Throughout the year Animal Farm Foundation hosts a series of free, week-long internships. We just wrapped up the first of our two fall internships and are busy preparing for the arrival of next week’s interns. So, this seemed like the perfect time to reveal our recipe for a successful internship program:
At AFF, we start off with:
1. A group of hardworking, enthusiastic change-makers from all over the country. In past internships, we’ve welcomed animal welfare advocates and shelter staff members from various locations: some came from right down the road in Dutchess County, NY, while others flew in from Florida, Texas, California, Washington, Iowa, Ontario, and even France!
Not only are our interns geographically diverse, but their jobs and volunteer work are as well. Some come from large, open admission, municipal shelters, while others come from smaller, private rescues, shelters, and advocacy groups. We appreciate how the diversity of their personal experience winds up enriching the group’s experiences. Not only do the interns learn from us, but they learn from each other. And all while teaching us a thing or two, as well!
Next we focus on the two most important ingredients:
2. This is a prejudice-free zone. From day one, all of our workshops and training sessions are based on this foundational principle: All dogs and all people are individuals. We help our interns recognize how our own assumptions, guesses, and preconceived ideas about a dog or an adopter can have a negative impact on our work. Everyone is encouraged to see the dogs and people around them as unique individuals, with the goal of creating more successful adoptions and providing better pet owner support.
3. “Pit bull” dogs do not need specialized care or training. They are dogs. And dogs, no matter what breed or breed mix they may be, have more in common with each other than not. Our interns learn how to provide better care for dogs, specifically those living in a shelter environment. By learning how to increase the quality of care for all shelter dogs, any dog labeled “pit bull” will also benefit.
We add in a healthy dose of fun with the dogs:
4. Interns live with our available dogs. The interns get a snuggle buddy and the dogs get a break from their kennels. Plus, we get to learn more about our dogs, thanks to detailed daily diaries interns fill out about their time with each dog. It’s slumber party central!
5. Our team introduces the group to the basics of dog sports such as agility, dock diving, discs, and flyball. The dogs love to show off for their new friends!
6. Hiking! Group walks are always a good time – for people and the dogs. This social group walk allows interns to explore the Farm while giving the dogs structured social time together.
7. We break for snacks and zoomies.
As the week continues, interns get new skills in training, enrichment, and communication:
8. Our interns spend time each day learning the foundations of positive reinforcement dog training in our group classes run by our on-staff trainers. Clickers, treats, and various training equipment, such as front clip harnesses, are introduced.
9. Enrichment happens. In addition to discussing the basics of creating an enrichment program to increase the quality of life for shelter dogs, our interns get hands-on lessons on how to make inexpensive, fun enrichment toys. From busy buckets and tugs to interactive pvc toys and ice buckets, interns go home with a bag full of new tricks. Plus, we throw in some quality time watching and learning about play groups too!
10. We hit the classroom for presentations from Animal Farm Foundation and National Canine Research Council staff members. As advocates and animal welfare professionals, it’s crucial that we examine our language and messaging. Are we helping or hurting “pit bull” dogs when we speak on their behalf? Our interns learn how to effectively advocate for the dogs through our presentations.
And the end result:
Connections are made. New ideas are shared. Batteries are recharged. And a new group of empowered individuals head back home with the passion and the skills to make the world a better place for “pit bull” dogs.
Viola! That’s an AFF internship!
If you or someone you know would like to apply for our Internship program, please visit our website for more information, FAQs, and the online application.