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A Dog Volunteer’s Day at the SPA

By Steven Calkins

Being a volunteer dog walker at the SPA a couple of times a week gives me a chance to see what I can do to help the few dogs I handle be well-behaved adoptable pets. The dogs have a fifteen to twenty minute walk out on the street with a volunteer walker once a day. It’s not a lot of time to sufficiently train them to obey commands which takes patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, but handled right they get the idea.

Take Prince; the first dog I usually walk on arrival. He’s an easy warm-up. A rusty-blond, medium-sized, 2-3/4-year-old male that doesn’t jump, doesn’t charge about, isn’t bothered by other dogs in the vicinity, and walks like a gentleman on the street. We do, however, have to practice heeling on a short lead on the way back to the kennel when he knows his food is waiting.

Apollo is a medium-sized black and tan 2-year-old male who has learned his street etiquette. All the dogs will at times pull at the leash, some less forcefully than others, so I like to correct the less forceful pulling with a little short tug from my end of the leash every time the leash goes taunt. Apollo responds very well to these corrections and is an easily trainable dog.

Next, I work my way up the scale in size with Buddy and Sonny, two large males that require a little more discipline out on the street. Buddy is a big black Airedoodle mix in his prime who needs a harness instead of a collar for his walk. He is mostly an easy walk unless he sees a cat, a lizard, or even a ball rolling down the street. Then, brace yourself, because Buddy likes to rear up a bit and lunge for the object of his doggy desires. But Buddy is easy to control once you get his attention back.

Sonny’s markings indicate a pointer mix, only larger. We put him in a harness, too, for his walk. A young male, Sonny has overcome an early skittishness to going out onto the street, and now likes to walk with his two girl-friends, Dulce and Shy. He can get a little nervous around other dogs on the street, but I always keep one eye on him to intervene before he reacts negatively, with a distraction, like blocking his view and petting him with a little vigor on his neck and shoulders. Sometimes Sonny just needs a little reassurance that all is well when you’re with him.

The daily walks are good, both physically and mentally, for the SPA dogs, and likewise for me. Volunteer hours (which include dog-walking) at the SPA, Los Pinos 7, 152 6124, are 11–2, Monday–Saturday. The SPA has a clinic special this month. Every Wednesday in September, the SPA vet’s consultation fee will be waived for 3 appointments (appointments only, not walk-ins). Please call 152 6124 and mention the promotion to take advantage of this offer!


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