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Old 23.07.2015, 16:26
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Volunteer dog walking at a refuge?

Now I have tried to find the answer to this question by telephoning the refuge concerned (Ste Catherine, Lausanne,SVPA). But the phone is always engaged...

I want to have a go at volunteer dog walking for them (which is possible). I'm interested in the therapeutic benefits of dog ownerships on people with psychiatric problems (a recognised thing in the States). But I live in a group home and I've never had much contact with dogs. More of a cat person. Nevertheless it's something I'd like to investigate. But clearly due to my situation adoption is out of the question at present. So I thought volunteer dog walking for a rescue would give me a chance to have contact with lots of different dogs, and to help me decide if this is something I'd like to aim for in the future.

But my question is, should I do the theory course before signing up for this? Common sense says yes, but it is not stated as a requirement on the website. I know from the doggy lovers who post on here that training is required if one wants to work as a dog walker and it seems to me these rescue dogs deserve the same quality of care.

It would be really helpful if someone could answer this and also advise me of any other issues I should consider.

Any official links greatly appreciated - I can argue that this is part of my therapy and therefore may be able to get any necessary courses paid for.

Also, any doggy owners in the Morges - Lausanne area willing to give me a taster session?

Thank you in advance,

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Old 23.07.2015, 16:39
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Re: Volunteer dog walking at a refuge?

Welcome back V and what a great idea.

Just looked at their website, and there is a contact form for e-mail - why not drop them a line. I imagine they will get you to walk dogs with others at first- and perhaps will even provide the training themselves. Dogs are great healers and sharers- enjoy x
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Old 23.07.2015, 16:50
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Re: Volunteer dog walking at a refuge?

I know for a fact that at Ste Catherine you're welcome to go walk dogs. A lot of people do it actually. No special formation needed: you must just be over 18 and promise you'll keep the dog on lead during the walk.

Hey, if you want to borrow our Brownie from time to time you're most welcome! She's a friendly pooch, great for beginners!

Last edited by Mélusine; 23.07.2015 at 16:51. Reason: Add info
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Old 23.07.2015, 17:31
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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.

Good luck!

Last edited by meloncollie; 23.07.2015 at 18:53. Reason: Add'l comments.
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