Olson who realized that, at that time, no other group was offering the ability for dog owners to participate in a wide variety of activities regardless of their dogs’ breeds (or even if their dogs were mixed breeds)! Of course these days, mixed breed dogs are being welcomed into more and more sports and activities, but DSA still stands alone in all that it has to offer.
Currently, the organization has over 900 participating households, with thousands of dogs, both in the U.S. and abroad. While many members do have a troop near them, participating as an individual in all that DSA has to offer is also rewarding and fun. And if you don’t have a troop in your area, there is step by step information on the extensive website about how to get one started at www.DogScouts.org! In addition to 40 troops nationwide in 22 states, as well as Puerto Rico and Canada, the organization offers an extensive website packed with training
and dog care information.
Of course there are badges! There are over 100 badges available that test the skills and knowledge at both ends of the leash. The badges cover a wide range of activities and skill levels from Dog Scout (basic obedience) and “Puppy Paddler” (for dogs new to swimming), all the way up to Search and Rescue Honor Scout. Badges are intended to provide a goal-oriented system for learning new and helpful skills. So, while they might not be easy to earn, you and your dog will have fun learning new things using rewarding training methods. And the badges are open to all dogs. If your Chihuahua wants to do carting (with an appropriately sized cart of course) and your beagle wants to do water rescue, they can! The organization even has a member with a deaf and blind border collie that has earned the Dog Scout badge as well as a few specialty badges using tactile cues! To earn a badge, the badge requirements must be demonstrated to a DSA approved evaluator. This can be done in person (if you have an evaluator in your area), by attending a Dog Scout camp, or by submitting
video of you and your dog performing the badge requirements. Once the evaluator determines that the criteria have been met, the badge form is signed. You then submit this form along with the badge fee to get the patch and have your dog’s accomplishment forever recorded in the DSA database. The Dog Scout badge fee is $35 and includes the patch, official bandanna,
and a photo ID card for your dog. The specialty badges are $25 each. The Certification Program page of the website has information on what those badge fees cover and how they compare to earning titles for your dog from other organizations .
And once your dog earns the title of Dog Scout, he can put the letters “DSA” after his name and you can get him a uniform to wear and display all the badges he earns! Each badge is a testament to the level of training and the bond you have with your dog (and the patches are darn cute too). The uniform and badges your dog earns embody the Dog Scout’s motto: “Let us learn new things so that we may become more helpful” as well as the Owner’s Motto: “Our dogs’ lives are much shorter than ours — let’s help them enjoy their time with us as much as we can.” Once your dog is a Dog Scout, you can choose which of the specialty badges you want to work on and the order in which you want to tackle them.
DSA also offers camps where you and your dog can learn many new things while having fun with like-minded dog lovers. There are week-long camps in Michigan as well as mini camps in Texas and Maryland. More than half of the attendees are “repeat campers” and a few have been to camp every year since the camps started in 1996! We feel that speaks highly of how
enjoyable and fun the camps are for people and dogs. The seasoned campers and staff love to introduce DSA to new people and help them love it as much as they do! Each year’s schedule has activities designed for both the repeat campers and for the first-year campers.
Many members participate in service in their communities. This can include therapy dog and reading dog programs, fundraisers for canine and humanitarian causes, providing bullet proof vests for police K-9s, and providing specially designed pet oxygen masks, which have saved the lives of several pets to local fire departments. Others collect donations of toys, supplies, food and treats during the year to create goodie bags for pets of all species belonging to the people on their local meals-on-wheels program at Christmas. This helps the people provide something special for their beloved companions and prevents them from needing to share their own meals with their pets.
Joining is easy and can be done online or with a printed membership form available on the extensive website. Annual membership is $25 for the first individual and $5 for each additional participating human in the same household. You may also choose to add a donation to your membership or make a memorial donation in memory of a favorite pet. The memorial
donation helps a deserving dog/human attend camp through the
DSA Values: What We Stand For
DSA stands for responsibility — to the dogs in our care, to our
communities, and to each other. We recognize the importance and benefits of the relationship between people and companion animals, and seek out ways to enrich this bond. We believe encouraging compassion and kindness toward our canine companions builds a more compassionate and kind world. We strive to create a better understanding and quality of life for
our dogs and all animals in our world. We believe that our members make a difference by setting an example, developing skills, and embracing opportunities to share our philosophy with each other and to inspire people to join us. We know that
sharing positive ways of training and problem-solving helps to keep dogs in lifetime homes and out of shelters. In Dog Scouts, people help dogs, dogs help people, and the whole community benefits.
We envision a future where dogs remain in happy, lifelong homes
with responsible owners. In this vision, all dogs are seen as a useful and welcome part of the community because people take responsibility for socializing, training, containing, and caring for them. We strive to create a world where people view their dogs
as part of their families and all dog owners have the knowledge they need to raise well-mannered canine citizens. If you believe the same and that dogs are not meant to be lawn ornaments or only loved as much as a piece of furniture, then take a moment
to show your support with a Dog Scouts of America membership. You’ll be joining a growing community of people who care deeply about dogs and want others to share their commitment to care, responsibility, and life-long learning.
Visit http://dogscouts.org/base/ for more information
By Sarah Zumhofe