ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s a summer camp that combines two-legged and four-legged members.
Kids and teens train dogs at Doglando enrichment center. However, the dogs don’t belong to their campers, they’re from different shelter and rescue organizations.
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“Their work is really limited in being able to save lives because these dogs need additional support and the shelters don’t always have access to the tools of offering the dogs the type of support they need,” Doglando lead trainer Teena Patel said.
For two weeks, campers house and train a dog they are paired with. They use techniques taught at Doglando. Patel spent years traveling the world, studying street dogs and understanding their biology to come up with strategies, she said, helps pets thrive in a home.
The campers put in the work to help shelter dogs become more adoptable.
“The relationship piece is what we fill in. Building a relationship with the dog. There’s no way these dogs can develop a relationship in the environments they’re in when they’re not one-on-one,” Patel said. “I think the best part is to be able to allow a younger generation to be a part of this journey, that’s super fun.”
Twenty dogs are a part of this year’s summer program. Six of them were set to be euthanized due to behavioral issues or lack of adoption interest. They were picked up by Doglando for the camp. Five-month-old Oreo was one of them. First-year camper Mason Met is changing that outcome.
“It feels really good knowing I’m going to be able to help this dog. I know it’s not just a camp where you play with a dog, you’re actually doing something to save this dog,” Met said.
The program includes obedience, home training and exercise for the dogs while also teaching the kids and teens responsibility.
“We’ve been training them getting in and out of cages and getting used to going on walks and learning to walk next to us,” first-year camper Ariel Merryweather said.
They also get in plenty of playtime during camp at Doglando’s large property that includes agility equipment and ponds for the dogs to swim in.
Nathan McGinley is an experienced camper, is in his fourth year and said he’s learned a lot.
“Some of these techniques I’ve implemented with my dog at home,” McGinley said.
McGinley said the experience teaches healthy attachment and detachment, understanding they’re training to help the dogs find their forever homes with potential adopters.
“After you get attached to your first dog, it’s hard in the next couple days when they’re not with you anymore,” McGinley said. “I like keeping contact with the families that adopt them. It’s nice to see how well the dogs progress and how happy they are.”
There are two sessions of Camp Doglando. One in June, another in July. Both camps are full for 2022, but you can register for next summer.
Keep in mind, while this is only a two-week camp, the responsibility goes well beyond that. Each camper has to follow up with the adoptive families for a few months to help with the transition. Campers also have to house the dogs during the duration of the program making sure they are fed and taken care of.