Share the Love and Volunteer!

Young girl with her arm around a black spaniel-type dog, they're both looking out a window

Being out in society, volunteering with your pet, may be one of the healthiest things you can do together! Last September, the Human Animal Research Bond Institute reported that “Positive human-animal interaction appears to be related to changes in physiological variables both in humans and animals, particularly dogs. The interactions have been shown to influence [in humans] levels of blood pressure, heart rate, [and] hormones correlated with well-being.”

Volunteering with your pet is a wonderful way to support your favorite causes. There’s more to it than that though. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, research shows a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. Giving back, in any way, can actually be beneficial to your health!

Supporting good causes, health benefits, and hanging out with animals? Sounds good to us!

First things first. Your veterinarian is probably your best resource for information.

Talk to your veterinarian about ways your pet might be able to volunteer. Are they good with kids? Up-to-date on all vaccines? Okay to run or walk for long distances? Work through the basics, making sure your pet is healthy. Remember, you’re your pet’s advocate, so always double check that your dog is comfortable at all times, no matter what you’re doing.

Ask the staff if they know of a good place to volunteer, with or without your pet. More than likely, they’ve worked with rescues, non-profits, and probably know of events coming up you can get involved in.

Some veterinarians work with specific rescues or partner with shelters. They may already take donations for shelter or rescue animals. Sometimes even an old blanket makes all the difference in the life of a rescue pet. Some veterinarians take food and toys as well, so double check next time you visit and see if they have programs in place for giving back. It’s a good idea to start small, with them, to know where they might recommend you begin.

Here are some of the best ways to volunteer and give back with your pets:

Become a foster parent to help adoptable pet’s socialize with your dog!
It can be hard to adjust to ‘normal’ family life for dogs from rough backgrounds. Rescue and shelter dogs often need to be socialized before they are adopted into families. There are rescues as well, that actually rely on foster homes to help them bring pets from bad situations into good ones. To foster, spend some time researching the shelter or rescue that’s right for you and your family and then apply!

Use that walk or run for a cause!
Usually, most charity walks and runs allow dogs to join in. It’s another opportunity for you and your canine buddy to get in shape together while also doing good. In Grand Marais, Minn., there’s even Mush for a Cure, where sled-dog teams race to raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Always make sure, before going, that dogs are allowed and that your pet is up for the jaunt.

Give blood!
Did you know that animals need blood transfusions too? There are veterinary blood banks across the country that store blood for pets in need due to sickness or injury. Most dogs are eligible to donate blood if they are fully grown and in good health, although they will have to pass a physical before they can get started. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), “Donating your pet’s blood is a fairly painless procedure that takes no more than 20 minutes but can mean everything to another pet and her owner”. Some hospitals might even have incentives for you and your dog as a gift for contributing to the cause. As always, talk to your veterinarian to discuss if your dog is a good blood donor candidate.

Sit and stay a while!
Visits to schools, nursing homes, or hospitals can greatly impact those you treat with a furry friend. As the Human Animal Institute study shows, people are happier and healthier in the presence of animals. Scientifically-documented benefits of the human-animal bond include decreased blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and enhanced feelings of well-being. Studies have also found that children who read to dogs have better comprehension skills and that exposure to pets during a time of illness can boost morale and aid in the recovery process.  Any dog can work as a therapy dog as long as they are well-groomed, well-behaved, and love people. You can even go the extra step and earn the AKC Canine Good Citizen Title!

No matter how you volunteer with your pet, or for animals, it seems studies show that there are more benefits to number! Your health, well-being, and those of others will be pawsitively impacted the moment you start!