4-H four leaf clover logoBest Friends patch with paw and hand

Best Friends 4-H Club

Volunteer Leaders/ Team Instructors

Motto: "If the map and the terrain do not agree, believe the terrain." -- Charles W. Chaillet, Jr.

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What is a Team Instructor?

Team leaders, 4-H'er, white dog       Without our Best Friends 4-H Club Leaders/ Team Instructors, there would not be a Nontraditional summer dog project. They are the very backbone of our program, each working with one Nontraditional 4-H'er and a Team Canine (which may be the 4-H'er's dog, the Team Instructor's dog, or a dog belonging to another member of the club -- you do not have to bring your own dog to be a Team Instructor).

       What is a Team Instructor? To put it simply, a Team Instructor is a 4-H volunteer leader who acts as a personal dog trainer for a Nontraditional 4-H'er. What is a Nontraditional 4-H'er? A Nontraditional 4-H'er is a person who has a life disability and cannot meet the standards of canine handling set by the American Kennel Club without the aid of a Team Instructor.

       However, the duties of a Team Instructor are not that simple. It takes a steadfast and committed person to teach the one-on-one canine class exercises to a person who:

  • May or may not have communication skills.

  • May or may not fully comprehend the concepts of canine training.

  • May have physical mountains to climb just to hold a leash.

  • May have tactile issues regarding touching the dog or you with praise and respect.

  • May not be fully cognitive.

Team leader, 4-H'er, and dog       Then there are the Team Instructor's own personal studies in preparing the material for teaching his or her assigned non-traditional 4-H'er. (You'll find much of what you need to know on our Resources/References page; we also recommend that you download 4-H Dog Project Manual; Facilitator Guide for Leaders and 4-H Members, by Mary R. Burch, PhD.) The Team Instructor must be prepared in the studies of:

  • The diagnosis of his or her assigned non-traditional 4-H'er.

  • The good manner behavior skills that will be accepted from both the non-traditional 4-H'er and the canine alike.

  • The canine tools necessary for each class subject taught. (Canine Obedience, Agility, Rally, Junior Showmanship, Canine Safety and Ownership Responsibility and Canine Anatomy).

  • The canine training techniques and how to adapt those same techniques to meet his or her assigned non-traditional 4-H'er's needs in each class subject.

  • Recognizing stress symptoms in both the non-traditional 4-H'er and the canine.

  • Understanding the canine training goals of the dog competitions the team will enter: the Berrien County Youth Fair's Nontraditional Canine Competitions in obedience, rally, agility and costume, and an AKC Canine Good Citizenship Test.

       Above all, a Team Instructor must be willing to donate his or her TIME to the Nontraditional 4-H'er's and Team Canine at the dog project classes -- two (2) to three (3) hours per session for eight (8) to nine (9) Monday evenings in June, July, and August, one day to the Nontraditional Canine Competitions at the Berrien County Youth Fair, and an hour or so if needed at the AKC Canine Good Citizenship Test.

        This may sound daunting, but Best Friends holds a Team Instructor training class on the first Monday in May, and Club Coordinators are on hand evey step of the way to provide guidance and support when needed.

        If you are interested in becoming a 4-H Team Instructor for Best Friends 4-H Club's summer dog project, please also read our Team Instructor Policy carefully, then contact Linda Shannon-Chaillet. She'll answer any further questions you might have, then guide you through the process of registering both as a 4-H Leader (required for liability purposes) and as a Team Instructor for Best Friends 4-H!

Leader, 4-H'er, Dog


Best Friends 4-H Leaders' Projects

child reading book to dog       Best Friends Canine Therapy Projects for leaders is not just volunteering for the Summer Dog Project. Best Friends has evolved into an enjoyable year-round community canine therapy and service program in which we:

  • Share our canines with the community by visiting nursing homes, schools, libraries and hospitals, and senior centers thus earning our American Kennel Club Canine Therapy titles!

  • Continue our canine education by taking Canine Obedience, Agility, Jr. Showmanship, Rally and Scent Work lessons offered by the club.

  • Try to meet once a month to keep ourselves and our dogs up to date and in practice for when we add a Non-Traditional 4-H’er to the team for the summer dog project.

  • Work on earning our American Kennel Club Canine Therapy Titles and Obedience titles through the club by offering a Canine Good Citizen Test as a goal for leaders and 4-H’ers.

  • As 4-H and Club REGISTERED leaders may take continuing canine education lessons including Dog Obedience, Agility, Rally, Jr. Showmanship, Scent Work at Mutterly Love for free. (Please note: “Registered” means you have completed your 4-H and Best Friends 4-H club’s yearly membership applications and have paid your yearly club dues of $10.00.)

  • Are, along with his or her canine, covered under the 4-H liability insurance umbrella when completing an approved canine therapy visit.

Leaders, dogs, and nursing students

Best Friends 4-H Leader’s Year-Round Canine Therapy Projects currently being offered are:

  • Two women and a dog4-H Leader’s Continuing Canine Education: FREE Continuing Canine Education through dog training classes at Mutterly Love.

  • 4-H Team Instructor Class : Team Instructor Class will be scheduled in May of each year to assist the new and renewed 4-H Team Instructor in updating and understanding the 4-H Summer Dog Class Projects training and goals for the 4-H’ers.

