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Ohio 4-H Youth Development

Ohio State University Extension


Ohio 4-H PetPALS Master Volunteer Leader Training

4-H PetPALS (People and Animals Linking Successfully) is an intergenerational 4-H project connecting youth and their pets with senior adults in various types of healthcare facilities. The core curriculum relies on trained adult volunteers, called Master 4-H PetPALS Volunteer Leaders, who teach youth skills needed to interact with residents of healthcare facilities, specifically assisted living and skilled nursing environments. Members learn to select, socialize, and train appropriate pets to participate as youth-pet teams in animal-assisted activities. They learn how animals behave and communicate, and how to interpret their own pet’s temperament and personality. Youth practice safe and humane animal handling techniques, involve their pets in animal wellness programs, and practice responsible pet ownership and care. Youth participate in aging sensitivity simulation activities to learn about the physical changes associated with aging. After completing additional sensitivity simulation activities to learn about medical conditions they may encounter, youth role play with their pets to learn how to meet and communicate with senior adults. Upon successfully completing the curriculum, 4-H members and their pets, accompanied by adult volunteers, visit senior healthcare facilities, thus enhancing intergenerational relationships. Refer to the Master 4-H PetPALS Volunteer job description.

This Master 4-H PetPALS Volunteer Training is designed to:

  • Teach volunteers the key elements necessary for youth to have a positive 4-H experience.
  • Familiarize volunteers with the 4-H PetPALS Leader’s Guide and Project and Record Book.
  • Prepare volunteers, using experiential learning teaching methods, to conduct the activities described in the 4-H PetPALS curriculum.
  • Teach volunteers animal handling and assessment skills.
  • Teach volunteers how animals communicate and the appropriateness of pets for 4-H PetPALS animal-assisted activities. 
  • Teach volunteers how to form partnerships with senior healthcare facilities.
  • Teach volunteers how youth should communicate and visit with residents in senior healthcare facilities.
  • Teach volunteers about aging, physical, and medical conditions 4-H PetPALS may encounter during visits.
  • Teach volunteers the protocols for 4-H PetPALS animal-assisted activities.