Dogs Scouts of America
by Whitney Wilde
Photo Courtesy of Dogs Scouts of America
“Our dogs’ lives are much shorter than ours – let’s help them enjoy their time with us as much as we can." – Dog Scout Owner Motto
"Let us learn new things that we become more helpful." – Dog Scout Motto
As a Girl Scout, my favorite things were Scout Camp and my green sash with the colorfully embroidered badges. Each badge represented a fun adventure and an accomplishment. I still have that Scout sash, so you can imagine my excitement when I heard that my pooch and I could earn similar badges in the Dog Scouts of America (DSA) by participating in activities or helping others. We could even earn the prestigious Honor Scout Badge! As a team, my pooch and I must pass a series of tests to become a Dog Scout and earn the first badge.
With dogged determination, you and your canine can earn over 100 different badges! Categories include trails, water, agility, obedience, nose work, pulling, and community involvement. Some of the activities were new to me: letterboxing, cani-cross, scent hurdle racing, flygility, and puissance (high jump). More familiar was geo-caching, treiball, carting, and kayaking. I can’t wait to get creative with pho-dog-raphy, and teaching my pup to paint or play a musical instrument. There is an All Dog Band badge!
Don’t get the wrong idea; there is more to Dog Scouts than fetching badges. The badges are just a by-product of the activities, training, learning, socializing, and community involvement.
Learning New Things
There is something for every dog, regardless of breed, age, size, or skill level. Dog Scouts use reward-based training and “pawsitive” methods—no choke or electric collars. You and your pooch can compete in dog sports like rally obedience, agility, herding, or dock diving. There are “solve it” games such as dog bowling and finding hidden treats. Sit-stay games like Doggie Tic-Tac-Toe, Musical Sit, and Snoopy Says test your pup’s obedience training. Got a couch-potato pooch? The Leave-it Challenge tests your dog’s ability to hold a sit-stay while you spell its name in dog treats.
Enriching the Lives of People and Dogs
Troop activities celebrate the pooch/people bond, but it is the friendships that are unanimously everyone’s favorite part about DSA Troop 198 (in the SF Bay Area). Troop meetings are an opportunity for all (furred and non-furred folks) to socialize, play games, and learn new things. There are walks/hikes, campouts, parties, bike rides and more. Bad weather might find the troop watching dog-related movies or videos on dog training.
Serving the Community
Dog Scouts participate in charity events, local parades, outreach programs, and community cleanups, and provide therapy dog visits. School programs include presentations on bite prevention and pet care, or kids reading to dogs to gain confidence. Recently, Troop 198 had a yard sale to raise funds to provide San Jose firefighters with training in the use of animal oxygen masks (which were donated to SJFD by Air For Paws).
Dog Scout Laws
Just as in Girl Scouts, the scout laws guide you both to be better community members. The heart of Dog Scout laws are to be friendly, kind, caring, polite, well-groomed, safe, and helpful; and promote responsible cleanup, obey all dog and leash laws, and represent DSA proudly.
Lonnie Olson wanted Karli, her Border Collie, to experience every activity she could think of to keep her busy and happy, and also acknowledge all of Karli’s achievements. In 1995, Lonnie started the Dog Scouts of America, and since then it has grown to 45 troops in 26 states, two countries (U.S. and Canada), and the territory of Puerto Rico.
Membership in the DSA is $25 per year. To contact SF Bay Area Troop 198, email DSAtroop198@earthlink.net. Anyone interested in starting a Monterey Bay chapter, please contact: DSAleadertest@att.net. Want to express interest in a DSA group in the Monterey Bay? Join the Facebook page for Dog Scouts of Monterey Bay. Meanwhile, a determined dog can actually earn badges from a distance via video!
Lonnie Olson calls DSA “the best idea I’ve come up with in my lifetime.” We agree and we can’t wait to get our first badge. For more information, visit dogscouts.org.