For 106 years, the life-changing experiences enjoyed in Scouting have been limited to humans.
This fall, thanks to a new Boy Scouts of America program, that’s going to change.
Put your paws together for the Puppy Scouts. At last, our loyal, friendly and cheerful four-legged friends get to experience the best of Scouting.
Details are still being worked out, but right now we know Puppy Scouts will be part of existing packs, troops, teams and crews. They’ll be ask to sit — that’s right, good boy! — while the humans enjoy weekly meetings. And they’ll be invited on select campouts and backpacking trips, as long as they carry their own gear and are current on their rabies vaccine.
I talked with Olaf Sprilo, the official veterinarian of the BSA, about the new program.
“Make no bones about it, Puppy Scouts was the inevitable next step, given the role dogs play in our society,” Sprilo said. “More and more these days, you see dogs at airports, shopping malls — even restaurants! Rather than just rolling over — playing dead, if you will — on this issue, the BSA decided to make this a pet project.”
Sprilo, whose Dalmatian, Scout, and German shepherd, Patches, were part of a Puppy Scouts pilot program in Dallas, answered a few more questions before he had to bow-wow out of the conversation.
How will Puppy Scouts be organized?
Puppy Scouts will form kennels, which are groups of two to eight dogs of similar ages.
Think of these like dens in a Cub Scout pack or patrols in a Boy Scout troop.
Will they use the Scout salute, Scout sign and Scout Law?
“Dogs can’t really salute, so that’s a ridiculous question,” Sprilo told me. “You have met a dog, right? How would a dog salute? I mean, physically how would that be possible?”
He’s right. Silly question. But he did tell me there would be a special Puppy Scout Law that’s closely aligned with the regular Scout Law.
“But because a dog’s vocabulary is often less advanced than a human’s,” Sprilo said, “the Scout Law had to be modified.”
The Puppy Scout Law reads:
Woof woof woof … woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof, woof and* woof.
(* If your puppy can’t say “and,” that’s OK. He or she may substitute an additional “woof” in its place.)
Will they wear the uniform?
Yes, Puppy Scouts will be asked to wear the official Scout shirt for meetings and formal occasions. If they show up in uniform, they’ll get a treat.
At least initially, modifying a human shirt to fit a dog will be the responsibility of the human companion “because many dogs cannot using sewing machines,” Sprilo explained.
Will Puppy Scouts have awards and ranks?
Absolutely. Puppy Scouts aligned with a Cub Scout pack will earn Puppy Loops that will slide onto their collar.
There will be more than a dozen Puppy Loops in the first wave, and Sprilo told me about three:
- Dry as a Bone: Prove to your human companion that you are properly housetrained by going two weeks without an accident.
- Shoe Got It: Find at least one pair of your human companion’s shoes. Destroy them.
- So Fetch: Retrieve your human companion’s copy of Boys’ Life from the mailbox. Deliver it to him with as little slobber on the pages as possible.
Puppy Scouts aligned with a Boy Scout troop, meanwhile, earn Puppy Badges. These share names (and emblems) with Boy Scout merit badges but have alternate, canine-friendly requirements. For example:
- Mammal Study: Chase at least three different species of small animals, such as squirrels, rabbits or birds.
- Crime Prevention: Wake your human companion with loud barking any time there’s a passing car or unusual noise outside. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Climbing: Ignore what your human companion has told you and summit as many pieces of furniture as you can before getting caught.
Surprisingly, the Dog Care merit badge is not included in the first batch of Puppy Badges.
OK, but what about Kitten Scouts?
Photos by Marcie Rodriguez/BSA