D.A.Y.L.I.G.H.T. … is an acronym for:
Dogs and Youth Learning through Insight, Guidance and Humane Training
It is simple: our dogs + incarcerated youth + clicker training = DAYLIGHT.
Ok, so maybe not that simple, but close.
Photo dated Spring 2008: The photo is taken inside the facility. These youth were able to work with these same dogs for 6 weeks in a row!
About the dogs in the photo: The two standard poodles came from a bad breeder situation in Minnesota. They came to us via another rescue. They had been left in a pen 24/7, and, for starters, needed a lot of socialization. See the Pointer? He came from a local animal shelter, so did the Irish Setter, Corrina. Corrina was on death’s door – literally. All have been adopted and are doing well in their new homes.
Here are some questions and answers about DAYLIGHT:
How did it start? About five years ago, we received a call from one of the teachers of a local facility. She asked if we would be interested in bringing dogs to interact with the incarcerated youth. The timing was perfect. Several of us had been interested in Pet Therapy. We had been taking some of the foster dogs to local facilities for mentally impaired and the aged. And this is an area that I personally have always been interested in since I had served as a chaplain in a facility for youth. It was a natural fit.
Our Philosophy: That dogs and youth benefit through the process of hands on dog training.
Think about all that a youth can learn from training a dog: to persist when faced with setbacks; to know they are needed; to feel they are making a difference; to practice patience, to be responsible, to be consistent and reliable; to correct without anger; to realize that dogs don’t care about excuses; to realize that mistakes are a part of the learning process; to realize discipline and obedience allow freedom and creativity.
A Throw Away Society: We live in a society that simply discards so much: our youth, our pets, and more. We believe that the youth and the dogs are valuable to our society. Our hope is to play a small part in helping, both the youth and the dogs live more productive lives within their communities.
Why should a rescue being doing this? Good Question. We are technically an animal rescue. We go to the local animal shelters, get to pick out dogs, bring them home, vet them, care for them in our homes and eventually adopt them out! That is our basic program.
Participating in the youth prison program is a gift, for us, for our dogs, and for our community. These dogs that were ‘thrown away’ are given the golden opportunity to perhaps heal a broken place in a youth, or maybe give a youth the power to keep with his program, or for a moment, just a moment, reflect on what is good in this world of ours.
Watching a youth realize he has just taught a dog to jump a hoop, or a puppy waddle up to a big tough guy and offer a lick and climb into his lap and watch the big toughness roll off — it’s magic, it’s goodness, it’s the right thing to be participating in. It matters.
A Note On Animal Shelters: The animals in our program come from local animal shelters. Shelters have been created to take care of our animal population, animals that are neglected and need care. Animal shelters are not the bad guys. Animals land in shelters for all kinds of reasons, mostly because of the humans who owned them, rarely because the dog is truly a bad dog.
The program Grows: We began more like Pet Therapy where we took a dog or two and had it do some tricks or walk around and then let the youth interact with the dog(s). But then we began to read and do some research and slowly made changes towards a program where we are teaching the youth to train the dogs. The program is always evolving! We brought in a clicker training expert to weave that concept dog training into our program. Rather than a clicker, we use the word – ‘yes”. It is a marvelous training method!
How does it work?
The dogs: The dogs in the program come from local shelters. Before going to the prison, each dog must be fully vetted (spayed and rabies shot), must be clean of fleas, etc,. and temperament tested.
PetsConnect volunteers: Volunteers are screened. It is helpful if the volunteer has a basic understanding of dog behavior. Each volunteer must participate in a basic training program required by the prison. In addition, security checks, criminal back grounds and such are required. There is a strict dress code. There are many dos and don’ts a volunteer needs to know! There are currently four of us qualified.
The Youth: Youth are selected by the facility based on how well they are working their program. Youth also need to want to participate.
Getting dogs there: We travel once a week to the facility. I pack up dogs in my car and head off. When I take puppies, sometimes I have to pull over and clean up after them. It is about a 30 minute drive one way. Sometimes other volunteers who are fostering will ‘donate’ a dog so they will bring the dog and meet me at the facility. In the past, when a dog is adopted to someone in our area prior to finishing the Daylight program, we will try to make arrangements to get the dog to the facility for the program. When I arrive at the facility, staff and youth are waiting to unload the dogs. I must say, they are always happy to see us!
We Are There: We meet sometimes inside, sometimes out in the yard. Just depends on weather and such. Dogs and Youth really enjoy being outside when we can. We let the dogs sniff about and and the youth gather. Sometimes we have to wait for all the youth to arrive. Then we gather in a circle, introduce ourselves, the dogs, and the program.
Training Logistics: We begin with a series of “Yes-Treats” so the dogs learn when they hear the word Yes – they get a treat. (Say Yes, give dog treat)
Then we work on sit —- using the clicker method.
Not so easy sometimes.
And then down, off, and shake paw.
And the recall which is always so much fun! The youth work in training pairs. This accomplishes a couple things: first, it allows more youth to participate, second, one youth holds the training jars while the other holds the dog, and it makes it easier to say Yes at the correct moment too. And we often have an extra youth to fill in as needed, get the dogs water, etc.
Wrapping it Up: Then play time. We all like this part too! Our time varies from an hour to two hours. It depends on what is happening at the facility and volunteers. The youth and staff help us load up the dogs into our cars and we are off for home. Dogs always sleep on the way home!
Interested in Helping?
Volunteer: If you would like to volunteer, you first need to fill out a PetsConnect! Volunteer application. Then a volunteer will call you. We require that you attend two PetsConnect! events before participating in the Daylight program. These can be adoption events, fundraising, etc. The reason is obvious, we need to know who you are.
Financial Help: Donations to help with gas costs for transporting the animals, for purchasing treats and for purchasing agility equipment. We currently have a tunnel, and a tire jump and basic jumps. We would like to be able to purchase more equipment.
Agility Equipment: If you have used, but sturdy, agility equipment you would like to donate, please let us know!
Toys: Stuffed, soft, no hard toys and NO balls!
Hot Dog Pieces: Small, pieces of hot dogs make great treats! If you, or if a group of you, would like to help in this way, here is what you do: Buy hotdogs and small snack size baggies. Carefully cut the hot dog in small pieces such as the tip of your finger size. Put the dogs in the baggies. Put filled baggies in freezer. Call to make arrangements to bring them to us. For groups such as Girl Scouts, we will gladly bring dogs and do a presentation to the group!
Want more information? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org