Eye on Extension: 4-H dog project benefits kids and pets

VALLEY — One of my favorite events to watch at the San Luis Valley Fair each summer is the 4-H Dog Show. At this event, kids lead their pets around the show ring as they compete in a variety of classes. It’s really striking to see the dogs, and kids, improve from year to year. Experienced dogs show impressive obedience skills. Watching the show it’s clear that the dog project builds knowledge and skills in owners, and their furry companions.

Members in the dog project, working with caring adult leaders, first and foremost learn how to care for their animal. This includes learning about good nutrition, proper grooming, shelter requirements, exercise, and providing veterinary care when needed. This makes kids more informed and responsible dog owners.

Youth also work with their dog to teach them obedience. This brings the pet and owner closer together, and makes the dog more socially acceptable and welcome by others. Members work on improving their dog’s ability to complete tasks like sitting, heeling, staying and navigating a figure 8. Obedience tasks get more challenging as youth and dogs progress through the program.

As a result of participating in this ongoing training, dogs are typically better behaved. They also become more comfortable around other dogs and other people.

Participating in the dog project also has numerous benefits for youth. As kids care for their pet, they learn responsibility and resource management. While working on their project record books, they learn record keeping skills and see the real cost of pet ownership.

As youth work with their dogs they practice patience and relationship building. They also get to strengthen their bond with their animal. Research published by the American Kennel Club shows that people are healthier when they interact positively with pets in these ways. The love and affection that a pet gives members helps to add joy to their lives.

Do you want your kid and pet to reap the benefits of participating in this fun project? One of our new dog leaders will be hosting a free Dog Project Spotlight meeting on Tuesday, March 19 at the Extension office (1899 E. Hwy 160, Monte Vista) from 3 to 4:30 pm. All families who have a dog, and a kid ages 8 to 18, are encouraged to participate. The event is an opportunity for families to learn about the dog project and ask questions to see if it is right for them.

If a new family decides they’d like to join the 4-H dog program or an existing 4-H family decides they’d like to add the dog project, they have until March 31. We encourage anyone who would like to attend the workshop to RSVP to the Extension office at 719-852-7381 or [email protected] I hope to see you there!

Amy Henschen is the 4-H Youth Development Agent for Colorado State University Extension. To find out more about Extension and the 4-H program visit http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu or call 719-852-7381. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.

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