The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America have been around for generations, molding America’s youth into strong and smart adults. Now, meet the Dog Scouts of America.
This non-profit organization was founded in 1995 and has spread rapidly across the nation. While it used to be a summer camp, it now encompasses troops in twenty states and features annual overnight camping trips.
These intrepid canines are earning their merit badges for tracking, learning sign language, running through obstacle courses, and pulling sleds. The Dog Scouts touch on the basic principles of more traditional scout programs, such as mastering skills and participating in camps and hikes. The dogs carry their own hiking supplies in canine backpacks. All told, the dogs earn 117 different merit badges.
Lonnie Olson is the president and founder of the Dog Scouts of America. She explains that for the canines, it’s about far more than bragging rights or merit badges. The goal of the Dog Scouts is promoting the bond between the dog and its human by using fun activities and positive training methods.
Keep Your Dog Active!
Most importantly, though, the activities encouraged by the Dog Scouts of America help to keep canines active and fit. Over half of dogs in America are considered overweight and are high risk for suffering arthritis and high blood pressure which can lead to shortened life spans for our beloved pets.
Some of the badges to be earned include DOGa (canine yoga) and K9 fitness. This helps the participants get their exercise and stay in shape.
The dogs aren’t the only ones that benefit from being a Dog Scout. Doggie owners will learn valuable skills like recognizing signs of emergencies in dogs and monitoring their vital signs. In order to earn the first-aid merit badge, the dog scout must be a “patient” for his owner.
Dog Scouts are also encouraged to volunteer their services in their communities. They will participate in search and rescue missions as well as visit nursing homes and schools. In fact, some Dog Scout troops threw a fund-raising event to purchase K9 Kevlar vests for police dogs, while others threw an event to outfit their local fire department with oxygen masks for animals.
Most importantly, though, Olson believes that participating in the Dog Scouts of America teaches owners how to use reward-based training to discourage behavioral issues that may result in the dog ending up in a shelter. She explains, “Most dogs end up in shelters because of behavior issues. We’re doing more than teaching and training, we’re saving lives.”