Being a volunteer requires time, patience, and hard work; it also provides rich rewards. But there are lots of wonderful and important causes so how do you choose what organization or issue you want to work for in your volunteering? Like most decisions, a combination of head and heart should lead you in the right direction. If you’re considering volunteering for animal rescue, here are three reasons it may be the right choice for you:
- 1. You get to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. There’s little as richly rewarding as being an advocate for those unable to speak for or protect themselves. The world out there is rough enough for people; lost, abandoned, injured, neglected, and abused animals can’t ask for help much less effectively protect themselves from all of the dangers of both the natural and industrial world. When you become a champion for animal welfare, you are helping create a safe place in the world for each animal you help. You can easily mean the difference between not only life and death for an animal but also between love and torture, comfort and cruelty. It’s a pretty powerful experience.
- 2. There are roles for virtually anyone to fill. Whether you like physical activities like hiking, social activities like organizing a fundraiser, or quiet activities like paperwork, there is a need and a place for you! A lot of volunteer opportunities only have limited opportunities available for volunteers but because animal rescue involves so many different actions, there is almost always something available for whatever you like to do. This is also ideal for people who like to mix things up sometimes with physical activities when there’s an emergency but other projects when things are quiet.
- 3. Everyone likes animal rescue volunteers. Seriously. We think volunteering is awesome and so do most people, which is why having it on your resume, college apps, or anything else is a great way to show that you care about your community. Unfortunately, this can sometimes work against you when the person reviewing your application doesn’t like what you’ve been supporting. In an ideal world, people should be professional and appreciate your dedication, even if they don’t support the same side of a cause as you, but sometimes that isn’t always the case. But everyone loves animals and animal rescue hardly causes controversy. It may not be the best reason to choose animal rescue but it is a very realistic one if you want to parlay your volunteerism into helping you get where you want to go.
Working with animal rescue offers all of the regular perks of volunteering – an opportunity to connect with like-minded people, something to add to your resume or college application, a safe and healthy environment to help build a better community, and more. But the most valuable reason to volunteer for anything is to know that you’re making a real difference. With animal rescue, not only is this true but you also get to look in the eyes of an animal you’ve helped save and there’s no better way to know you’ve made a real difference. It doesn’t get any better than that.
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Helping and advocating for animals can happen in a number of ways, many of which can fit really nicely into your normal, everyday life. In fact, you can take almost any interest or hobby you have and incorporate animal assistance into it in unexpected and meaningful ways. Art is no different.
A lot of artists intuitively understand how crafting can be great for animals; you can sew a dog bed, knit a blanket, metal stamp ID tags, etc. But for the fine arts, it’s not always so clear – after all, what constitutes ‘fine art’ isn’t the beauty of piece but that it’s purely aesthetic. Fine art doesn’t offer anything practical, so how can it help animals? In at least five ways!
Use Art as Advocacy
Art can be beautiful and uplifting but it can also be powerful and striking; as an artist, you can use your medium to draw attention to animal issues. Your pieces can be specific to an issue or you can just paint or draw or photograph or sculpt animals and provide some information about topics that are important to the types of animals you depict from dogs to dolphins. Imagine an entire collection of endangered species; the simple showcase of beautiful creatures struggling to survive can help people start to think. Whether you travel to art shows or sell online, take the opportunity to let people know about the problems animals face.
Donate a Percentage of Sales to a NPO
If you choose to donate a percentage (or a flat fee) of your art, whether it’s one piece or your entire portfolio, tell people! Many artists find success as other animal advocates will be more likely to support your art, plus your customers can see that you are committed to being socially responsible and will learn a bit about the organization or cause you support.
Offer an Art Piece with Each Adoption
It’s so hard to get animals adopted, especially those that are older or have disabilities or face other challenges. Animal shelters and humane societies utilize every resource available to help prevent animals from being euthanized and as an artist, you can provide a unique and interesting benefit to adopting families – some personalized art of their new family member! Whether it’s a drawing, painting, or other medium, pet lovers enjoy art of their pet(s) so it can be a great way to help draw them towards pets that have been struggling to be adopted. Any artist can do this but it’s particularly beneficial for newer artists who are still learning or for those looking to build up their portfolio.
