Dog lovers will soon be able to take foster dogs on field trips from the Denison Animal Welfare Group.
The shelter, located at 3307 South Eisenhower Parkway in Denison, will begin offering individuals 18 and over the opportunity to check out a dog from the shelter for the day in a new program designed to reduce stress levels of the animals.
The program launches on Monday and adults wishing to take a pup on a field trip will be asked to provide photo ID and be given a brief orientation with a field trip packet to ensure the dog’s needs are met. The pack contains a bag for solid waste, treats, bottle of water, harness and information packet with ideas of pet-friendly places to take the animal.
DAWG President Stephanie Phillips is excited to launch the program and said her staff are looking forward to matching people up with a dog for a day.
“We will help them pick a dog that meets their skill level,” Phillips said. “If they are more experienced, they can take a more challenging dog. If they are less experienced, they will take a dog that is not very challenging. We will leash and harness them.”
Phillips said for safety reasons, DAWG is requiring the dogs be on the leash at all times and therefore dog parks are off limits. She said the dogs can be taken out of town as long as they remain on the leash and are returned to the shelter.
“You never know how dogs are going to act around other dogs,” Phillips said. “We can’t be confident enough they are going to be safe at a dog park. We want it to be about that dog, if you take it home, we ask you don’t let it interact with your pets too.”
Phillips said giving the dogs an opportunity to be seen, in public, reduces the animals’ stress while also giving people a chance to see for themselves how a particular animal might fit into their lives. She said DAWG was selected to participate in the Arizona State University and Virginia Tech Maddie’s Fund Nationwide Fostering Study. The shelter received funding for training as part of that study to participate in the program.
Included in the packet that will be given out to people is a short survey asking how the dog behaved, along with how happy the dog acted. Phillips said she had a guest check out one of the dogs last weekend as a trial and the feedback was very insightful.
“What I thought was interesting, the note they put was, ‘she doesn’t bark,’” Phillip said. “When she is here, she barks incessantly. If we hadn’t had somebody take her out on the town, we wouldn’t have known that. It is the stress of being in the shelter that makes her behave like that. It gives us good information we don’t see here.”
Phillips said she was grateful to be part of the study, which will include 100 animal shelters from all across the nation.
Phillips said she is trying to keep the rules to a minimum to ensure safety of the dogs and the individuals who take the dog out. The DAWG president said she wants to see more people getting to know the animals in hopes they will all find homes as part of the program.
People wishing to take a dog on a field trip are required to be over 18 with a valid photo ID and must be able to commit a minimum of two hours to the field trip. Phillips said the purpose of the two hour time is to work around the shelter’s hours.
She said the eventual goal is to make dogs available for sleepovers. The hours for the program are currently 7-9 a.m. and noon-2 p.m. Sunday through Friday. On Saturdays. the shelter’s staff take dogs to PetSmart to help them find homes.