Ever since the Denison Animal Welfare Group began its dog field trips as part of a national research study, the organization has seen an uptick in volunteers and animals being adopted.

The program that began on May 13 has loaned out dogs for 35 field trips in the last month.

DAWG President Stephanie Phillips said 95 percent of the dogs at the pet shelter have either been adopted or taken in by other shelter, a move she attributes to the program. She also said the dogs that remain have exhibited a noticeable drop in stress levels since the program began.

“The goal is to move the dogs along as quickly as possible,” Phillips said. “The less time they spend at a shelter, the better off they are. It is loud, scary and unfamiliar. If you get them out into the community it gets them more visibility. It gets people to share them with their social circles. They wear “adopt me” banners. We are able to show the dogs in their natural environment which makes the other shelters more likely to accept them. We’re not showing dogs who are scared in kennels. We’re showing dogs who are out and interacting with people.”

The field trips have been crucial in helping the staff better understand how the animals in its care operate outside the shelter environment. Phillips even said the program will continue after the study has completed.

The program began as part of a university study through

The goal of Maddie’s Fund, the university study that jump started the new program, is to determine who environment plays on an animal’s stress levels.

“The dogs are coming back tired and ready for a nap,” Phillips said. “They are far less stressed than having been cooped up in a kennel all day. Typically they go for walks three times a day. The field trips are for two hours. The dogs have really enjoyed it.”

She said there have been about six or seven dogs a week taken out on field trips on average. She also said there have been a number of overnight trips as well as a few people returning to take a different animal out on a separate field trip.

“I’ll do it again, definitely,” Alice Bowen said about taking a dog on a field trip.

Bowen, who lives in Denison said she has already taken two out and can’t wait to go again. She recommends the experience to others.

“I enjoy helping out the fur-babies,” Bowen said. “The dogs were enthusiastic to interact with other people. It is very rewarding for the animal. It is very rewarding for the person. I hope a lot of people do this. It is a very rewarding experience, especially during the summer with children being out of school. It is a fun thing to do with children on summer break. Maybe take a child and get a fur-baby and take it for an outing.”

Sherman resident Mayuko Renew said she loved the experience so much she has even begun volunteering at DAWG.

Renew, who moved to the United States from Japan, said it is a lot harder to adopt a pet there because the prospective adopters have to take the animal for a trial first. She said when she came to Sherman and learned about DAWG, she immediately signed up as a volunteer and was excited to partake in the program.

“In Japan, I was involved with rescue dogs as well,” Renew said. “I thought a field trip program would be nice. If it doesn’t work, you bring it back to the shelter. Before you adopt a dog, you can see their personalities at home.”

She said her family prefers the larger dogs and the dog they took out was an older dog who had been a stray and was missing hair around his body. She said he looked tired and wasn’t very energetic, but once they discovered his personality, they took him home and showed him a good time.

“We want to take them out as much as possible,” Renew said. “If it is possible we’d like to adopt one more dog. That is why we’re doing it, we want to see what the dogs are like at home. We are hoping to find our next dog. We already have two.

Dogs available for two-hour shifts between 7-9 a.m. or noon to 2 p.m. Then the animals need to be returned before the shelter closes for the day. For additional information and a complete list of rules, call 903-361-4211.

Would you consider taking a dog on a field trip? Let Richard A. Todd know at RTodd@HeraldDemocrat.com.