Photograph Adoptable Animals
Many animal shelters post pictures of available pets in local newspapers, at local pet supply stores, and sometimes even on TV. The better the picture, the more likely it is that potential adopters will pay attention and follow up by choosing the pet you photographed. Best of all, you can have a single session and shoot several animals at once, giving the shelter plenty of pictures to share over time.
Donate Art for a Silent Auction or Door Prize
Animal-related organizations, especially local ones, use lots of different fundraising and a popular one is a silent auction, door prize, or raffles. These organizations typically are very thankful for as many items as they can get and original art is much more interesting than the standard gift certificate for shopping or dining. With this, you also get free marketing and you have full control over what you are willing to donate.
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Sometimes it seems like volunteering or making a difference requires a huge commitment of time and effort. But it doesn’t have to; there are plenty of ways to really help make a difference by making only a tiny investment in only 10 minutes a day. After all, little things add up quickly!
10 minutes in person:
- If you see a loose animal outside somewhere, don’t just leave it to die! If you can approach it gently and safely, do so (especially if it’s a household pet like a cat or dog). If you can see a tag, the animal is most likely from your area and is far more likely to be tame and safe to approach. Either contact the owner or, if the animal is tag-less, contact animal control or your local humane society. If you call it in, be sure to give as much information as possible regarding location and appearance of the animal. If you are ever unsure about your safety when approaching an animal, don’t. Contact animal control.
- Take a neighbor’s dog out for a short walk. Many of us have neighbors with limited time or mobility, whether it’s someone with a chronic illness, someone in a wheelchair, or simply a single parent. By having a standing arrangement to take their dog out for a walk (or just to use the bathroom), you will make a tremendous difference in the life of that dog as well as their owner.
- Play with your own pet! Hopefully as a responsible pet owner, you make sure your furry friend is well fed, watered, and exercised. But don’t overlook playtime; mental exercise is critical in the long-term health of your pet. Moreover, your animal loves you and wants to bond with you on an ongoing basis. Don’t disappoint.
10 minutes online:
- Share pictures of lost or found pets using social media. There are plenty of Facebook and Twitter feeds that show the pictures of animals that have been lost or found in your area. By following those feeds and sharing pictures, pets have a better chance of being reunited with their families.
- Sign petitions regarding animal mistreatment. A number of websites use the internet to petition the government, companies, and even non-profit organizations to change standing policies or errors in judgment that result in animal abuse or questionable ethics. While some laugh at the idea of petitions being useful, progressive technology has helped this tool become much more serious and effective. Moreover, you are raising your own awareness (and the awareness of others when you post a status regarding the petition) of issues animals are facing.
- ‘Like’ and comment on pages and status updates on social media that are animal related. The more ‘likes’ a non-profit organization like the Fix-It Foundation receives, the more powerful its online presence becomes and consequently the more other people can be educated and become involved as well.
The proverb that “It takes a whole village to raise a child” is true for animals as well. Whether its making your own pooch happy at home or helping raise awareness for millions of people, you can make a real impact. You have 1,440 minutes in each day; using 10 of those minutes to make a difference is a small sacrifice that makes a big impact.
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One of the most frequently overlooked champions of animals are Animal Control officers. For some reason, Animal Control has often been portrayed as cruel or careless (Disney – we’re looking at you), viewing animals as a problem or an inconvenience. But this portrayal could not be farther from the truth. Perhaps by better understanding what these hard-working men and women do on the job, we can better truly appreciate what they do for animals and for all of us.
The primary activity of Animal Control officers is to rescue and/or secure animals. Whether it’s a family of newborn kittens, an escaped python, or even hurt wildlife, Animal Control literally comes to save the day for the animals (and sometimes humans!) involved. When an individual sees or finds an animal in need, it’s often unwise for that person to approach the animal involved as they may have injuries, illnesses, or simply be fearful or hurt and therefore may be a risk to the person attempting the rescue. For Animal Control, this is just another day. These workers are educated, trained, and experienced in situations and dealing with a variety of animals. They also have safety and trapping equipment in order to ensure their own safety as well as the safety and transport of the animals. When you see an animal in danger or don’t feel completely comfortable attempting to help or contain it, contact Animal Control and provide them with as many details as possible.
