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Move over, kids. Scouting is no longer just for boys and girls. The
Dog Scouts of America has troops and camps across the country. And just like their human counterparts, canine members can work toward accruing more than 80 badges for skills like sledding, painting,
agility, backpacking, sign language, lure coursing and even improv.
Chris Puls, the organization's current president, has raised five Scouts. "The
dogs love all the different activities, which I wouldn't normally have access to," she says. "Everyone is friendly and wonderful. Every camp is like going back to a family reunion."
To see some of these intrepid pup scouts in action, check out our adorable gallery.
Courtesy of Dog Scouts of America
Terri Tew and her service dog Reese hang out at camp in St. Helen, Mich. This Golden Retriever is a triple threat: He works as a guide dog, a mobility dog and a seizure-alert dog.
A pair of scouts practice for their Dock Dogs badge. Two canine campers
who first learned dock diving at the Michigan camp went on to compete
in national competitions.
This impressive cape belongs to Coyote, who is owned by Chris Puls, the president of Dog Scouts. The Australian Cattle Dog is now 12 years old and blind, but he has earned 48 badges for everything from distance frisbee to improv.
A Coton de Tulear works toward his agility badge at camp. The agility
program has five steps, starting with a simple trio of obstacles and
culminating in a full-blown competition course. "We stress that safety
is key — let the dogs learn on their own level," says Puls. "We highly
recommend that they take it slowly, build a good association with that
obstacle, and not freak the dog out."
Bear the Beagle
wears a bootie dipped in paint, which he then swipes on the canvas to
create art. The goal of the painting badge is to reinforce the "shaping
method" of training, which encourages a dog to string together small
components of a larger action. First the dog touches the canvas with his
bare paw, then he accepts the bootie and the paint before finally
smearing the paint onto the canvas. Voilá!
A camper enjoys some free time in the lake with her dog. The Puppy Paddler badge recognizes canines who swim parallel to or away from the shore, proving that they're not just trying to get out of the water.
To earn the backpacking badge, Scouts have to log a total of six miles
while carrying a pack of size-appropriate emergency supplies. These
treks also educate their owners in the process about how to properly
prepare for longer hikes.
Campers practice for their kayaking badge. Each year after the summer
session, many of the Scouts meet up at Au Sable River in Michigan to
complete the badge.
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