Growing up, I was a Brownie and my brother a Cub Scout. I have fond memories of making “sit upons” crafted from newspaper and my dad taking my brother to meetings, where they learned how not to get lost in the woods. I never went on to be a Girl Scout, but if I was allowed to bring my dog, I would have sold enough Thin Mints to circumnavigate the globe for this privilege.
My, how times have changed. Established in 1995, the Dog Scouts of America encourages dog moms and dads to work with their dogs, learn new activities, bond together, and earn more than 90 badges while having fun. Founder, Lonnie Olson, believes that by giving dogs a task and learning what a dog thinks and what drives his behavior, fewer dogs will be relinquished to shelters and dubbed “lost causes.”
“We have camps for people and their dogs in three different states, with many troops all over the United States and Puerto Rico,” Chris Puls of DSA says. “In Dog Scouts, people help dogs, dogs help people, and the whole community benefits.”
The farthest I’ve been title-wise with my dog, Dexter, is that of Canine Good Citizen, which is a fun and rewarding test we trained for on our own. In the DSA, being a paid member means you are simply that: a member of the Dog Scouts. In order to be an actual certified Dog Scout, both you and your dog must pass Dog Scout certification criteria witnessed by a certified Scoutmaster. It really is similar to the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts in this respect. Membership and badge fees can be found on the DSA website.
Living the mantra, “Socialize, Train, Neuter, and Contain,” the DSA encourages troops to give back to communities through fundraisers, weekend walks, monthly campouts, and being involved in various sports for dogs and their families.
I wondered whether there was anything a bit less formal but still badge-worthy that I could do with my own dog here in the northeastern part of the country. Imagine my delight in finding the Pupscouts of DPFamily, Troop 4, founded in April of 2011. I connected with the founder, Susan Godwin, to find out how they differ from Dog Scouts of America, and if my own dog could be a member.
“My dog, Tasha, has become quite a fashionista. While surfing online one night, I stumbled on the cutest uniform from Whimsy Collection and knew I had to have it for Tasha,” Godwin recalls. “It brought back memories of being a Brownie and a Girl Scout. I immediately thought it would be a great way to give back to our own dog community through fundraisers to help dogs in need.”
Seeing a group of dogs dressed in Pup Scout uniforms draws attention wherever the group gathers. Cuteness overload aside, do these canines clad in costume earn badges and pass any tests to get them? You bet your s’mores they do!
The dogs earn badges for things such as swimming, hiking, beach clean-up, arts and crafts, and more. At their monthly meetings, usually at a dog-friendly park in New York City, the group meets for socializing, planning, badge chatter, and to keep the pledge of the Pupscouts alive. And yes, there is a pledge. According to Godwin, it is:
On my honor, I will try to do my duty, to help the dog community and my country, to help make humans smile, and to be there to guard and protect, especially those at home.
I am hooked and I want in this pack, but do they let outsiders (non-New Yorkers) in their group?
“Pupscouts Troop 4 is an international troop. We have members from all over the United States, Belgium, England, and Australia,” says Godwin. “Everyone outside of New York attends the meetings online via the DPFamily website and soon we will be Skyping our meetings. In order to earn a badge, dog parents post photos of their dogs earning that badge after meeting criteria.”
The Pup Scouts are growing and garnering media attention, as the recent feature on Nat Geo Wild’s Spoiled Rotten Pets showcases Godwin and her honorable pack members. Small and big dogs are welcome to apply — one of the group’s largest members is 100-plus pounds, and she wears the uniform with pride. The fee to join is $20 per year.
The Pup Scouts Troop 4, as seen in the video for Nat Geo’s Spoiled Rotten Pets, can be contacted at: http://www.pupscouts.org/.
Taking the idea to another level, friends Kay Lorinc and Arden Townsend of Pupscouts and Parents wanted to unite all the different Pupscouts under one umbrella, with each troop having their own individual identities. Dogs are welcome to join their group as troops or individuals. The Pup Scouts and Parents websites details the many ways dogs can earn patches and badges, and bond and learn together, as well as ways to get involved with other troops around the world.
Dexter added a new item to his doggie bucket list in researching this piece: Becoming a full-fledged, badge-wearing member of Pupscouts Troop 4. Besides the fun and camaraderie, I’ll be keeping him active, learning new skills, engaging with pet parents who have similar interests, and seeing if I can finally get my water-hesitant Cocker Spaniel to jump in and take the plunge. And that’s my dog mom word of honor.
Are you interested in earning badges and having fun with your dog in the Dog Scouts or the Pupscouts? Bark at me in the comments below!
In the meantime, if you like this article, here are a few more to check out on Dogster: