Hi, I’m Donna, the Youth Trainer for Yorkshire. October 2018 marked 10 years since I joined the Dogs Trust education team so I thought I’d take a look back over the years and how the education program has changed.
In 2008 I was the 7th Education officer to join the team. I had already been with Dogs Trust for 4 years, as a canine carer, rehomer, receptionist, puppy rearer, groomer… the works! We used to get college visits and I was always volunteered to show them round. I found that I really enjoyed telling people about the work we do in the charity so when the Education role came up, I jumped at the chance and never looked back.
I started off with primary schools, teaching children aged 5-11 how to be a responsible dog owner. We used to follow a story of a dog that was found as a stray, and use a bag of doggy items, get the children to finish the story with me of how the dog found a new home and what things its new owner would need to provide. We also used to cover how to stroke a dog safely. I used to take my two Jack Russell Terriers, Dennis and Maisy and together we must have spoken to tens of thousands of children. Its crazy to think that some of those children will now be young adults and may have their own dogs now, I like to think that they remember some of the messages we taught them in their younger days.
I had my daughter in 2013, and when I returned back to Dogs Trust, I started a new role, the one I am in now.
The ‘Youth Trainer’ role was rolled out to target young people over the age of 12, and included alternative education settings, young offending institutes and working with youth offending teams. We developed a series of workshops designed to tackle all aspects of dog ownership, and a short course called ‘Taking the Lead’. The audience change was very drastic, but I absolutely loved the challenge. I particularly enjoy working with disengaged teenagers, as there seems to be a magic about dogs that opens a window to these young people. I have had so many comments of ‘XXX wont attend school, but when he heard it was dogs trust, came in especially’ or ‘We really struggle with their behaviour’ and them then being impeccably mannered during my sessions to the teachers astonishment.
The Youth Trainer role has evolved over the years, and we have now expanded our provision to include adult learners in custody. I’m not going to lie, the first time I did a workshop in an adult prison, I was terrified!! I need not worry though, it has been an absolute pleasure every time and I get some excellent learning outcomes being able to challenge attitudes toward dogs and offer alternatives and information on how to be a better dog owner.
We are also able to award a qualification to our adult leaners which is a double bonus! I have awarded qualifications to over 25 people now which is an incredible lasting legacy from the Dogs Trust Education Team.
2019 will bring a few more changes in my role, I am looking forward to seeing how we continue to grow and help improve dog ownership across the UK.
‘Dogs Trust is working towards the day when all dogs can lead a happy life free from the threat of unnecessary destruction’