Over the last year and a half I've been thinking of a way the Be A Pack Leader Dog Walking Club could give back to St. Johns County dogs and their humans. Below is my proposal:
Be A Pack Leader Dog Walking Club Scholarship
Five years ago I started Be A Pack Leader Dog Walking Club, a free dog-walking club that encourages dog owners to get out and walk their dogs with a pack. Sometimes we have as many as 25 dogs on these walks. We often picnic at county and state parks or preserves and dine at dog friendly restaurants. The primary purpose of the dog walks is for exercise and socialization. In addition to the dog walks the club has also hosted free canine educational programs for members and the general public at St. Johns County libraries.
The reason I’m writing this letter today is that the dog walking club has raised money to send dogs and their humans to basic obedience dog training classes. I’ve found over the years while walking with dogs in the club and with my own dogs that aggression, overreacting, lunging and pulling are common problems that cause people to seek help from a professional dog trainer. Due to the state of the economy today it’s often a luxury to get professional help for your dog’s behavior problems causing some owners to relinquish their dog to a shelter. A study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy found that 96% of the dogs in shelters had not received any obedience training and that aggressive behavior was one of the top 10 reasons why dogs were relinquished . The Humane Society of the United States says that 6 to 8 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year and that 3 to 4 million are euthanized. The dog walking club believes this is unacceptable and we want to do something to help alleviate this problem for dogs in St. Johns County.
To apply for the basic obedience dog obedience scholarship interested people would be required to answer a few questions on the application explaining their dog’s behavior problem. Those dog owners being approved for a scholarship will receive a 4, 6 or 10 week basic obedience dog training class closest to their geographical location if possible. The dog walking club will pay the trainer directly and require the applicant to attend all classes and practice all obedience exercises at home. Finally at the end of the class the trainer and dog owner will be required to mail an evaluation form to Be A Pack Leader Dog Walking Club so we can determine the success of the program.
This is the beginning of what I hope to be a successful effort to save dogs from euthanasia because of behavior problems. I believe it’s wonderful what rescue organizations are doing across the country to help with the overcrowded populations of dogs in shelters but the dog walking club's mission is to prevent them from being there in the first place and to help them stay in their home. I believe this is an idea whose time has come.
With the help from the dog walkers and dog lovers across the county we can begin to move forward towards our goal of helping dogs and their humans in St. Johns County, Florida live a life in harmony with each other hopefully forever.
Finally I want to thank the St. Augustine Humane Society for joining with us in 2012 in issuing dog training scholarships. Together we can help dogs and their owners solve problems, rather than the owners giving their dogs up to a shelter.