April Volunteer Spotlight: Dog Walking Edition!

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Good morning CHS supporters! Welcome to April!

We hope you enjoyed the long weekend and had lots of fun with both two- and four-legged friends and family members!

April is volunteer month here on the blog, so we will be bringing you a sneak peek behind the scenes of some of our volunteer roles. If there is a volunteer role or something related to volunteering that you would like to have us cover, please email community@calgaryhumane.ca or share it in our Facebook group! We will try to cover as many of your ideas as we can!

Today we are looking at one of our most popular volunteer roles: Dog Walking!

At Calgary Humane Society our dog walkers are a key part of how we care for all of the wonderful pooches that call CHS their temporary home. Our dog walkers provide CHS dogs with much-needed enrichment, exercise and attention throughout the day. This helps burn off excess energy, exercise bored brains and also helps to teach our dogs some of the key walking skills they will need in their new home!

We love our dog walkers! And, as it turns out, there are lots of folks out there that love walking dogs! At CHS we frequently get emails from kind people asking us if they can come for an afternoon to walk dogs. While we LOVE that people want to come in and help with our dogs, becoming a dog walker with CHS requires a 6+ month commitment to a regular weekly shift… why? We’re glad you asked!

When most people think of dog walking, they often think of what it is like to walk their own dogs, or dogs that belong to friends and family members. In looking at shelter dogs, it is important to remember that shelter dogs do not yet have the bond with their human family that dogs in the community have. So while your personal dog (or a dog you have a relationship with) may pick up on your subtle cues while walking, a shelter dog may not be able to do this. You may also be able to better predict the behavior of a dog that you know in the community compared to a shelter dog that you are meeting for the first time. Another key consideration with walking shelter dogs is safety. In the community, you are responsible for keeping the community safe from your dog and keeping your dog safe from the community. Likewise, CHS is responsible for not only keeping our dogs safe in the community, but keeping the community safe around our dogs as well. In addition to this legal responsibility, we also know that CHS shelter dogs walking in the community are ‘spokesdogs’ for shelter dogs everywhere, so we feel it is extra important that our dog walkers are able to help these dogs but their best paw forward! So what does this mean for our volunteer dog walkers?

Becoming a volunteer dog walker at CHS requires special training! Potential volunteers are screened with interviews and then asked to attend multiple training events where they learn about animal body language and specific dog walking techniques. At Calgary Humane Society we use harnesses and leashes designed for walking dogs on two points of contact – that means the leash connects to the harness in two places. This gives both the dog and the dog walker a lot more information and control while they are walking. Many of the dogs at Calgary Humane Society do not have good leash skills – in fact many of them may never have been on a leash before in their lives. Also, we’re not sure if you have seen some of our largest canine residents (we’re looking at you, CHS alumni Mozart and Chopin), but learning to safely control a dog that weighs almost as much as their human dog walker can take a lot of work! Having good control over the dogs is essential for the safety of both our pooches and our dog walkers. Having good control is also an important part of CHS being a good neighbor to all of the businesses surrounding the shelter. We have good relationships with our workplace neighbors because our dog walkers are able to ensure that they and the dogs they are walking show respect for the property of neighboring businesses – that means no peeing on the begonias or jumping on customers leaving the business!

In addition to not always having the best leash walking skills, some of the dogs at Calgary Humane Society are what we call “dog reactive” dogs. This means that the dog is not OK with other dogs being in their space. Being in shelter can be especially stressful for dog-reactive dogs because they are constantly bombarded with stimuli from other dogs (barking, smells, seeing other dogs go for walks, visiting our shelter etc). Going out for a walk can provide much-needed stress relief, but it also increases the potential for two dogs to inadvertently meet face to face. We have multiple dog walkers at the shelter, and many people bring their personal dogs to the shelter to meet a dog they are thinking about adopting. Our dog walkers are trained on how to avoid these meetings and manage situations with dog-reactive dogs to keep everyone safe.

So, are you interested in joining our devoted group of dog walkers at the shelter? Wondering if you meet our volunteer dog walker requirements? Check them out below!

  • You are at least 18 years of age: For insurance and liability reasons all of our dog walkers must be over the age of 18 – sorry, no exceptions!
  • You are able to make a minimum 6-month commitment: Due to the amount of training required, we are looking for longer-term volunteers.
  • You can commit to a regular weekly shift: Our volunteer shifts are scheduled to ensure proper coverage, so most of our posted volunteer positions will reference a specific shift we need covered.
  • You can commit to the training: Dog walkers need to be able to commit not only to attending the training but also following through with what they learn in the training. At Calgary Humane Society our behavior team has developed specific behavior protocols and training methods for our shelter dogs and we need those to be consistently followed by all staff and volunteers.
  • You have a genuine love of animals: We want all of our volunteers to love what they do!
  • You believe in the CHS mission to “help as many animals as we can”: All of our volunteers are a key part of that mission!

I’m in! Where do I find the postings?

If you have read the above and are ready to take the plunge and make a difference for animals in your community, we would love to hear from you! Check out more information about our volunteer program and find our available volunteer roles HERE.

Happy Volunteer Month everyone!