I started volunteering with my local shelter, Alachua County Animal Services, through their Dog Day Out program several years ago. I’ve never looked back. Taking a dog out for the day or for a few hours is one of my all-time favorite ways to get involved with shelter dogs. 

The Dog Day Out trend is spreading through shelters across the country. Shelters find that dogs are calmer and more relaxed after a day out, which means they “show better” in the shelter. Some shelters, like Friends of Strays in Tampa Bay, actually find that they sometimes don’t have enough dogs for all of the people who want to take them for days out. 

Advantages of Dog Day Outs for You

  • Short time, big impact.  Only have a few hours to commit to volunteering? No problem. Taking a dog out for a couple of hours makes a big difference to that dog. 
  • Reduced risk compared to overnights or fostering. Most of the time, when a foster dog gets into trouble, its when you’re not watching. You won’t need to leave a rescue dog unattended during a day out, which reduces the chances of something going wrong. 
  • Go on an adventure. Taking a dog out for the day is a lot of fun. Whether you go for a hike or grab some lunch, taking a shelter dog out for the day is a lot of fun. 
  • Meet your exercise goals. Having a hard time motivating yourself to exercise? Try imagining the joy of your favorite shelter dog running buddy –and the disappointment they feel if you don’t show up.

If you want to get more involved in helping rescue dogs, but you don’t want to spend a lot of time at the shelter or foster a dog overnight, dog day outs are a perfect way to make a huge difference with a little effort. 

Advantages of Dog Day Outs for shelter dogs

Staff and volunteers pour their hearts and souls into the dogs at Animal Services, but there are simply too many shelter dogs for them all to get as much exercise and engagement as they need. Sometimes exercising at the shelter isn’t enough. These dogs need a chance to get out, exercise, and decompress in another environment, if only for a few hours. 

Without enough exercise and constantly exposed to the noise and stress of the shelter, dogs become anxious and traumatized, leading to behavioral problems that keep dogs from being adopted and sends them towards euthanasia.

Potential adopters never get to meet the real dog. Instead, they see a hyped-up version that often won’t engage. 

Taking shelter dogs on outings serves two essential purposes:

  1. The dog gets exercise, stimulus, and training so that they can behave calmly in the shelter and attract potential adopters
  2. People get a chance to meet the dog outside of the shelter environment, where the dog shows its real, and better, personality

How to get started taking shelter dogs out for the day

Seatbelts, harnesses, collars, leashes, and anything else that you might need are all provided by Alachua County Animal Services. If your local shelter doesn’t have what you need, consider holding a fundraiser to get the best harnesses and collars for shelter dogs. 

Volunteers and staff can help you pick the perfect dog for your outing, or you can pick a dog that you feel comfortable with from the kennels. There are also group outings periodically, which are a great way to get started. See if your local shelter is holding a group walk or outing that you can participate in, or call your local shelter to see if you can arrange a dog day out. 

A few of my dog day outings

I’ve been taking dogs out a few times a month, on average, for years. I couldn’t possibly write blog posts about all the awesome dogs that I meet. You can follow my Facebook page to see the dogs I work with week by week. Here are a few blogs I have written about dogs that I took out for the day:

Jonah, the big loveable media star

Kasen, cute puppy

Kate, a perfect lady with awful kennel presence 

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