PLEDG: Positivity, Leadership & Empathy in Dog Guardianship Standard Elementary

In addition to rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming some of Kern County’s most destitute dogs, Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue offers a plethora of humane education and vocational skills programs for children, teens and adults. Today, we are thrilled to announce the rolling out of our new elementary school curriculum, which we call PLEDG: Positivity, Leadership & Empathy in Dog Guardianship. The 8-week course is currently running as a pilot program at Standard Elementary School, its participants a group of twelve 4th and 5th grade students hand-selected by the school’s principal and counselor.

PLEDG integrates California state Common Core (health education) standards and lessons in positive reinforcement dog training into hands-on exercises that create an innovative learning experience with academic, social-emotional, and practical applications. Upon completion of the PLEDG course, students will be able to:

1. Teach dogs basic obedience commands using positive reinforcement

2. Understand that nurturing our inner-leader brings out the best in our dogs and in ourselves

3. Interpret dogs’ body language, and accompanying energetic state, through an empathic lens

4. Describe a “week in the life” of a pet dog who is not only surviving, but thriving in his/her environment

5. Connect the personal responsibility of being a pet guardian, with efforts to curb the pet overpopulation crisis in Kern County PLEDG provides a framework for implementing PBIS classroom management initiatives. The ultimate goal of a PBIS classroom management plan is to foster intrinsic motivation in students, and create a school environment that is positive, safe, and achievement-oriented.

Here are just a few ways that PLEDG fulfills these requirements:
1. Using rewards-based dog training methods creates a culture of positivity in the classroom that benefits students, dogs, and educators. Its aim is also to build intrinsic motivation toward good behavior in both the students and dogs.
2. Using the dogs themselves (i.e. the handling of them) as a reward for students’ good behavior implores students to do and be their best.
3. Using the PBIS framework with students, and a rewards-based training framework with dogs, yields similar behavioral results in both populations, respectively. When students and dogs come together to work toward common goals, the “unified framework” is more effective still.

The PLEDG curriculum is changing the future for Kern County’s companion animals by instilling compassion, positive associations, and a sense of personal responsibility toward animal stewardship in Kern County’s youth. The course is also altering perceptions and offering perspective to students who might otherwise not be exposed to the value, even the life-changing influence, of the human-canine bond. KERN COUNTY Elementary School Educators: We hope you will consider bringing this experience to your students! Please visit contact Liz Kover for more information: liz.kover@marleysmutts.com.

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