“Dog walkers are one of the direct connections to helping dogs get adopted! In most shelters around the nation, dogs sit in their kennels day after boring day. APA! is one of the few shelters that is committed to getting every single dog out TWICE a day. The only way we can do that is with the help of volunteers. The best thing about dog walking is [that] there's a dog for everyone. If you like the shy ones, we have those! If you like the rowdy ones, we have those! If you like the dogs that need extra training and attention, we have those!" - Jess Borda
Life in the shelter can be stressful, that’s something we all know. Being alone in a kennel, confused, not knowing when you’re leaving, surrounded by other dogs, getting looked at by strangers all day – all of these things can create an anxiety-ridden environment; but the animals in our care [at APA!] are here because they were at risk for euthanasia elsewhere, so we aim to make their stay the best it can be. This is why it’s our philosophy to get our dogs out of their kennels for at least two outings a day. Thanks to our Volunteer and Staff Dog Walking Program, we can make sure that happens.
The Dog Walking Program is a portion of our Dog Behavior and Dog Care Programs, whose missions are to provide the dogs in our care all available resources to enhance their quality of life and prepare them for life outside of APA!. We are one of the only shelters in the country that ensures every dog gets out of their kennels twice a day, whether that be for a walk or attending playgroup. We cannot stress enough how enriching this is for them. They get to not only get to move their bodies, but also interact with different things, whether that be sniffing around, engaging with people and dogs, or enjoying treats and toys (which studies show reduces stress levels).
These outings work the dogs physically and mentally: “When they don’t get out and are eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom in the same space, their mental state breaks much faster, “ stated Jenna, our Dog Walking Program Coordinator. “They’re stressed, have nothing fun to do, [and are] bored and lonely. One thing that sets us apart from other shelters, and something I'm really proud of, is how much we interact with our dogs.”
Being a volunteer with the Dog Walking Program is enriching for the humans as well, because you are hands-on working with the dogs, making a positive impact in their life. One dog in particular that this really resonates with is Rio.
Rio came to us in January 2017 as quite the rowdy hooligan. He had lots of energy and wasn’t the gentleman we knew he could be. Now that he has received training from advanced handlers, he is one of the easiest dogs to walk around campus and knows lots of tricks. For example, he LOVES fetch (which is more like catch for him because he is such an athlete). Now he gets to play fetch twice a day, which gives his brain and body a work out. As you can see from the photo, he’s also a pro at his agility classes, which is extra enrichment exercise we offer our long-stay dogs as a third outing. Rio is our third longest stay at our shelter, learn more about this smart, fun-loving boy here.
We have around 550 individuals signed up as dog walking volunteers at any given time; and while the number seems like a lot, we still always have the issue of not having enough people to walk the dogs, especially during the weekdays. When this happens, our staff steps in and makes sure the dogs get out. We’re really looking for more volunteers who can come on a regular basis. Not only will it change our dogs’ lives, but it’ll change yours as well!
"How best to get to know dogs? Why walking them of course!” Says long-time volunteer Jess Borda, “Not only do you get snuggles in, [but] you can also help fill out their online profiles to help them find their forever homes.”
“There are endless opportunities for learning and fun when you volunteer as a dog walker. You will learn skills that help our dogs while increasing your dog knowledge and handling. This can help you with your personal dogs or dogs that you may sit for. You can move through the steps quickly or take your time and enjoy the dog time. It’s great decompression for the dogs and the people,” states Jenna.
If this sounds like it’s the hands-on volunteering experience you’re looking for and want to directly make a positive impact in our dogs lives, sign up to be a dog walker today.