Photo Credit: Supplied

A weekly dog training class for children has seen growth in the community, as the children learn to respect animals and report cases of cruelty.


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Atlantis, South Africa (10 March 2020) – Three years ago Yvonna Hertog and Clare Banwell started a weekly dog training class for six local children from Witsand informal settlement and their dogs. Today, there is a waiting list to attend the Clever Kids Smart Dogs NPO 220-367 class.

Every Saturday morning a small team of volunteers works with 40 children and their dogs to foster compassion, safety, respect and responsibility. Yvonna, now the chairperson of this non-profit organisation, believes that by teaching compassion for dogs (in fact, all living things), we can do something to break the cycle of violence in our beautiful country.

Research shows that violence causes trauma and stress and reduces empathy. Trauma and stress can alter a young person’s brain functions, impacting learning, causing behavioural problems, and igniting a cycle of violence.

“By teaching the youth to love and care for their dogs, the importance of vaccinating and sterilising pets and basic dog training skills, we hope to give them a sense of pride and purpose in their community. We encourage them to become leaders in taking responsibility for their pets and in encouraging those around them to do the same.” –  Yvonna Hertog, CKSD co-founder and chairperson.

In fact, by raising their levels of compassion the children now play a key role in reporting animal abuse, neglect or accidents. They get help for dogs on short chains, abandoned puppies and kittens and emergency cases such as dogs hit by cars or victims of fire, etc.

“Since these classes started the dogs in Witsand have started to look much healthier, they eat better and their skins look good. The children are sharing that dogs must eat dog food instead of pap and rice and that they need injections to stay healthy.” –  M. Nelson, local school principal.

Chad (13) and his dog, Lucy, (pictured below) have been part of the programme for over a year and share an incredible bond:

“Every morning when I wake up and she sees me, she starts dancing, which makes me happy. She also keeps me comfortable when I am alone and she listens nicely when I speak to her.”

The children are expected to adhere to the code of conduct that prioritises safety, respect and responsibility during class but also wherever they find themselves. All dogs in the programme are sterilised once old enough and the children are strongly encouraged to remain in school. Maxeen Basson is a social worker who volunteers her time to assist with issues escalated by the CKSD team of volunteers.

Kathrin Hellbeck, CKSD volunteer training and development manager is so incredibly thankful for the team of dedicated volunteers who make the programme a success. With no government funding, they rely solely on private donations to pay their vet bills, provide food for the dogs and to take the children on educational outings.

The Clever Kids Smart Dogs team are always looking for regular donors and more opportunities for the children to learn about careers in animal welfare and beyond. If you have any suggestions or contacts please get in touch with them at

Source: Lana Rolfe
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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