Volunteers can have a huge impact on the quality of life for shelter animals, but they can also be your best advocates in the community, bring fresh ideas to your shelter, and handle lots of tasks to free up staff. Cultivating a vibrant volunteer program will enfuse your shelter with good energy, make your animals happier (and more adoptable), and improve your relationship with your community.
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Doggy Day Out
Doggy Day Out is a short-term foster program where the public can take dogs from local shelters on day outings. A Doggy Day Out can include a hike, a trip to a beach or lake, or even a sleepover. These field trips help shelter dogs manage kennel stress, burn off energy and get more exposure to potential adopters.
Doggy Day Out requires minimal training commitments for participants. This encourages members of the public to engage with their local shelter and advocate for the animals. It’s a great excuse to get out and have fun with a canine sidekick.
Good to have written guidelines as to safety protocol for the dog like double leash, use a harness, a list of dog friendly places, emergency contact information etc. And helpful to have a bandana or similar item, saying I’m available for adoption. Have the volunteer take pictures of the dog and provide a short summary of how the dog behaved.
Take a Shelter Dog to Work
Invite shelter volunteers to take a shelter dog with them to work either on a designated day (when you can take advantage of an empty shelter for some deep cleaning or staff training/appreciation) or as an ongoing program to help socialize the dogs.
Build or buy a wheel (think wheel of fortune) and write jobs on the different sections with dry erase markers. If volunteers come in and staff isn’t available to tell them what to do or they don’t know which job to do, have them spin the wheel to find out. This is particularly brilliant if you have tween or teen volunteers. It’s just one more way to make volunteering at the shelter fun. If you can’t find a wheel, you could also place jobs on slips of paper in a box and let people draw for their day’s job.