The first group of puppies to complete the Pawsitive Changes Program is now available for adoption at the Animal Welfare Society. The program pairs puppies with teens at Long Creek Youth Development Center in a unique dog-training program for at-risk high school aged students. FILE PHOTO

KENNEBUNK — The Animal Welfare Society has announced that the first batch of puppies to graduate from its Pawsitive Changes program are available for adoption at the AWS Adoption Center at 46 Holland Road in Kennebunk.

Pawsitive Changes is an educational dog-training program for at-risk high school aged students, run in conjunction with Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. It pairs puppies with select student residents of Long Creek for six weeks of basic training and companionship.

In the program, puppies are housed directly with their student handlers, with pet daily care, socialization, crate training and house training becoming important responsibilities. AWS canine trainers offer weekly classes on basic obedience, showing the student dog handlers positive reinforcement techniques to teach good behavior, basic commands and tricks.

“Our long-running Paws in Stripes program, run in conjunction with the Maine Correctional Center, has graduated hundreds of puppies over the years. We hear time after time from adopters how well trained and well socialized the puppies are,” said Karen Robinson, Animal Care coordinator, who oversees both programs. “When the opportunity arose to partner with Long Creek, we didn’t hesitate; it’s a great way to teach empathy and compassion to students while also preparing the puppies for life with their new families.”

In addition to the training component of the program, AWS’ humane educator teaches workshops that reinforce important life skills.

Topics include empathy to animals of all kinds, careers in animal welfare, and animal advocacy. Robinson leads lively discussions on topics such as breed-based discrimination, animal cruelty, proper pet care and more.

According to Robinson, by offering humane education in addition to dog training, this program provides ongoing reinforcement of social, career and life skills in a positive environment.

When the puppies graduate from the program, they return to AWS for adoption. Each adopter is presented with a journal, kept by their student handlers, which outlines the six weeks the puppy spend at Long Creek.

“It’s a win-win for all,” Robinson said. “The puppies receive great training and the students learn important life skills.”

To learn more about the recent puppy graduates, visit https://animalwelfaresociety.org/adopt/adopt-dogs.

The Animal Welfare Society, a nonprofit organization, exists to provide humane shelter and care to companion animals temporarily in need of housing, to assist in disaster response, and to further the cause of responsible animal adoption and ownership through education and public awareness. The society actively promotes kindness, the elimination of cruelty to and neglect of all animals, and the lifelong commitment of people to their pets.

The Long Creek Youth Development Center is committed to creating and providing opportunity for success through personal growth in a safe and secure environment.

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