Dog Walking Promotes Health and Fitness
Popular amongst those who can’t have pets for various reasons, including living in rental properties or having no backyard, volunteer dog walking is giving people the opportunity to seek part-time companionship with animals in need.
With around 5,000 volunteers in Queensland alone, volunteer dog walking is one of the most in demand duties in the RSPCA. A Brisbane RSPCA representative stresses the need for volunteer dog walkers, and encourages anyone willing in the community to do so. He says, “At any given time we’ve got 200 dogs here [RSPCA Brisbane Animal Care Campus, Wacol], and each one of them has to have a minimum of one walk a day. Without the volunteers we couldn’t do that.”
Dakabin RSPCA Volunteer Coordinator, Natalie Anger, talked about the benefits of volunteer dog walking to surrendered animals. “The shelter is a very stressful environment for the animals,” she says. “They’re away from their homes where everything was familiar, so time with the volunteers helps make them calm and rehabilitate them, and hopefully gets them adopted out.”
Discussing the benefits to the volunteers, Natalie adds, “You definitely do build your fitness, regardless of whether that was your intention or not.”
There are various local animal shelters to volunteer at, including Peninsula Animal Aid (PAA), an animal refuge shelter located in Clontarf. A PAA representative says, “Becoming a Kennel Volunteer certainly allows you to get your doggie fix, especially if you are unable to have your own dog.”
RSPCA volunteer dog walker, Gillian Holness, agrees with this sentiment, and says that the well-being of the dogs makes volunteering her time well worth it. “I love seeing the benefits in the dogs,” she says. “It [being walked] helps reduce the dog’s sadness and anxiety, and other negative feelings.”
Both RSPCA and PAA train their volunteers before they can take dogs on solo journeys.
“We teach the dogs basic manners like ‘sit’, ‘shake’, and learning through obstacles,” says Gillian. “They learn not to pull on the leash, and all this really helps for them to be compatible for adoption.”
In order to become a volunteer with PAA you need to be aged 18 or above, be able to work independently and follow supervisor instructions, able to attend shifts, and have a tetanus vaccination or booster prior to volunteering.
Although RSPCA mainly takes on volunteers aged 16 years plus, the Dakabin shelter may lower this age limit where the volunteer receives proper training.
Dog walking does not always need to be on a voluntary basis. Private Walker and Pet Sitter, Tina - a Morayfield local - says that it is a ‘win-win’ situation, as she gets her ‘doggy fix’ and stays fit walking, while also making extra money on the side.
“I hurt my back at my other job, and dog walking filled in the time because I wasn’t able to work. So I would just have the dogs here [at home] as company while their owners went on holidays, and the exercise has been good to help my back with its recovery.”
Advertising her services through pet sitting sites such as Mad Paws means that Tina is covered by insurance when the dogs are in her care.