  • Andrews University Seminars: Best Friends 4-H Club leaders and canines are invited into the Education Department and the Nursing Department once a year to educate and demonstrate the advantages of Canine Therapy to the future teachers and nurses. In bringing the canine into the classroom as a visual aid we are demonstrating the practicality of how the canine assists in the knowledge that alternative education and nursing does have their benefits.

  • Berrien County Youth Fair: • At the culmination of the Summer Dog Project training, the 4-H’er, leader and the canine, enter the Berrien County Youth Fair’s Dog Events of Rally, Dog Costume, Dog Obedience, Jr. Showmanship and Dog Agility thus completing the 4-H’er’s Dog Project for the year.

  • Canine Therapy at Blossomland Learning Center, Berrien Springs Michigan: Blossomland Learning Center, Berrien Springs, Michigan – During the months of September through April, Best Friends 4-H Club leaders bring their temperament tested canines into the gym and encourage the Nontraditional (life challenged, handicapped, etc.) students to “Take the dog for a walk.” By walking the dog, the NTR student is using his or her cognitive thinking process, communications and tactile skills in a positive manner. Please Note: Leaders will need two leashes on hand… one for the leader and one for the student. If the leaders finds that the student is in control and one leash is required, the leader’s leash can be worn around the neck and shoulders. Canine’s Harness/Vest: If you dog has a harness or vest, please make sure the dog is wearing the vest before you enter the school.

  • Leader, girl reading to dog in Book Hounds program"BOOK HOUNDS" at Berrien County Libraries: By invitation, Best Friends 4-H Club leaders will bring his or her canine into the library and have a child read a book to their canine in fifteen-to-twenty-minute sessions. Many children feel more at ease when they read to a pet, who is simply there to listen – not to judge how well the child is reading. FYI … Studies have shown that children who read to dogs achieve higher end-of-year reading scores. One of Best Friends top 4-H leaders, Colleen Melendy, along with her team canines, Blossom and Teddy, assisted in a video on the Canine Reading Programs for PBS Michiana. You can see this video on  Education Counts Michiana - Read to a Therapy Dog

  • Canine Education in Schools: With the school’s invitation, Best Friends 4-H Club leaders and their temperament tested canines will visit classrooms to assist in canine safety education, and by using the canine as a therapy tool, help de-stress the students. Depending upon the need, the Best Friends 4-H Club leader and canine will:

    • Work one-on-one with a student in the school’s reading program
    • Present a Canine Safety Program (Ask permission before petting a dog, what to do if a strange dog approaches you, where to go if you see a dog you don’t know).
    • Present a Canine Ownership and Responsibility Program (Teaching how to care for a dog).

  • Canine Therapy Sessions in Schools: Schools and Universities will invite Best Friends leaders to bring in our canines so the students can “play” with the dogs, thus de-stressing the student from the day’s stressful events. Example: Final exams.

  • Canine Therapy in the Hospitals: Best Friends 4-H Club works with Berrien County hospitals in bringing canine therapy to their patients and staff.

Best Friends 4-H Club Community Service Projects:

People filling baskets with food        Leaders and 4-H’ers join in and contribute to these events:

  • Berrien County, Michigan’s 4-H “Thanks for Giving” Project:  Every November, Berrien County 4-H clubs, along with the MSU Extension Office and The Farm Bureau, purchase and collect groceries, and put together food baskets for a Thanksgiving dinner for families that are having financial difficulties.

  • Berrien County Animal Control Raffle: Instead of a gift exchange at the annual Best Friends 4-H Club Christmas Dinner Meeting, held on the first Monday in December of each year, leaders, parents and 4-H’ers bring purchased dog food, treats, and the like to be donated to the Berrien County Animal Control. These donations can then be traded for raffle tickets to "win" a variety of fun and useful items.

  • Canine Good Citizen Testing: Each year Best Friends Coordinators and members sponsor and participate in an American Kennel Canine Good Citizen Test, giving the participants an opportunity to temperament test their dogs and earn one of many AKC titles.

Printable version of the Best Friends 4-H Leader Special Projects


4-H four leaf clover logo4-H Team Instructor's Pledge:

I pledge my HEAD by giving my assigned 4-H'er the dog training concept tools I have and to help him or her understand canine training theories as clearly as possible.

I pledge my HEART to encourage and support my assigned 4-H'er no matter whether he or she has successes or disappointments in canine therapy and dog competition training.

I pledge my HANDS in assisting my assigned 4-H'er to learn life lessons and life skills through 4-H's Canine Therapy and Dog Competition Training.

I pledge my HEALTH by keeping myself and my own canine strong and well for a better world through 4-H.

Group of women with dogs


"Hands and Paws together always in friendship and teamwork." -- L.M. Shannon-Chaillet


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© Copyright 2022,, Best Friends 4-H Club. All Rights Reserved.
"What is a Team Instructor?" article © Copyright 2013 by L. M. Shannon Chaillet

Unless otherwise stated, Photos © Copyright 2022, Pat Crean & Best Friends 4-H Club. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
"Book Hound" Photos © Copyright 2022, Maud Preston Palenske Memorial Library in St. Joseph, MI. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Nursing class photo © Copyright 2022, Best Friends 4-H Club. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
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