WACO, Texas – The Humane Society of Central Texas’ Canine Behavior and Enrichment Specialist has a big job on his hands.
Mike Gray is making sure every shelter dog gets the exercise and enrichment they need every day. He depends on volunteers who come to the shelter to help run dogs to their daily play group activities every morning.
While dogs love play groups, and have shown huge improvements in their behavior and adoptability with regular participation, one-on-one interaction with humans in normal, everyday activities is also critical in managing kennel-related stress and anxiety.
Studies have shown that when a dog goes on a day trip from the shelter, their stress levels decrease and they sleep better. This is why the Humane Society of Central Texas is promoting Doggy Daycations – where volunteers can pick up a shelter dog, take them out on the town, enjoy some snacks, have a walk in the park, and cuddle at home on the couch. The dog comes back to the shelter more relaxed.
With so many dogs needing high levels of exercise and enjoying Doggy Daycations, Mike came up with the idea of the Alpha Dog Academy. The goal is for people who walk, run, or hike to pick up a shelter dog on their way to their activity, and the Humane Society of Central Texas will track their miles for a friendly competition between gyms. Currently, there are four local gyms with members signed up to participate, as well as a local running company – JR Crossfit, Train Waco, Anytime Fitness, 15:10 Crossfit, and Waco Running Company.
The miles will be totaled each month, and the winning gym will get to hold onto a huge trophy generously donated by Warren’s Engraving. The winning gym’s name will be engraved on the trophy each month.
Participants will undergo a short training about expectations and dog handling before their first session, and a Pet Matchmaker will pair them with the dog matching their energy level and goals. Dogs can be picked up Mon-Sat from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, and they will be returned to the shelter by 5:00 pm. This gives dogs an excellent opportunity to get out their energy, socialize, and be exposed to potential adopters while serving as an exercise buddy and motivator to the volunteers.
There are also added benefits to exercising with a dog – including the increased safety it provides and the good feelings which come from working out for a cause.
To sign up for Alpha Dog Academy, you can go to https://www.humanesocietycentraltexas.org/alpha-dog. If you are not affiliated with a gym, individual participants are welcome to join.
The Humane Society of Central Texas is located at 2032 Circle Road, and is open Mondays from 1-6pm, Tuesdays through Fridays from 11am-6pm, and on Saturdays from 11am-5pm. The last meet and greet is 45 minutes before closing. Staff must accompany guests through the kennels, and COVID precautions are observed.
Source: Humane Society of Central Texas