Re: Volunteer dog walking at a refuge?
Good for you for wanting to help out. Working with homeless dogs is very rewarding work.
Just a word about therapy dogs, though:
An official therapy dog is highly trained - and before that training can begin the dog has been put through an extensive selection program to determine if he/she has the right character for this work. It's a very rigorous program, one only a select few dogs qualify for.
Not all dogs are fit to take on the role of a therapy dog. In fact, it's likely few of those in shelters will be - honestly one cannot expect a shelter dog to take on that role. Rather the reverse is usually the case - we need to provide therapy for these poor, sometimes damaged, critters.
Please keep this in mind - the goal of volunteering with homeless dogs is to help the dogs, full stop. It's all about their needs, nor ours. The benefit we derive from doing good work, from knowing that we have made a difference, is an 'extra'.
When volunteering be very clear about your level of expertise. It is important, for both you, for the safety of others around you, and critically for the dog, that you are matched with a dog whose behavior is within the scope of your expertise. Please don't take this wrong - I honestly do applaud you for wanting to do this - but I must stress that taking charge of a dog whose behavior is beyond your experience would be unfair to the dog, and to all.
Most shelter staff try to match the walkers and dogs - but don't be afraid to stress your experience level and speak up if you feel you cannot handle any dog you are paired with.
Many of the dogs in shelters ended up there because their owners couldn't provide (or couldn't be a*sed to provide) basic training. A good dog walking program is an extension of a training or rehab program, as you walk the dog you are continually reinforcing the work the shelter's trainers have started.
That said, yes dogs land in shelters who do not have 'ishoos' and who would be a good fit for you. But again, it's important to set realistic expectations with even these 'easy' dogs.
I would counsel separating your interest in dog therapy programs from your interest in helping shelter dogs.
There is some cross-over, as I truly do believe - and experience on a daily basis - the theraputic value of living with dogs. My dogs are the center of my world, and they are the anchor that keeps me centered.
But I cannot expect my dogs - all adoptees who came with either physical problems or emotional baggage - to provide 'real' therapy to me, as a trained therapy dog would. No, it's my job to do that for them. But in helping them to live happier more fulfilling lives I gain so very, very much. Let's just stay it's a mutually beneficial relationship.
As for the SKN:
The BLV's FAQ still says that one is not required to have the SKN to walk shelter dogs, as it is volunteer work. I have noticed, though, while looking for something else, that a couple of shelters in ZH are now requiring the courses, citing the BLV. I've looked for a policy change and couldn't find any reference. Curious. But until something official appears on the BLV site, I'd go with the status quo - volunteer dog care does not require the SKN as far as compliance with federal law goes. Each shelter is of course free to set it's own policies.
HOWEVER - it's always good to do the courses, for one's own knowledge. Even more so when working with shelter dogs who might not have had the easiest time of it and so need our understanding.
Several shelters offer the SKN course free to their volunteer dog walkers. This would be a win-win for you, and for the dogs.
Wishing you all the very best. Nothing so uplifting as the company of a dog. And knowing that you are helping that dog begin a new, happier, chapter brings a warm glow that can't be beat.
Last edited by meloncollie; 23.07.2015 at 18:53.
Reason: Add'l comments.