Today is January 15th, well-known around the “pet blogosphere” as the first “Blog The Change For Animals” day of the year. On the 15th of January, April, July, and October, pet bloggers spread awareness about a cause they believe in. In the past, I’ve written about the Be A Tree program from Doggone Safe, and about Pinups for Pitbulls. If you missed out on those posts in the past, go check them out – both are fantastic organizations doing awesome work!
This time around, I’ve decided to write about a local effort that I think is absolutely fantastic. It’s called: Paws on the Shore.
Paws on the Shore is a local hiking group for dogs with a twist: Every dog is welcome at their events. All breeds and temperaments, including reactive dogs. There’s no judgement, only support, and Paws on the Shore believes that all dogs benefit from an opportunity for socialization and exercise. In addition, each of their monthly hikes raises money and awareness for a local rescue organization or cause! Some of their upcoming walks are in support of organizations such as Loyal Rescue, Hershey’s Bill (against BSL), Toronto Street Cats Spay & Neuter program, and more.
My good friend Vanessa of VBV Photography told me about Paws on the Shore a few months ago, after she had attended one of their hikes to take some photos. As someone with a reactive dog, I love the idea behind this program. Jack is such a touch-and-go dog. I have no idea what to expect from him when he’s meeting other dogs. You’ve all seen the photos of him and Dutch happily romping around, and he likes frolicking with Mya, a rottweiler we sometimes meet on walks, so I know he can make friends with other dogs… but his usual first reaction when he sees another dog is to snarl and snap at them (which, for the record, he did with Dutch before he decided Dutch was alright). Most people aren’t keen on approaching after a reaction like that… and who could blame them? With the Paws on the Shore group hike, if you find that your dog is making another dog uncomfortable, they just ask that you reposition yourself within the group – no stares of horror, no muttering under their breath.
This spring, Jack and I will definitely be trying out a group hike with Paws on the Shore to see how it goes. I don’t want to overwhelm him or take him over his threshold, but I’ve seen in the past that once he gets that snarly reaction out of the way, he tends to change his mind and decide he wants to play after all. If it’s too much for him, we can always break off from the group and go on a separate hike.
I think that Paws on the Shore is a fantastic idea for people struggling with socialization, and I’d love to see more groups like it popping up all over the place. With a chance to work on reactivity, I feel like there’s a definite chance that fewer owners would find themselves overwhelmed by a fearful pet that they don’t know what to do with, and maybe fewer dogs would end up being returned to shelters. Kudos to the organizers of this unique program!