Preparation for Rehoming
After local Animal Control officers respond to a situation and are able to rescue and contain an animal, they are then responsible for transporting the animal appropriately. Sometimes this may be as simple as re-releasing the animal back where it belongs (such as when a fox accidentally finds its way into a city) but often is more involved. For many domestic animals that are common pets, the animals receive veterinary care as needed and then are re-homed, usually through assistance provided by the ASPCA or local animal shelters. Animal Control is committed to making sure that animals are appropriately re-housed as often as possible; a dog who has been found not to interact well with other dogs will be placed with a family or individual without other pets rather than euthanized. Animal Control workers put a tremendous amount of effort into ensuring the long-term health and safety of the animals and of the community as a whole.
Animal Control is about more than catching and disposing of animals – they are dedicated, hard-working members of the community who perform an important role that is all too often overlooked by society. They are animal lovers who put themselves at risk over and over to protect the animals under their care as well as members of the community. Every time you hear a story about an animal escaping from a zoo or an overgrown or illegal wild or exotic animal being released in the news, there are Animal Control officers on the other end of that story, keeping us safe by running risks to their own safety. Truly appreciate and thank your local Animal Control staff today.
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The month of April is the awareness month for many things – child abuse, sexual assault and abuse, autism spectrum disorders, and more. But at the FiXiT, the fact that April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month is definitely our priority. Many pet owners tend to overlook the importance of having a first aid kit when it comes to the family pet. But by having a kit with just 10 items, you can help ensure the safety and health of your beloved family member.
Sterile gauze (rolls and/or pads) – when your dog has an open wound, after treating it with antibiotic ointment, loosely wrap sterile gauze around the wound, binding it with tape or pads that self-adhere. Be careful not to wrap it the injury too tightly as that can create a bigger problem while also making your dog quite uncomfortable. Essentially, you want to make sure you have protected the wound from outside forces but once that is done, don’t wrap it any more tightly.
Tweezers – when a splinter, rock, or other small piece of something gets stuck in your dog, tweezers are an absolute necessity. By trying to dig at a foreign object with your hand, you can make the situation worse for your dog both physically and emotionally (and it’s a pretty miserable experience for you, too). Rather, use the tweezers to very gently to dislodge the foreign object and pull it out of your pet.
Cone – after you have provided emergency first aid to your pet, chances are excellent that your dog will want to lick or nibble on the injury and/or the materials used to treat the wound. This of course is dangerous and detrimental as your dog will unknowingly cause themselves a much higher risk of infection and pain. A cone or Elizabethan collar will restrict your pet’s movement and minimize any additional risk to the injury. Typically, it will only be necessary for your dog to wear the cone for a day or two until they get used to the injury and its treatment.
Emergency contact numbers – make sure you have emergency contact numbers in both your cell phone and in your physical pet first aid kit. You should have information for your regular vet, an emergency vet or clinic, pet poison control, and so on. You may not always have your cell phone handy so keeping a list in the kit is important.
Pet First Aid app – when all else fails, assuming you have a charged cell phone, make sure you have already downloaded and installed the Pet First Aid app. This app will have detailed instructions and videos to help guide you through handling any number of specific illnesses or injuries that may come up. You don’t want to risk the additional five or 10 minutes it may take to install the app during an emergency, so plan ahead and install it on every member of your family’s phone.
Although many dogs are cautious and careful, the fact is that being a dog means they’re going to get involved with or exposed to risks you might never consider until it happens. Be prepared to handle basic emergencies and keep your four legged family members safe.
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April is National Pet First Aid Awareness Month and here at the Fix It Foundation, we take the safety of our pets and all animals very seriously. Sometimes in the day-to-day life of owning a pet, it can become easy to forget how important it is to be prepared in case of an emergency. Chances are, if you have kids, you keep a first aid box available both at home and in your car, but what happens when your pooch gets hurt? There are a few things you should have prepared and ready in case you need them.
Soft muzzle – unfortunately, many dogs who have been hurt may not always understand that you or someone else are trying to help them. They thus can become aggressive or highly defensive, even snapping at those trying to help. By using a soft muzzle, you can protect yourself and those around you when treating your dog.
