Nearly everyone has heard of the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts – two youth organizations aimed at developing well-rounded individuals, but not too many people know about a third group dedicated to enhancing the lives of our four-legged friends, The Dog Scouts of America.
According to its website, DSA was established in 1995 by a group of people who are “dedicated to enriching their lives and the lives of others with dogs.” DSA’s purpose is to “promote, enhance and give recognition to the importance of the human/companion animal bond, through a variety of education activities and publications, conduct research, education and service related to humane education and the human/companion animal bond, encourage public education and community involvement on the part of its members, and support the involvement in the art, skill and discipline of animal behavior modification through operant conditioning and other non-traditional, non-punishment-based training methods, for the purpose of teaching various skills and activities to animals which will improve the quality of their lives and make them a more valuable resource to the community.”
DSA dogs earn badges, much like their human Boy and Girl Scout counterparts, for completing various tasks and participating in certain events. Badges can be earned for nearly everything from backpacking, water rescue, agility and tracking to more obscure things like “phodography,” first aid and fundraising.
Any breed of dog is welcome to become a dog scout, but owners must submit a video of their dog completing a checklist of tasks to prove their dog can follow basic commands and gets along well with both people and other dogs. Badges are earned by submitting videos of the dog completing the required tasks.
There are various troops all across the country, but and Santa Clara County is lucky enough to have one in its own backyard. Troop 198 meets monthly at Humane Society Silicon Valley and is ran by HSSV’s Chief Operating Officer, Beth Ward who found DSA when she was “looking for opportunities on how to connect people and pets and keep pets and people connected.”
“We have been fairly successful in getting people interested in becoming dog scouts,” said Ward. “Right now the troop has about 20 people involved and each month, about 10 are active.”
Ward states the DSA is a program that can be done at the dog’s own pace and owners don’t have to attend meetings to be members, but the meetings are a valuable tool to connect dogs and owners and to get tips on subjects like dog behavior and non-verbal communication.
While Troop 198 is always welcoming to new members, they want to focus on being a better troop. “We are looking for people to become more involved as troop leaders and scoutmasters,” said Ward. Basically scoutmasters are dog trainers who are willing to help the dogs continue their education through training. Once credentialed by DSA, scoutmasters have the ability to issue DSA badges to dogs who have completed the necessary requirements.
DSA Troop 198 meets at 901 Ames Avenue in HSSV’s community room the third Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. The next meeting is June 23 when Officer Scott Fitzgerald from the Santa Clara Police Department K-9 unit will be the guest speaker. For this special event, it has been requested that attendees leave their dogs at home. For more information please contact Beth Ward at (408) 262-2133 ext. 178.