Students from Hawkesbury High School are learning valuable leadership skills with a helping paw from trainee Guide Dog puppies.
Together the school and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT are pioneering a pilot program called the Positive Paws Project, which aims to help young Guide Dog puppies socialise and develop confidence.
The eager students spend two hours a week interacting with the puppies that range from five to seven-weeks-of-age, helping them to discover their senses of smell, sight, touch and sound.
"The students are playing a vital role in helping develop the puppies into confident dogs with a sound temperament suited to their future role as Guide Dogs," Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Puppy Development Advisor, Brenda Calkin said.
The Positive Paws Project pilot draws on many overseas studies that have underlined the far-reaching benefits of the early socialisation of puppies.
But the puppies are not the only ones to benefit.
Hawkesbury High Principal, Jenny Linklater talks enthusiastically about the confidence and leadership skills the students are developing as they advance through the pilot.
"You can see empathy, care for others, working collaboratively and a sense of responsibility blossoming as they interact with the puppies," Ms Linklater said.
"They need meticulously follow training routines always treating their charges with kindness and respect as they nurture them through the activities.
"It has certainly been an enjoyable and worthwhile experience all-round.
"The Positive Paws Project also applies a number of school values, including encouraging volunteering and caring for the needs of others in a real world setting."
Ms Linklater is looking forward to Hawkesbury High and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT building on their partnership through the Positive Paws Project at the Guide Dogs Centre in Glossodia, down the road from the school.