Benadryl – Benadryl serves two important functions when it comes to pet first aid: minimizing an allergic reaction and helping produce pliability or to ease tension in your dog during treatment. If your dog seems to have a sudden allergic reaction, Benadryl will work for your dog pretty much the same way it works for you – it lessens the allergy. For many dogs, especially when they have been hurt, they may be hard to treat or handle or may become overly anxious and risk further harm to themselves. By giving a dog a small dose of Benadryl (typically 1 mg per pound of your dog’s weight), you can help make your dog a little more pliable, a little less anxious, and more conducive to being treated for their wound.
Saline solution – dogs are often out and about, rolling around, digging, and generally creating a mess (which is exactly what they are supposed to do). But the nature of these types of activities means that your dog is at a much greater risk of getting something caught in their eye than a human is. So think about how many times you get something stuck in your eye and imagine it exponentially – that’s what it’s like for your dog. Oftentimes our pets are able to get things out of their eyes on their own but sometimes they need your help. A simple saline solution in a dropper bottle tends to be a quick and easy way to keep your pet’s eyes safe.
Sterile gloves – while many people are aware of the importance of using sterile gloves when dealing with humans, not everyone thinks they are as necessary when dealing with animals, but they are. There are numerous diseases and parasites that can transfer between a dog and a human. Moreover, when treating an open wound on your pet, using sterile gloves not only protects you but also protects them from anything that you may have on your hands they could potentially cause an infection.
Neosporin – an antibiotic treatment such as neosporin or a similar cream is just as helpful for your pooch as it is for you. Whether your dog has become injured through scrapes, cuts, or fighting, any exposed wound is at risk of infection. Treating the area with some neosporin before wrapping it can help minimize that risk.
Check back next week for part 2 to ensure your dog’s ultimate safety and health!
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1. Volunteer Databases
There are numerous online volunteer databases that list volunteer opportunities of all kinds. Local, regional, national, and international organizations list their current needs for volunteers, interns, and even paid positions. The most popular of these web sites also allow users to search for opportunities based on location, type of work, type of agency or organization, and even have options for those individuals who want to volunteer online only. Places like volunteermatch.org and idealist.org are tremendously popular and have tens of thousands of opportunities and organizations listed. This is a great way to explore the many different types of the animal related volunteer opportunities there are and to find the right fit for you, especially for people with mobility issues, irregular schedules, or who live in rural areas.
2. Animal Shelters
Your local animal shelter may be the best place for you to volunteer, especially if you like working with animals in a hands on capacity. Most shelters typically provide services to dogs and cats but many include other animals as well. Volunteers are often needed to help maintain the cleanliness of facilities, exercise or provide affection for the animals, or help in administrative capacities. If you enjoy working with pets, contact your local animal shelter or ASPCA or visit theshelterpetproject.org to find local shelters that may need your help.
3. Wildlife Rescue Programs
If you are looking for something a little more out of the box, consider volunteering with a wildlife rescue program. There are wildlife refuges in virtually every country around the world and depending on the program you choose, you may have the opportunity to work to protect wildlife at home or abroad. There are numerous programs that provide volunteers the opportunity to travel overseas to work at refuges, game reserves, conservation programs, wildlife sanctuaries, and more. Some of these programs do require payment on behalf of the volunteer in order to cover some of the more costly aspects of the experience such as air fare. But there are other programs available as well – PeaceCorps.org is filled with volunteer opportunities around the globe where volunteers are not responsible for paying their own way. You can also always consider local wildlife refuge programs – you might be surprised at the places that are virtually in your own backyard that work with endangered and/or exotic wildlife.
4. Animal Rescue Teams
Those exotic and endangered animals are not the only ones who need rescuing. Tragically, many animals are abused and neglected all over the world. When responsible citizens suspect the abuse and/or neglect of an animal, whether it is a pet, a farm animal, or any other kind of animal, animal rescue teams are often required to investigate the situation and remove the animals if the allegations are confirmed. Animals that have been abused or neglected often face tremendous challenges both during the rescue as well as after. Veterinarians and their assistants, along with laypeople who volunteer with the animal rescue teams, come face to face with animals in deplorable conditions, some of whom are close to death and others who likely wish they were. Animal rescue teams are deployed throughout the country on any given day, so you’re able to volunteer in your area if you so choose. Working on a rescue team is one of the most emotionally demanding animal volunteer opportunities available but the opportunity to see a pet you have rescued become healthy and whole again provides a tremendous payoff.
