Youth-canine program begins at Warren Central to help students learn life skills

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Students at Warren Central High School are working with shelter dogs throughout the week to learn various life and leadership skills.

Paws and Think started the week-long Youth Canine Program on Tuesday. The program, Pups and Warriors (PAWs), will help 11 academically or behaviorally challenged students at Warren Central.

Students involved in the program will train shelter dogs in basic obedience skills, while working with their teachers and counselors.

“The counselors came to us from the school and said they really wanted to see how their kids did in a youth-canine setting,” said Kelsey Burton, the executive director of Paws and Think. “They knew they had some kids here who had some things to work on and some goals to set.”

Dogs in the program are currently being fostered at S.O.A.R. (Street Outreach and Animal Response) Initiative.

In addition to helping at-risk students, Burton said dogs who have had training through positive reinforcement helps better their chance of adoption.

“The kids are really giving the dogs these skills which makes them much more appealing for someone to adopt them,” said Burton.

Paws & Think partners with schools, health care facilities, the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center, and other organizations to help at-risk youth, seniors, and people with disabilities/specials needs.

This is the organization’s second year working with Warren Central High School.

Katelyn Barger, a junior at Warren Central, said her teacher recommended she get involved with the youth-canine program. She is training Princess, an emotional support dog who was found lost.

“It’s been really interesting,” said Barger. “I like helping her get ready for a new home. She’s really sweet and a lot quieter than I thought.”

Program dogs and participating students will receive a graduation certificate indicating their participation at the end of the program.

The non-profit organization has expanded its Youth-Canine Program to help more youth and shelter dogs. Paws & Think currently has a Hamilton County Program in partnership with the Humane Society of Hamilton County and the Youth Assistance Program, where ten students are paired up with dogs.

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