A guide to voluntary dog walking
I've always loved dogs but due to work restrictions I couldn't have a dog of my own. Because of that I decided to look into voluntary dog walking at my local RSPCA centre.
Applying was easy, I had to fill in a form with my details and soon after I was asked to attend an induction at the centre. The induction is done in a group and covers everything you will need to know about how to safely interact with the dogs you will be walking. This includes:
- information on correct walking techniques,
- what to do in an emergency,
- general dos and don'ts to help you get started.
Also involved is a practical demonstration of how to correctly fit the different types of collars. The best part is getting to meet one of the most laid back dogs at the centre to practise on.
The induction gives you the chance to ask any questions you may have. Often people are slightly worried about what may be asked of them so this is a good chance to put your mind at ease.
You'll always be given dogs that you can handle
You can do as many hours as suits you! Personally I walk the dogs for about three hours every other Saturday, but you can do however many hours you feel you can spare. There is no minimum or maximum, just whatever suits your lifestyle! Both the staff and certainly the dogs appreciate any time you can spare!
You'll always be given dogs that are suitable to your needs. For example I am experienced with large breeds and I am quite healthy so I like to walk the big dogs such as rottweilers and mastiffs. However everyone starts with the small and easy to handle dogs! If you feel that you want to walk the stronger and livelier dogs as you become more experienced then you can. You will never be given a dog to walk that you don't feel that you can safely handle.
All the dogs are different
The first dog I ever walked as a volunteer was a lovely friendly little staffie called Donna! After Donna I asked for a bigger dog, so next up was Rico, a huge Malamute who resembled a small bear! Rico was one of the most gentle dogs I have ever had the pleasure of walking! So after Rico I asked for another dog that doesn't get walked very often, so out walked a large rottweiler called Riley!
I didn't have any experience with rottweiler's but I ended up forming a special bond with Riley. He was a long stay dog so I walked him on every visit for over two years. I saw Riley progress from a quiet withdrawn dog to being a loving sociable dog. One of the happiest moments I've had while volunteering is the day Riley went to his forever home.
It sounds obvious, but all dogs are different! Not just size but personalities and backgrounds. The staff always give you information about the dogs you will be walking and their needs.
Some dogs will come out and give you lots of kisses but others can be a bit timid and will be quiet until they get to know you. Some are already trained to walk on a lead and some need a bit of guidance, but you will be walking the easy dogs until you feel you are ready for more of a challenge!
Seeing the dogs rehomed is a fantastic feeling
People often ask if it's upsetting when you get close to a dog and then they leave. You always miss the dogs you are especially close to, but seeing them finally get the home they deserve is a fantastic feeling!
Even though the stories of how the dogs came to be in the re-homing shelter are often very sad, you'll be in a position to help these dogs. You can show the dogs that people can be kind, teach them to trust again and help socialise them. Some dogs haven't experienced simple things such as cars, so you can help guide and teach them that there is no need to be scared with positive training techniques.
Providing a better chance of finding a new home
By helping the dogs to become sociable and trusting, this means they stand a much better chance of finding their forever home. All these dogs need is love, care and a reason to trust and you can help give them all these things.
I cannot recommend voluntary dog walking highly enough!
- You'll meet new friends (both four and two legged!)
- It's far better exercise than going to the gym (and it's free!)
- When the dogs get used to you, you'll be their favourite person! After all, seeing you means walkies time and treats for good behaviour!
- You might find a new best friend like I did! After walking a lovely lurcher called Flash for a while, and now being in a position to give a dog a home, I adopted him from the centre and he has been part of my family ever since!
Carl Egan - Volunteer dog walker