5. Search and Rescue Teams
While animal rescue teams help save animals, search and rescue teams use animals to help save people. Training in handling of dog who can help locate injured individuals (or the bodies of those who have unfortunately passed away) is an emotionally and physically demanding position. Rescue dogs have to be trained appropriately and thoroughly but also have to have the desire to do the work they do. Both rescue dogs and their handlers tend to face physically and emotionally exhausting hurdles in order to help save others. While the use of these animals for large scale operations such as 9/11, the reality is that search and rescue animals are used frequently in everyday life. When someone goes missing or a child is lost, a search and rescue dog may be the best chance to find, and even save, them. Check out the National Search Dog Alliance at n-sda.org for more information on getting started in this unique volunteer opportunity.
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This Friday, March 21st, is National Puppy Day. While National Puppy Day may sound a bit silly (after all who doesn’t love a puppy?!) but in reality puppies are vulnerable to a number of conditions and threats. Moreover, the way a puppy is treated when it’s young is a huge determinant for how it will behave when it’s older. Long gone are the days when dogs hunted for food in the wild outdoors; in modern society, puppies almost exclusively rely on humans and when we fail them, they may face danger or even death.
One way to help ensure that all dogs are protected is to closely examine the way puppies are bred and acquired. Many pet stores who sell puppies use “puppy mills,” a heinous disservice done to the parents of the puppies who are born there. These breeding mills, including a backyard breeders, typically confine animals in unsanitary and cruel ways and use deeply disturbing methods of breeding. Moreover, because these mills operate with the purpose of making as much money as possible, dogs are frequently inbred which can result in a puppy with severe health problems or disabilities. These puppies are likewise sold off to unsuspecting owners who find out later that their new member of the family may need a lot more care and money than they predicted. Consequently, many of these puppies are then abandoned later. While puppy mills are in business, no one wins.
Some people are not aware that there are lots of ways to acquire a puppy without purchasing one from a pet store or puppy mill. Adopting a puppy through a local animal shelter or ASPCA is a great way to find a new best friend while simultaneously decreasing the demand for puppy mills. Some pet stores work with local animal shelters; if you are uncertain whether or not you are “adopting” a puppy in need rather than one produced for money, ask the store for information on where their animals come from. Some stores use the term “adoption” when what they’re doing is actually selling you the puppy. Stores that are genuinely adopting out puppies in need will be able to provide you with contact information for the animal shelter with whom they are working.
If you already have a puppy, congratulations! Seriously, you know by now that a dog (or two or three) in the home can be of joyful experience. During puppyhood, you get to see a dog learn about the world around them and it’s a pleasure to behold. Watching a puppy try climbing upstairs for the first time or fall over on the couch from a lack of balance is fun and endearing. Seeing your pup learn how to fetch, how to perform tricks, and the way they will bond with and protect other loved ones in the home was something you don’t want to miss. Spending enough quality time with your puppy is not only helpful and important for their emotional and physical well being, it’s also an important time for you to learn about their individual personality and to bond as family members.
Puppies are a joy and can infuse an individual or family with a tremendous level of love and affection. Celebrate National Puppy Day by giving a puppy from love and affection yourself.
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March is Poison Prevention Awareness Month and sadly, many pets are poisoned accidentally leading to health complications or even death. As a pet parent, many people are not as aware of the risks posed to pets as they are to children which can increase the likelihood of an accidental pet poisoning. But there are a few simple things you can do in order to prevent your beloved pup or kitten from getting sick on your watch:
- Know the foods and plants that are dangerous for your pet. While most people are aware that chocolate and poinsettias are bad for dogs, they may be unaware of other dangers that lurk in their pantry or on their front stoop. Items from yeast to grapes to alcohol to onions can pose threats to the health and safety of your pet. While poinsettias can cause some stomach upset to dogs, other plans are even more dangerous and some can pose a risk to cats as well. Lilies are highly poisonous to cats and can cause kidney failure; baby’s breath, carnations, daffodils, ivy, and even aloe vera can trigger vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and even cardiac arrhythmia. Educate yourself and make sure your home and garden are safe and appropriate for your pets. If you are cooking or eating and something falls on the floor, don’t assume it’s safe for your pet to “clean up” after you.
