After receiving brief instructions from Jana Hoffman, ABC Certified Dog Trainer, and with an introduction to the Routt County Humane Society’s shelter dogs, a group of volunteer dog walkers from Smell that Bread bakery took four shelter dogs on an hour-long pack walk.
“The pack walks just came into full swing this week,” said Alexis Pagoulatos, Executive Director of Routt County Humane Society (“RCHS”) located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. “We have tried to prepare for them, trying a few things to see how they would work with our dogs and how we could manage it safely that worked with our dog walkers and benefitted our dogs,” said Pagoulatos.
In addition to being a stress reliever, Pagoulatos said the pack walks give the dogs an opportunity to socialize with each other and interact with different people. “These dogs are in a kennel. The only thing they have is interaction with us. The kennels don’t have windows,” said Pagoulatos. Pagoulatos said the walks give the dogs an opportunity to get out of the shelter environment and explore the outdoors.
Pagoulatos said the pack walks play a critical role in the successful adoption of a dog. “We have been working hard to find new enrichment methods for all of our animals to bring down their stress levels, so they show their true selves to an adopter when they come in and see them,” said Pagoulatos.
Pagoulatos said they are flexible on scheduling the walks with volunteers and groups, noting that accommodating the volunteers is a priority. “These volunteers are so important. We don’t have enough staff to give the animals the attention we would love to give them every day,” noted Pagoulatos.
RCHS plans to connect with other individuals and groups encouraging them to participate in future pack walks noted Pagoulatos. “It is nice to have groups to do this together. We hope to get more groups doing pack walks,” said Pagoulatos. Before taking the dogs for a walk, volunteers are required to go through a forty-five-minute orientation session with Hoffman, said Pagoulatos.
Pagoulatos said that in addition to volunteer opportunities at the shelter, RCHS has partnered with Wooftrax, a smartphone app that allows a walker, runner or biker and Wooftrax to track activity with their dog using GPS. Once the app is downloaded, a walker inputs the name of their dog or the dog they are walking. If a volunteer is walking a shelter dog or other dog, the walker enters the name of “Cassie,” in honor of Wooftrax founder’s rescue dog. The walker then chooses the animal charitable organization he or she is walking for from a drop-down list of partner agencies, which includes RCHS.
Wooftrax uses the information collected to allocate donations to the chosen shelter. The contributions are funded through sponsorships, advertising, investors, and donations. “We are working on figuring out all the details. Wooftrax reached out for some time, and we executed on it to start donations rolling,” said Pagoulatos.
Pagoulatos said the goal is to get dog walkers to use the app to generate donations to RCHS. “We encourage people to use the app anytime they are walking their animals. It is a nice way to get donations in without actually reaching in your pockets. You are just using your feet. You can see how far you walked and it becomes a motivator. If there was ever a place for an app like this, it is Steamboat,” said Pagoulatos.