Dog Scouts: It’s Not Just for Humans Anymore
Sparky’s been through basic obedience and loved it, so what’s next?
He can try out a variety of activities you’ll both enjoy by joining the Dog Scouts. Similar to human’s Boy/Girl Scouts, there are troops, badges and summer camp.
Dog Scouts originated in the mid-90s and became a non-profit organization in 2000. Most members scout with more than one dog.
It’s more fun to join a troop or form one of your own but it’s not mandatory. If there’s no evaluator nearby, videos allow you and Sparky to do your stuff to earn badges. Start with the basic Dog Scout badge—everybody gets that one. Requirements are similar to the Canine Good Citizen test—heel without pulling, greet a person calmly, meet another animal without reacting, and to see food and leave it.
Badges, Badges, Badges
After that, the sky’s the limit—earn as many or as few badges as you have time and energy for. Be warned; badges can be addictive.
“All training is positive. As trainers, we figure out how to communicate with another species,” says Chris Puls, president of Dog Scouts, near Harrison, Ohio. “We don’t want dogs to be an accessory or a lawn ornament. They’re part of the family and a lot of fun.”
Sparky can earn a community service badge for visiting hospitals, reading with kids at the library or fund-raising. A dog who will take paper money and put it into a basket can always out-fundraise humans. For a messenger dog badge, dog scouts learn to track a familiar person and deliver messages tucked into a cell phone case attached to his harness with Velcro.
If Sparky likes to watch Dancing with the Stars, freestyle might be for you. Obedience to music, there’s a lot of room for creativity both with the tunes and the moves, not to mention, costumes! No one can resist a dog wearing a hat.
One Time, at Summer Camp…
Of course, the highlight of scouting is summer camp. It’s no different for Sparky. He’ll get to see a lot of other dogs, learn new activities and get more badges. “Many people bring more than one dog. I’m an agility trainer at camp and I take six dogs with me. Each has their favorite activity. It’s too much for one dog to go from morning until 10pm,” says Alllison Holloway, in Columbus, Ohio. “New members often say they come for the fun and camaraderie but they end up collecting badges like the rest of us. It’s a great reminder of what you and your dog did at camp.”
There are badges for hiking, backpacking, biking, overnight camping and geocaching. Remember, especially in warm weather, both of you need to keep hydrated. For the humans, bottled water might do the trick. For Sparky, Ice Pups from Honest Kitchen, make a refreshing drink. It comes as am easy to carry powder and is mixed with water.
Snacks help keep the energy level up and the brain alert. Humans will go for a handful of nuts or trail mix. Sparky will appreciate a good chewy like Beams Treats, also from Honest Kitchen. The treats are made from wild-caught Icelandic catfish skins, dried into chewy sticks that will have him trail-ready in no time.
Bring a bit of home to camp. Honest Kitchen’s dehydrated foods are lightweight and easy to pack.
Dog Scouts is a way to enjoy your dog, for both of you to get exercise and spend time together. Make new friends who also treat dogs as partners. Learn new activities, spend time outdoors, learn to speak dog as Sparky learns to speak human. When you get back to work and someone asks, “Where did you go on your vacation?” you can answer, “I went to Dog Scout camp!”