Blue Cross blog
Inspiring teenagers to train their dogsPosted on 09 Mar 2011
We’re always reassuring people that you can teach an old dog new tricks but could we inspire a group of teenagers from south London to train their dogs? Find out when the Kickz project came to The Blue Cross…
All pairs of eyes were riveted on Lelki as she trotted over to the remote control, put it in her mouth and trotted back to her owner.
A collective gasp of awe could be heard from the group of teenagers watching avidly. They couldn’t deny it – they were impressed. Imagine having a dog so cool that she fetches you the remote control?
All of a sudden having a well trained dog was starting to look like a good idea.
Crossbreed Lelki belongs to Tamsin Durston, who’s the nurse manager at The Blue Cross Merton animal hospital. Together they were demonstrating dog training to a group of lads aged between 14 and 16 from the Kickz project at Crystal Palace Football Club in south London.
On the face of it the project offers free football sessions for young people but it does an awful lot more by encouraging them into positive activities, like music, dance and getting back into education.
There’s a growing trend among youngsters for so-called status dogs, particularly in cities like London, so Kickz project officer Trevor Meader arranged for them to visit our animal hospital to find out more.
As well as having a tour of the hospital and getting to see the inside of an animal ER, the group spent some time with our education officer Kaye Martin, learning about the implications of this trend for both the animal and the owner. Activities focused on the law and how easy it is to commit a crime by mistreating an animal, unknowingly owning an illegal type, like a pit bull, or not being in control of your dog.
The Blue Cross educates more than 25,000 young people every year about responsible pet ownership, from primary school to college age.
Education officer Kaye says: “We make it fun and interactive and they’re always enthusiastic in the discussions. The young people of today are the pet owners of the future so it’s essential for us to engage with them.
“A lot of young people buy a dog as a fashion icon or to keep up with their mates without realising what they’re taking on. Every year our adoption centres are inundated with unwanted bull breeds and our hospitals treat more Staffie types than any other dog.”
Kaye adds: “There’s always a few surprises during the session, especially when we show them photographs of dogs and ask them to guess which are the illegal types. No one ever gets them all right and it really brings it home how easy it is to end up with banned type without knowing it.”
Trevor says that visiting the hospital and hearing about the issue straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, really helped to get the message across.
He adds: “You can speak to them about the issues of dangerous dogs and responsible ownership on the football pitch and it doesn’t always sink in but coming to The Blue Cross and hearing about it from the people that know really made a difference because it brings it to life.
“To actually go into an animal hospital and see how it works was a great opportunity for them and they were all surprised at how much goes on and all the work The Blue Cross does. They really enjoyed it.”
The visit culminated in a special treat – a dog training session with Tamsin and Lelki, where they demonstrated the reward based method of clicker training and how effective it could be. Whether it was simply asking Lelki to sit or lie down or something as clever as asking her to pick up her keys, Tamsin had everyone’s attention.
Trevor says: “We particularly wanted to bring young people that had a dog or might be tempted to get one in the future so they could learn something from the experience.
“On the way there they didn’t really know what to expect but they told me afterwards how much they enjoyed it. A lot of them hadn’t seen any dog training before and they were pretty impressed and said they were going to try it when they got home. They didn’t really know about reward based training and the importance of treating your dog for the correct behaviour and I think they really took this on board.
“One told me he’d had a dog for a couple of years and it had never learned to sit. He said he was going to teach him how to do it now.”
If you’d like to arrange a Blue Cross education talk for your school or group call 0300 1118950 or email email@example.com.