How (and why) to volunteer with your dog
Think about the warm and fuzzies your pooch brings you -- and share that feeling with others!
The wagging tail. The smiling face. The prancing and dancing when you walk through the door. Those simple doggie delights are just a few of the ways your furry friend brings you joy each day (and we're sure the feeling is mutual)! Have you ever considered how you can spread that feeling to others who could use it? Volunteering with your dog can be beneficial to others, and to yourself, too.
Findings to bark about
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, research shows that volunteering isn't just good for the social service recipient, but it's good for the physical and mental health of the person volunteering, too. Consider some of the findings: Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. What great fringe benefits for doing something that is fun and helpful!
Certified good dog
Keep in mind that most organizations will typically screen you and your dog before you start your volunteer work. Most want to make sure your dog is friendly, obedient, clean and healthy, and responds positively to other specific criteria.
To help your pooch pal get ready to volunteer, you can sign up to receive training for the American Kennel Club's (AKC) Canine Good Citizen Program. This is a 10-step test that your dog must pass to be awarded the AKC's certificate to demonstrate it "has good manners at home and in the community." It's a great way to help ensure your dog's good manners in general, but also shows her good behavior for prospective volunteer activities. Check out these SheKnows tips for good dog park etiquette.
Opportunities for you and your pooch
There are many ways you can volunteer with your dog, from therapeutic visits (to nursing homes, hospitals or rehab centers) to visiting schools to help teach kids about animals or even training your dog for rescue work. Some types of volunteer interactions, like pet therapy, are more regimented and part of an ongoing program in a patient's treatment, rather than simply taking your dog to an organization for a friendly visit.
Find the volunteer opportunity that's right for you. If you have specific organizations or centers in mind that you'd like to work with, it's best to connect with them directly to determine their requirements.
- Contact a local hospital, school or nursing facility in your area to ask about volunteer opportunities and requirements.
- Contact a local animal shelter or vet to ask about opportunities or more information.
- The Delta Society Pet Partners is a national nonprofit that works with people and animals in therapy, companion and service settings. Contact them for information about animal-assisted activities and animal-assisted therapy.
- Visit the AKC for a list of therapy dog organizations if you're interested in volunteering in a therapy setting.
Share the love of your faithful companion! Volunteering with your dog can bring smiles and joy to someone's day -- and that's quite a treat!
Watch: Moments with Baxter
Meet Baxter, the 19-year-old therapy dog.