Scaredy Scout

The first time I heard of Dog Scouts of America I thought it sounded like just about the most fun you could have with a dog.  I wanted to join soooo bad.  But I figured something like that would only be for normal dogs.  You know the kind of dogs I mean.  Happy, well-adjusted dogs that you can take anywhere.  Not neurotic, snarky, fear aggressive, painfully shy, trembly, incredibly stubborn dogs.  I was pretty sure there was no way they were going to let a dog like mine come play.

Still, I kept nosing around the DSA website.  I couldn’t give up the idea that one day we would work through enough of her issues that some day she could belong to Dog Scouts, maybe even go to Scout Camp.   And then while I was reading about camp I read this:  “Yellow Bandannas are for dogs that don’t like other dogs in their face.  Please respect this unspoken request to keep your dog back.”  Whaaat – less than perfect dogs, dogs with issues, dogs that need a little space – they can join Dog Scouts? OMG, seriously?

Now, I’m definitely not saying that you should just bring an aggressive dog to Dog Scouts and expect everybody to welcome you with open arms!  But we’d been working really hard, Misha was improving and I’d learned how to manage her environment well enough that I felt safe and comfortable taking her to various dog training classes.  Meetings with Troop 184 weren’t all that different from a class, we felt very welcome and everyone was very considerate about giving her the space she needed.

We’ve met so many amazing dogs, from mutts of questionable ancestry like Misha to Champions with lots of letters before and after their names, but at a troop meeting we’re all equal.  Dog Scout humans are just as wonderful as their dogs.  Bewildered folks like me, who found themselves with a troubled dog and the sudden need to learn more about training and behavior than they ever wanted to know.  Highly competitive people showing in conformation and earning performance titles but still finding time for Scouts.  Training geeks, fascinated by how dogs learn but without any desire to compete.  And of course those seeking no more than to spend quality time with their dogs.  What do we have in common?  We love dogs.  We aspire to teach them without fear or pain.  And along the way we hope to give them a fun, fulfilling life.

What do we do at troop meetings?  Sometimes it’s fun and games, sometimes we try new dog sports, sometimes we practice to earn the Dog Scout Badge.  Once in a while, if all dogs are amenable, it turns into a play date.  At a troop activity day I watched Misha forget all about the monster that lives in the agility tunnel because she couldn’t resist following a zoomy Border Collie puppy through it.  When we practiced for a badge called “The Art of Shaping” she painted me a pretty picture.  (She also painted the garage floor.  And my left shoe.)  During “All Dog Band” badge practice, my fearful, sound sensitive dog happily bonged a cowbell with her nose (More Cowbell!) and pawed at noisy maracas.  We’ve gotten lost and befuddled on back yard RallyO courses, and enjoyed urban walks and mountain hikes.  We’ve tried some sports we never would have considered.  The last time I looked there were more than 75 badges we could try to earn, certainly something for any and every dog.  But the best part – the atmosphere is always non-competitive, low-key, and full of laughter.

Two years ago I didn’t really think we’d ever pass the Dog Scout Badge test, and now with the help of our troop we’ve done almost all the steps.  You know what though? Even if we don’t pass, it wouldn’t really matter.  I think the saying is something like “It’s the journey, not the destination.”  And Dog Scouts has been one heck of a great journey.  They’ve been instrumental in helping me bring my scaredy girl out of her shell, and helping her learn dogs and humans are not to be feared.

Here’s Misha with the picture she painted for me for the Art of Shaping!


Author: Date: Sunday, 13. March 2011 23:44 Category: Dog Stuff
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