Pasadena Boys/Girls Club Teens Train Shelter Dogs in Unique Program

Published : Tuesday, May 29, 2018 | 5:37 AM

For about two and a half years, the Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena has been partnering with K9 Youth Alliance (K9YA) nonprofit in its “kids helping dogs helping kids” program that connects teens with shelter dogs from Los Angeles Animal Services, establishing a working, loving relationship with them through an intense, three-week vocational training program.

The Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena was K9YA’s inaugural partner for this program, which started in 2016. Since then, two dozen teenagers from the Club, and as many of their furry friends, have been part of the program.

During those three weeks, teenagers training the dogs in basic skills to make them even more attractive for adoption. In turn, the dogs show Club members the value of patience and perseverance, and teach them how to solve problems.

Teens also get an introduction to the myriad careers related to working with and for animals. After three weeks, a graduation ceremony allows the teenagers and their dogs to show off the behaviors and skills they’ve worked on during the program; each teen participant gives a speech about what they’ve learned throughout the three weeks.

“This really allows them to explore their love for animals in a safe and positive environment, and at the same time, gives the dog a chance to get out of that shelter environment and learn behaviors that will make it more adoptable,” Brian Davis, Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena executive director/CEO, told Outlook Newspapers recently. “As dog lovers, we know what we learn from loving our dogs, so we know what these teenagers can also learn from these invaluable skills.”

During the program, each teen is paired with an adult volunteer who helps them train the shelter dog to understand a variety of basic commands.

“Our goal is to make sure we’re helping as many kids and as many dogs as possible,” Karen Rosen, K9YA co-founder and advisory board member, said. “This is about supporting the students and their self-discovery and what they learn through the interactions with the animal. It’s emotional, contextual learning – it’s a much better way to learn something than have it being told to you.”

Six to eight teens are selected for the K9YA program every semester. After going through an application and interview process, the students commit to attending two-hour sessions every day for three weeks at the Boys and Girls Club facility, working one-on-one with the encouragement of a dedicated team of K9YA coordinators.

K9YA, established in 2013, uses a rewards-based, force-free dog training as a model for promoting self-discovery and nonviolence. Rosen helped develop the local nonprofit after hearing about K9 Connections, a statewide nonprofit that helps connect foster youth and teens at continuation high schools with shelter dogs. She said Pasadena’s eager community of dog-loving volunteers was the perfect place for the concept.

Currently, “kids helping dogs helping kids” serves about 400 students per day between the Club’s two locations – the Slavik Branch at 3230 East Del Mar Blvd., and the MacKenzie Scott Branch at 2020 North Fair Oaks Avenue.

To learn more about K9YA’s programs, visit or email them at

For more information on the Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena, visit ?

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