Dear Inquisitive Pet Parents,

April is the month most often associated with taxes, rain showers and pranks, but I’m not foolin’ when I say it also happens to be the time of year when volunteerism is acknowledged wholeheartedly. National Volunteer Week is scheduled to begin April 15. Since Poncho and I both have firsthand — and paw — experience with animal shelters and rescues, he and I thought it’d be the perfect time to help spread the word about this special week of recognition.

With more than 13,000 animal welfare organizations listed on, it’s easy to see where volunteers are in high demand. You can also check local shelters and rescues, or explore an organization you’ve always wanted to support (even breed-specific ones).

Volunteering can be as simple as going for walks, socializing in and out of the facility, cuddling or just providing belly rubs for shelter pups. Even reading the daily paper together can help enrich a dog’s life. Many kitties and other animals enjoy playtime, too!

Boost Your Mental Health by Sharing Your Skills

According to the National Institute on Aging, volunteering is good for you! As a certified professional dog trainer who has volunteered her time and services over the years, I can report that it also benefits you mentally and emotionally.

In running my business, I know the importance of quality accountants, legal representatives, graphic designers, marketing and PR teams, photographers, copy editors, office assistants and those who are good with the public.

If you’re in need of a mental-health boost and you have a specific talent that benefits others or have knowledge you wish to share, you can put those talents to work for a shelter near you — sometimes without even having to take your slippers off! Some of the following needed skills can be done from home:

» Admin and professionals: Bookkeeping and accounting, legal eagles, HR, office staff and assistants, photographers, marketing and PR professionals, and public educators.

» Writers: Website content, marketing and PR copy, fliers, newsletters, blog posts and let’s not forget grant writing to help bring in additional funding!

» Techie-types: Website developers, computer programmers and social media experts.

» Graphic designers: Websites, fliers, logos and branding, stationery, banners and advertising components.

» Animal care specialists: Veterinarians and vet techs to provide medical treatment and dental care as well as administer vaccinations and medications; spa professionals to provide bathing, grooming and nail trimming; and dog walkers and pet-sitters.

» Trainers and behaviorists: According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, 96 percent of dogs entering shelters had not received obedience training. This is where you can make a difference. Some shelters offer dog training classes for teaching canine good manners similar to my course, while others allow you to attend classes elsewhere, often at a discounted rate.

» Foster parents: Perhaps your biggest talent is being a loving pet parent! Bringing an animal into your loving, enriching home and becoming a foster parent helps lift that animal’s spirits while he or she waits to find a forever home.

Paw-Raising Activities to Help Fetch More Funds

Shelters and rescues are always in need of funding. When finances are tight, making it difficult to donate directly, there are many other options.

» Volunteer directly with the shelter or rescue, organizing official events. Many will have at least one annual event, with other special affairs throughout the year.

» Host your own event and see to it that a portion or all of the benefits go to the nonprofit of your choice. This way, you’re both helping animals in need and enhancing public awareness.

» Business owners can donate a percentage of sales of their products or services to a specific shelter or organization. It can be an ongoing policy or date-specific. This way, even the busiest folks can help.

Paws and Reflect

We know how important volunteering is — Poncho spent time in a rescue organization, and he knows if it weren’t for those who helped him, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

Whether it’s a local shelter you want to spend time in, or educating the public on pet responsibility, opportunities abound that benefit humans and non-humans alike. Your time and effort will always be appreciated.

Join us next month for part two on the world of volunteerism. In addition to resources and tips on ways to give back to inquisitive canines, kitties and all other furry and feathered friends in your community, we’ll spend next month providing information on ways your dog can pawlunteer his or her time as well.

— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt that knows a lot about canine and human behavior. Their column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail

Joan Hunter Mayer

Joan Hunter Mayer

Joan Hunter Mayer is a certified canine behavior consultant, certified professional dog trainer, and founder of The Inquisitive Canine. She and her team are devoted to offering humane, pawsitive, practical solutions that work for the challenges dogs and their humans face in everyday life. Joan offers training and behavior consulting services both in person and online, dedicated to strengthening the human-canine bond. If you are feeling inquisitive and have dog training questions, email and click here for more training tips. The opinions expressed are her own.