The Underdog Project was founded by Jenna da Silva Pinto in 2011 after she identified a need in her community for humane education and greater care for unwanted, unloved animals and children.
The Underdog Project is a registered Non-Profit and Public Benefit Organisation working with vulnerable children and dogs in Cape Town, South Africa. The welfare of children and animals in South Africa are of equal importance to us and we believe we have found a creative way to provide mutual benefits to both these vulnerable groups. This programme is mutually beneficial to two vulnerable groups as we teach empathy and various life skills to underprivileged children while bringing joy to troubled dogs.
Empathy can be learned, and it is the right of every child to be taught empathy in order to break the cycle of violence in our society.
Selecting untrained shelter dogs as therapy partners, positive reinforcement dog training techniques are taught to the children as a form of non-invasive group therapy. Positive-reinforcement training is a force-free, non-violent method of training that builds confidence in both dogs and trainers.

Our programme is made up of a minimum of 8 to 12 modules broken up into two hour long, weekly sessions. The first hour provides hands on positive reinforcement dog training and animal interactions and the second hour focusses on humane education activities, specifically caring for animals. Our programme provides a safe, stimulating extra-mural activity and non-invasive therapy for young people.

With the help of qualified facilitators and experienced dog trainers, we facilitate the kids to teach the dogs basic skills like sit, stay, paw as well as some basic agility like jumping through hoops and going through tunnels to help them overcome their insecurities and blossom. Sometimes all we do is cuddle time where the dogs get groomed and read to.

Our aim is to reach as many children and dogs as we can to help create a better life for them and bring them more joy.


  • Children’s inherent empathy & compassion is awakened
  • Self esteem & self awareness
  • Environmental awareness & Humane education
  • Positive means of communication
  • Responsibility & leadership
  • Feel good about helping an animal in need
  • Goal setting & empowerment
  • Cross cultural tolerance
  • Literacy
  • Therapy
  • Learn patience
  • Hope & Safe Play


  • Overcome anxiety
  • Gain confidence
  • Learn basic skills
  • Feel love
  • Get exercise
  • Get mental stimulation
  • Playtime
  • Socialising with other dogs
  • Significant reduction in kennel stress
  • Manners
  • Agility
  • Human bond
  • Trust
  • Higher adoptability rate