KNK9 pairs at-risk youth with homeless shelter dogs to increase the dogs' adoptability while teaching the youth valuable life lessons.
Kids-N-K9s provides an experiential learning environment for youth in at-risk circumstances to develop and improve important skills for success. Through working with homeless shelter dogs to increase their adoptability, the youth learn empathy, patience, self-confidence, perseverance, and how to build and maintain relationships.
Kids-N-K9s was founded in 2008 pairing at-risk youths ages 12-17 currently involved with Williamson County Juvenile Services with homeless dogs at the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. We are currently in the process of expanding in an outreach program partnering with local alternative schools.
The youths work with their assigned dogs up to 5 days a week and are responsible for training, exercising, feeding, grooming, and forming a good relationship with their dogs. In addition to training the dogs, the youths practice academic skills through relevant learning about dog-related topics. They also teach others about dog care and safety through public speaking presentations.
The relationship skills, positive reinforcement, and life lessons the youths learn during the session are processed through individual and group discussions to help apply them to their lives. Coming into the program, many of the youths express difficulties with anger management, motivation, relationships, self-confidence, patience, and learning how to work through difficult situations. The dogs challenge the youths to work through these issues and provide immediate feedback on the youths' progress through their behavior and level of willingness to work with the youth at any given moment. The dogs are very forgiving, see the youths for who they are and not what they have done, and are always willing to give them a second chance to try again.
The graduation ceremony is the program finale for the youths, their families, and families who adopted dogs from the program. The youths give a speech about what they learned from the program and demonstrate the tricks they taught their dog. Many of these youths will never experience the feeling of a large celebration in honor of their accomplishment and we believe it is important for them to be recognized for their outstanding achievement of saving a life. Graduation is always a very powerful experience as the youths see how proud their