Camp Good Dog brings Lander students, children and pets together in unique learning opportunity
Thursday, Jun 09, 2016
camp good dog participants
Lander psychology major Rebekah Holbert of Laurens, left, assists a young camper at the Humane Society of Greenwood’s Camp Good Dog, which pairs local youth with shelter dogs needing socialization prior to adoption. Lander student-volunteers provide support, including one-on-one supervision for each camper during hands-on work with the dogs. Photo by Abbygale Best

The Humane Society of Greenwood is hosting its 11th annual Camp Good Dog for kids ages 8-12. The 2016 camp kicked off on Monday, June 6, and runs through Friday, June 17. Campers are matched with shelter dogs for two weeks of intensive fun and learning, for human and canine participants alike.

Each camper is paired with a shelter dog needing more socialization prior to adoption. Guest speakers teach kids about proper animal care, and Lander University professor Dr. Jenny Bond guides them through the basics of positive reinforcement dog training.

The best part, participants say, is the daily hands-on practice and play with the camp’s pups. “The dogs' eagerness to please and loving nature makes Camp Good Dog such an enjoyable experience for the kids,” said Breanna Butler, a longstanding Humane Society volunteer and a student in the Lander University Honors College.

“Campers learn why treating animals with love, care and respect is important,” explained Michael McCarthy, Humane Society educator and volunteer coordinator. “Children learn how to provide basic pet care; how to understand dog body language and prevent bites; the importance of spaying and neutering, etc. Of course, we want children to understand that pet overpopulation means homeless pets and the need for an animal shelter. The most important thing, though, is that the children have fun while learning to safely enjoy having pets as friends.”

Camp Good Dog is a lifeline for shelter dogs. It offers much-needed exercise and attention and, more importantly, a better chance of adoption. A poorly trained, anxious or withdrawn dog has slim chance of finding a forever home.

“Campers are helping these dogs to trust people and learn to be around other dogs, behavioral skills that appeal to adopters” McCarthy said. “Camp dogs have increased opportunities for finding a new home.”

Lander volunteers provide support, including one-on-one supervision for each camper during hands-on work with dogs. Many are students in Dr. Mandy Cleveland’s summer Honors College course on the psychology of dogs.

For Cleveland, Camp Good Dog is a chance to promote empathy and responsibility for both kids and college students.

“Until they meet the shelter dogs, many people don’t grasp the real impact of pet overpopulation in our community” Cleveland stated. “It’s a huge, solvable problem. By allowing younger generations to personally invest in the lives of needy animals, we gradually change the culture itself.”

Volunteer Mel Bussard, an honors psychology major at Lander, said, “Camp is great! Kids are learning the rewards and responsibilities of owning a dog while having fun.” Bussard hopes to pick up tips while helping out; he is learning to train service animals with the help of his own adopted shelter dog, Mr. Wallace.

Lander honors student Olivia Gay points out how much the kids learn. “Campers get to love on adorable shelter dogs while being educated. They learn the importance of spaying and neutering, vaccinating and micro-chipping, keeping them out of the hot sun and other serious pet matters,” she said.

Campers and dogs will share a graduation ceremony on June 18th to recognize their accomplishments.