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The Underdog Project takes dual approach to helping teens and shelter dogs

Written by: Megan Ellis

The Underdog Project combines animal welfare and youth outreach in an approach that empowers both vulnerable teenagers and dogs without homes.

The organisation teaches at-risk teens from underprivileged communities life skills through interaction with shelter dogs.

“From positive reinforcement dog training to practical life skills advice, our classes aim to engage, motivate and inspire teenagers to reorient their lives and find their feet in the real world. And in doing this, our young teen trainers can help their shelter dog partners to learn the skills they need to find Forever Homes.”

The Underdog Project

According to spokesperson Nina Slubber, interaction with the animals is able to address the social and emotional needs of underprivileged youths, while also helping the shelter dogs find a forever home.

“It’s mutually beneficial. That’s what makes this project so special.”

Nina Slubber, Spokesperson at Underdog Project

“So these children, they gain confidence, they develop communication skills, they get relief from anxiety and trauma, they gain goal-setting skills, they also have access to caring adults and a therapeutic environment that we provide for them. And at the same time the dogs are becoming more socialised, they are improving their adoptability chances, they get exercise and outdoor stimulation and there’s a reduction in anxiety and kennel stress for them.”

Nina Slubber, Spokesperson at Underdog Project

The fact that only positive enforcement is used to train the dogs provides youth with an opportunity to hone communication skills. Seeing this training succeed also debunks the notion that violence is needed for discipline and conflict resolution.

According to Slubber, many of the teens involved in the project have been exposed to violence, trauma and animal cruelty. For kids from communities where dogs are usually seen only in dog-fighting scenarios, they learn a new side to the animals and how they can actually be companions.

Interaction with dogs can also help children who are socially withdrawn and anxious about interacting with other people.

“Long term, these children - it’s very healing for them.”

Nina Slubber, Spokesperson at Underdog Project

Find out more about the project in the interview below:

If you would like to find out more about the project or donate to the organisation, visit The Underdog Project website.




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