs in a week,” Everett said.
During Critter Camp, young students not only learn how to train dogs, or help them to get adopted, they learn about other kinds of animals including birds, guinea pigs, cats, chickens and more. They also learn how to play with kittens and make them toys to keep them happy, create other things to take home, and show off the week’s training of dogs during “graduation.”
Everett said there are two more Critter Camps scheduled for the summer: June 27 through July 1, and July 11 through July 15. Camp hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and camps are limited to 16 campers for each session.
Registration forms are available at the Kaua‘i Humane Society front desk. Registration deadline for the June 27 camp is June 16 and the deadline for the July 11 camp is June 27. There is a cost of $130 for each camper for the five-day camp and includes a snack twice a day. There are a limited amount of scholarships available. Call 632-0610, ext. 103 for more information.