Dog Scouts of America: A Totally Different Kind of Scouts

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I dropped out of Girl Scout Brownies, and never really was the scouting type. I had no interest in uniforms or badges or doing silly crafts, and least of all selling cookies. But a couple years ago I became involved with a totally different kind of scouts – Dog Scouts. This was a type of scouting I could enjoy, and I changed my mind about selling cookies.

Dog Scouts of America (DSA) is a national nonprofit organization with local troops throughout the U.S. Its mission is to improve the lives of dogs, their owners, and society through humane education, positive training, and community involvement. DSA promotes responsible dog ownership and positive training methods, and stresses the importance of the dog/human bond. It encourages continued learning for dogs and humans, participation in all kinds of dog/human activities, and community service.

DSA members can earn the Dog Scout title and merit badges and attend national Dog Scout camps. Camps offer classes in dog sports such as agility, dock-diving, obedience, trieball, freestyle, flyball, and more. At DSA Camps, dogs and their parents can go swimming, boating, and hiking, and even do doggie crafts.

Our local troop’s activities include monthly hikes, swim parties, fundraisers for nonprofit organizations, and tricks and agility demonstrations at doggie events. By showing off our tricks and agility skills, we hope to encourage other dog owners to try tricks or agility with their dogs as a fun bonding activity. Our troop also participates in community service activities such as the annual James River Cleanup and selling cookies (dog cookies, of course) at local events to raise money for local dog-related charities.

The dogs enjoy all of our activities, but they absolutely love the hikes. Hiking is a great way for dogs to socialize with humans and each other, and the dogs seem far more relaxed on a hike than in a dog park-type setting. The miniature doxie, westie, and Jack Russell terrier keep up with the shepherds, border collies, labs and goldens, and they all get along very well. The more timid dogs in our group have become much more confident after spending time romping in the woods with their buddies. They’ve overcome fears of water, bridges, mountain bikes, and men wearing hats. Some who were afraid of water at first now race to jump in the river.

Joining our local Dog Scout troop is one of the best things I’ve done for my dog Garth, and for myself as well. In the two years since we joined, I’ve learned about the wonderful trails in our own city, and we have hiked more than I had in the previous 20 years. Hiking with Dog Scouts has inspired us to hike more on our own, and to plan hikes with others when we don’t have an organized Dog Scout hike scheduled. Largely because of Dog Scouts, we have challenged ourselves by learning tricks and performing them in front of people, something previously outside of my comfort zone.

I’ve found it tremendously satisfying to help local organizations by participating in Dog Scouts fundraising events. Through Dog Scouts, I’ve met other people who also care deeply about dogs, and who think of dogs the way I do – as family members. My dog parenting philosophy is much like the Dog Scout owner’s motto: “Our dogs’ lives are much shorter than ours – let’s help them enjoy their time with us as much as we can.”

If you’d like to do more fun things with your dog, join your local Dog Scouts troop, or form a troop if your area doesn’t have one. You can find more information at dogscouts.org.

Rebecca Randolph is a blogger, writer, artist, and attorney, but most importantly, a dog mom. You can read about her lab Garth and their adventures at The World According to Garth Riley.

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