PetPALS Preparing Youth

Objectives: To help young people
  • Prepare for AAA visits using role-playing techniques.
  • Safely introduce their pets to each other’s animals.
  • Learn how to introduce themselves and their pets to senior adults in a simulated visiting situation.
  • Learn how to introduce their pets to medical equipment and mobility aids in a simulated situation.
  • Review what was learned from each Step and apply that knowledge in a role-playing environment.
Background Information

People use role-playing techniques to experience a situation in a simulated setting. It is important for youth to feel as comfortable as possible when visiting with their animals. They have already visited the facility without any pets and know the layout, room sizes, activity level, and whom they may visit. This information complements Step 9:Practice with Pets in the 4-H PetPALS curriculum. 

In these role-playing scenarios, members will take turns being the 4-H PetPALS as well as the senior adults. Oversee the role-playing to ensure 4-H’ers are practicing what they have learned and their pets are acting in a predictable and controllable manner. Involve adult partners as observers and helpers during the role-playing activities. Depending on the size of the group and variety of pets, volunteers may want to schedule more than one role-playing meeting or stagger the times throughout a day or evening. Also, keep in mind that to accomplish everything, one role-playing meeting may be too long and cause the pets to become stressed, possibly more so than the actual visit.

As the group convenes and the role-playing begins, pay close attention to the interaction between the youth and pet, as well as how they handle the pet around the “senior adult.” Have someone videotape the role-playing. Review the recording with the 4-H’ers and have them critique themselves and each other. If there are key areas for improvement, or the action of a pet is questionable, take the necessary steps to insure both are ready for the 4-H PetPALS visit before allowing them to take the pet to the facility. Be upfront with the 4-H member and his or her parents/guardians if you believe they are not ready to visit, or if you see that the pet is not acceptable for visiting at this time, or maybe never. 

4-H members and/or their pets are NEVER permitted to be alone with the person or people they are visiting. A Master 4-H PetPALS volunteer leader, an adult partner who has gone through the 4-H PetPALS training, or a facility staff person MUST be present during all visits.