'Certified' dog walkers
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  • This article from our newspaper this morning. Do you think that people who volunteer as dog walkers at humane societies/dog shelters should be 'certified'. Certification is usually an interview and background check on the dog walkers. The shelter is in the community we live in, and are a top notch no kill shelter.

    http://www.theprovince.com/news/walker+certification+doggone+shame/6119107/story.html

    Although I feel for the elderly couple in the news article, I do feel that dogs should be treated no differently than children - both are innocent lives. Can you walk into an orphanage and take a child for a walk?

    So that's MY opinion - it's not right or it's not wrong. Just my opinion. What do you think - should dog walkers be certified?

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  • I agree with you Fran, there should be some kind of check/test… whatever. And agree, you can't just go into an orphanage and say you want to take a child out to play.

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  • I don't think the shelter's requirements are out of line.

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  • I would certainly think the best thing for everyone would be to have volunteers have a criminal background check AND some sort of instruction on how to walk the dogs (choke chains? corrections? flexis etc) AND some instruction on dog behavior. Have you ever encountered the out of control off-leash dog with the owner who says "He's friendly!" Why is that always the start of a bad story. And I promise you that owner has had dogs his entire life and an "expert" in dogs.

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  • I agree that some degree of vetting is needed. When choosing a family for a dog there are T's to be crossed and I's to be dotted so why wouldn't you make sure that you only let people you'd allow to adopt a dog also be allowed to walk a dog. Whose to say a person doesn't take a dog for a walk and never return. There needs to be accountability and to have that you have to know the person both on an off paper

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  • Forget the dog walkers, the owners should be certified! Lots of problems would be solved overnight if only responsible people could buy and/or adopt dogs. I'm all for licensing the owners, not the dogs. And the posting of a bond securing the dog's future if the owner should ever give him up. ;)

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  • I understand why some folks would think this is necessary, but I live in a rural community and our local shelter is understaffed and so appreciates the people who come out to walk the dogs. The shelter is located away from large roads or the city and has limited space to walk dogs so that there is little chance of someone walking away with a dog or doing it any harm without being seen. So our situation might be safer than most, but with that said, it saddens me that we have come to the point where we can't trust that a person might want to help out and do a good deed by walking homeless dogs for an hour. Volunteers are hard to come by and they often feel under-appreciated by overworked and, sadly, cynical, staff. The more restrictions we put on good samaritans, the fewer there will be. You can't legislate good behavior any more than all of these restrictions will guarantee that people will always act honestly. If there were evidence of a rash of stolen or mis-treated shelter dogs, I could see the point of this. But it seems like they are trying to preempt a problem that doesn't really exist. Sad world when you can't just decide to take a shelter pet out for some fresh air without suspicion.
    Our shelter also gives all new dog walkers a primer on using a leash and gives them a packet on basic command training like sit, stay, etc, if they want to try their hand at that. But really, they hand them a leash, explain what to do and where to go and are simply grateful that the dogs can get out of their noisy cages for a bit.

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  • I volunteer at my local shelter and live in a mostly rural county. I had to be fingerprinted to work there and volunteers are required to attend an orientation. I really wish they required more. Many of the volunteers there undo the work that me and my fellow trainers who put in time there have worked hard to achieve. They make the dogs less adoptable by encouraging behaviors that are not compatible with most homes. So though the dogs really need the socialization with people, training is important or your good samaritans are really just contributing to the problem.

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  • First Basenji's

    My boyfriend has just signed up to volunteer at our local shelter, and he's expressed some similar frustration by the bureaucratic process. He's gone to a 2-hour orientation so far, and there's at least one more dog-specific orientation that he has to attend before he can sign up for walking shifts.

    I tried to explain that they're just trying to cover all their bases and it's not a personal slight against him if they can't tell the difference between him and any well-meaning but possibly dog-illiterate guy who walks into the shelter, and that a little bit of hoop-jumping at the outset just makes things easier for EVERYONE in the long run, especially the dogs. But I haven't thought of the best way yet to explain the necessity without resorting to specific scenarios that may or may not apply to something that might happen when he's out walking the dog. Our shelter is in a semi-urban, residential/commercial/industrial part of town. I don't know where they're allowed to walk the dogs yet, but it's very likely that they will encounter other people, if not other dogs and dog walkers.

    I see how people misread dogs ALL the time. Both of my dogs are quite friendly with people, and they'll walk right up to strangers to sniff and check them out, especially Bowpi – but they immediately duck away if the person reaches down to pet them on top of their head. Do that to the wrong shelter dog, and he might bite instead, instantly jeopardizing his chances of adoption. Another one is how often people figure that wagging tails and eager, pulling dogs are not just friendly, but expressing a healthy "curiosity" towards other dogs and they should be indulged for their "extroversion." But it's a terrible habit to encourage for a million reasons...

    I'm probably ranting to folks who already understand. While it sounds extreme to be "certified" to volunteer to walk dogs, it doesn't sound out of line to me to require just a few hours of training and pre-approval in order to work with living creatures in somewhat unpredictable settings.

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  • Realistically, it may be more of a liability issue than any concern for the welfare of the dogs. Shelters certainly want to avoid lawsuits that might result if the walker isn't alert to the possibilities of a biting incident. Insurance might even dictate that anyone taking the dogs off the premises be assessed before doing so…..

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  • First Basenji's

    @eeeefarm:

    Realistically, it may be more of a liability issue than any concern for the welfare of the dogs. Shelters certainly want to avoid lawsuits that might result if the walker isn't alert to the possibilities of a biting incident. Insurance might even dictate that anyone taking the dogs off the premises be assessed before doing so…..

    I mentioned liability issues, and my boyfriend's response was that he had signed a waiver on the first day's orientation, so that part already seemed to be covered. So maybe it is just as easy as that. If that's the case, it DOES seem like concern for the welfare of the dogs, and pre-empting any possible risk, is why some shelters bother with additional training.

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  • If a shelter dog bites, it doesn't just jeopardize their chance of adoption it is a death sentence.

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  • If a shelter dog bites while being walked, the person bitten could sue the shelter for negligence. "Certifying" the walking staff hopefully prevents carelessness or lack of knowledge that would make a biting incident more likely, and thereby reassures the shelter's insurance company that no unnecessary risks are being taken.

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  • It seems to me there are a couple of issues here. I don't think a shelter wants just any JoeBloe walking in one day to say "hey I'd like to help by walking your dogs". The shelter needs to know something about its volunteers though a criminal check might be a bit much. If someone has been volunteering at a shelter for some time so the staff knows them and now new policies are being put into effect, then the shelter should have some sort of informational meeting/handout for all its volunteers so they know what and why. And even when volunteers have been accepted, some mini-training should be included for handling dogs. Many shelter dogs have been abused so I wouldn't want a volunteer who grew up under the "old" system of training with spanking and collar yerking now handling a special needs dog. Actual certification for dog walkers - no - the government intrudes enough.

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