The welfare of children in South Africa is of utmost importance, as well as that of animals. A registered NPO called The Underdog Project, based in Hout Bay, believes the two can help one another in the teaching of important values.

“This programme is mutually beneficial to two vulnerable groups as we teach empathy and various life skills to underprivileged children while bringing joy to troubled dogs,” Said the NPO.

“Selecting untrained shelter dogs as therapy partners, positive reinforcement dog training techniques are taught to the children as a form of non-invasive group therapy. Positive-reinforcement training is a force-free, non-violent method of training that builds confidence in both dogs and trainers.”

It’s programme is made up of a minimum of 8 to 12 modules broken up into two-hour-long weekly sessions. “The first hour provides hands on positive reinforcement dog training and animal interactions and the second hour focusses on humane education activities, specifically caring for animals. Our programme provides a safe, stimulating extra-mural activity and non-invasive therapy for young people,” the organisation said.

With the help of qualified facilitators and experienced dog trainers, it facilitates the children to teach the dogs basic skills like sit, stay, paw as well as some basic agility like jumping through hoops and going through tunnels to help them overcome their insecurities and blossom.

“Sometimes all we do is cuddle time where the dogs get groomed and read to,” it added.

The programme’s benefits for the children include: 

– Children’s inherent empathy and compassion is awakened

– Self esteem and self awareness

– Environmental awareness and humane education

– Positive means of communication

– Responsibility & leadership

– Feel good about helping an animal in need

– Goal setting and empowerment

– Cross cultural tolerance

– Literacy

– Therapy

– Learn patience

– Hope and safe play

The programme’s benefits for the dog’s include: 

– Overcome anxiety

– Gain confidence

– Learn basic skills

– Feel love

– Get exercise

– Get mental stimulation

– Playtime

– Socialising with other dogs

– Significant reduction in kennel stress

– Manners

– Agility

– Human bond

– Trust

– Higher adoptability rate

Picture: The Underdog Project

Article written by

Lucinda Dordley

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.