- Store household chemicals in one area and keep that area closed off. Many of us might think that a pet would never try to eat or lick a bottle of bleach or a container of Comet – after all, neither of those smell appealing. But that doesn’t always stop a pet. Cats and especially dogs investigate using their mouths and are sometimes drawn to things that may baffle us – most pet parents have witnessed a cat lapping up their own vomit or a dog dining on feces, so we know that what they do doesn’t always make much sense. By being proactive and keeping household chemicals locked away in one place, you can prevent your pet from making a dangerous choice. Obviously, if you store these items under a sink or somewhere else a pet might be able to reach, make sure that the doors are closed and that there are no treats, food, or other temptations that might lead a pet to try and access the area.
- Consider the dangers of your pest control. Many pest control products can be dangerous to household pets if ingested, including sprays, traps, and other methods. Thankfully, there are pet safe of versions of many of these items as long as you look for them. If you use a pest control service, make sure they know not to use anything that might pose a risk to your pets. When you treat pests at home, make sure not to use loose pellets or bait as your cat or dog may come across it first.
- Keep art, renovation, and craft supplies out of reach. Whether it’s a boat rehab in the garage, oil painting in a studio, or craft glue on the kitchen table, if your pet has access to it, it’s a risk. Many of the products used for these activities are a danger to household pets, even if they are only around them briefly. If a cat can knock down a jar of paint thinner or your pooch can gnaw on a bottle of E6000 while you answer the door, it’s dangerous. Don’t assume your pet will be safe just because you are there to supervise – your attention may be redirected and even if only for a moment that can cause serious repercussions.
- Keep the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center number (1-888-426-4435) on hand. While this may be less prevention and more treatment, making sure you have the right contact information for an animal poison control center as well as for your local emergency vet can help save your pet’s life if an accident happens.
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If you were ever looking for new ways to get involved and bond with your dog, Dog Scouts of America may be the perfect organization for you. Similar to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Dog Scouts focus on responsibility, community involvement, and education. Founded in 1995, Dog Scouts is a nonprofit organization that continues to grow in more and more communities. There is an emphasis on dog owner responsibility, particularly towards the dogs in their care; thus, the organization requires time and effort on the part of the dog owner to ensure that they are providing a quality of life that is appropriate for a living, thinking, feeling being.
Through the efforts of Dog Scouts, challenging dogs who have behavioral problems are often able to be rehabilitated, thus preventing the dog from being judged a “lost cause” and/or put down. Likewise, it can help owners curb inappropriate behaviors early on in a dog’s development or simply prevent them altogether. The organization teaches owners how to engage with their dogs, understand your dog’s natural needs and desires, stimulate and exercise each dog’s and mental and physical capacity, and so on. Dog Scouts also provides owners an opportunity to socialize their dog among people and canines in a safe and supportive environment. And of course, communities love Dog Scouts because it places such a high value on raising well mannered canine citizens as well as responsible owners.
There are several steps to becoming a member of Dog Scouts or – more accurately – having your pooch be considered a Dog Scout. You can join the organization simply by paying but you and your dog will have to pass several tests to be a full fledged member. Because of the focus on responsibility and training inherent in the Dog Scouts organization, it is necessary for the owner to pass a Handler Test and for the dog to pass the Dog Scouts Certification Test which will indicate that your dog is willing and able to display exemplary behavior and that you, as their handler, are committed to doing the same. After passing these initial tests, you and your dog are full members and are eligible to pursue merit badges. Badge categories include obedience, agility, community service, nose work, trails, pulling, water, existing sports, and other miscellaneous badges. It is also critical that each dog performs the exercises willingly and confidently in order to receive their merit badge. Moreover, owners/handlers it can only use training methods that do not conflict with the Position on Punishment of the DSA.
To get started with Dog Scouts, visit their website at www.dogscouts.org to find out how to join a local troop or how to start one in your area. You can also find information regarding DSA dog camps and other events and you and your pup may want to check out. Although the camps can be pricey, getting started on the journey towards qualifying your dog as a Scout is inexpensive and may be fun and educational for the whole family.
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