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Dog Walking Club

Humane Society of Independence County

A $15,000 winner in the 2008 Maddie’s Fund Marketing Competition; submitted by Bev Finch, Shelter Director, Humane Society of Independence County, Batesville, Ark.

This year, we have a doozy of a marketing scheme for our dogs! We have a shelter full of dogs, and day after day, the same ones get passed over again and again. Their trouble? They are not the fuzzy, adorable dogs that perform cute antics to get noticed and adopted. They are the shy ones who hang at the back of the kennel and go unnoticed week after week, month after month.

A couple of our volunteers, Sue and Lynn, decided to do something about it! They started a Dog Walking Club for volunteers to walk shelter dogs weekly. It started small, with just Sue and Lynn and a couple of friends or relatives, but as it has become publicized, it has really grown!

They ran a small ad in the newspaper asking for volunteers to come walk the shelter dogs. They had a good turn out and those people told others, who told others, etc. They meet the volunteers at a local ball park complex near our shelter. They bring enough animals for each volunteer to walk, and dogs are matched with people and off they go!

Once around the track is one mile. Most of the volunteers go twice-sometimes switching dogs, so more dogs can go. The outside “field trips” and one-on-one time has made an amazing difference in the demeanor of the dogs! Previously shy dogs are now happily prancing around in their runs, strutting their stuff for folks to see! An added benefit is that they are leash-trained now as well.

Folks, young and old, spend an hour or two with the dogs, letting them sniff the grass and bugs and splash in the nearby creek. While we only know of one walker that has actually adopted the dog he walked, the publicity for the shelter and program has definitely increased traffic through the shelter, and for the dogs that are going on the walks, the personality changes have made them much more receptive to people coming in to adopt. A total of approximately 40 dogs have been through the walking program.

At the annual town Christmas parade, the dogs and their new walking friends will strut their stuff down Main Street, complete with a banner that reads “Dog Walking Club” and shirts that read “Walk a Shelter Dog.” We hope this idea will spread to other shelters!

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