AMRRIC was excited to host a demonstration by the Paws Up team during the AMRRIC conference in Armidale. Attendees were given a fantastic display that showed just what well trained dogs with dedicated carers are capable of. Paws Up is a highly successful dog high jumping team, they are currently the world record holder for working dog high jump and travel around the country to different shows competing and giving displays. The Paws Up program focuses on the strengths of the participants, both human and canine. Through working with and training the dogs, it shows the previously disenfranchised young men how much they can achieve.
The Paws Up team are part of the BackTrack Youth Works organisation which was founded by Bernie Shakeshaft. Bernie's unique background in youth work and wild dog management are at the heart of the program. Backtrack accepts young people that are sometimes known as the intractible 5%, the group that schools, youth services and VET providers cannot work with. Often these young people have faced a lot of family difficulties and negativity, BackTrack provides a stable and disciplined family environment so that participants can learn work skills, success and how to contribute to your community, this provides a sense of wellbeing and confidence.
Paws Up began as a youth engagement program designed for youth to learn self-discipline, build trust, self-confidence and communication skils. The dogs are a strong and persistent tool for talking through the difficult issues in life and coming up with solutions. Bernie Shakeshaft
The Paws Up exhibition shows the amazing connection between the dogs and boys, it is demonstrated when each dog takes a jump. Everytime a dog jumps his handler has to be there to catch him if he doesn't make it. The dogs don't clear every jump but when they don't make it they trust that their handler is there to catch them and they go to the next jump with confidence. This trusting relationship helps the boys face the challenges on their own journey and to know there is someone there to catch you.
BackTrack Youth Works, a not-for-profit organisation, is based in Armidale NSW and operates within Jobs Australia. BackTrack currently runs four programs; Paws Up, Iron Man Welders, AgLads and Imagine This.
See the SBS Living Black episode about the BackTrack Youthworks.