How to Volunteer in a Dog Shelter (What to Expect)

If you love dogs and want to make a difference in their lives, volunteering at your local dog shelter is a great way to do just that.

Not only will you be helping out the shelter, but you will also be providing much-needed love and attention to the animals there.

In this article, we will walk you through how to volunteer in a dog shelter. Keep reading for all the info you need.

How to Volunteer

Volunteering can give shelter dogs a better quality of life.
When you volunteer at your local animal shelter, you’ll be giving the animals there a better quality of life.

Volunteering in a dog shelter is a great way to help needy dogs.

Not only will you provide them with food and shelter, but you will also give them the love and attention they deserve.

If you’re interested in volunteering at a dog shelter, here’s how to get started:

  • Check with the shelter to see what their requirements are. Some shelters may require that volunteers be at least 18 years of age.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and closed-toe shoes. The last thing you want is to get bitten by a dog.
  • Be patient and flexible. Shelters can be chaotic places, and you may be asked to do things outside your comfort zone.
  • Be prepared to commit a few hours each week to volunteering. The more time you can give, the better!

Volunteering at a shelter is not a one-time commitment – it requires dedication and consistency to be effective

Read our related article, Can You Volunteer to Walk Shelter Dogs? At some shelters, yes! Learn more.

What You Can Expect When Volunteering

You'll have responsibilities each time you volunteer.
You’ll have to get your hands dirty when volunteering at a dog shelter.

When volunteering in a dog shelter, you can expect to perform various tasks.

These can include:

  • Cleaning cages and pens
  • Providing food and water
  • Exercising the dogs
  • Bathing the dogs

In addition, you will also have the opportunity to socialize with the dogs, which is essential for their well-being.

This includes playing with them, petting them, and teaching them basic obedience commands.

Special Skills

Many shelters also offer opportunities for volunteers with specialized skills, such as dog training, veterinary medicine, or carpentry.

If you have a particular skill set that you think could be helpful, mention it when contacting the shelter.

By volunteering in a dog shelter, no matter what task you are tasked with doing, you will be making a real difference in the lives of these animals.

Watch the following video for a quick training on what it looks like to volunteer at an animal shelter:

Read our related article, Are Shelters Bad for Dogs? to learn more about the inner workings of shelters.

Choosing the Right Shelter to Volunteer In

With so many shelters to choose from, how can you find the right one for you?

Here are a few things to consider when selecting a shelter:


You will want to choose a shelter close to home so you can quickly get there for your volunteer shifts.


Some shelters are large and sprawling, while others are smaller and more intimate.

Consider which type of environment you would be most comfortable working in.


Some shelters house only dogs, while others take cats and other animals.

Make sure that the shelter’s population is compatible with your preferences.


Each shelter has its mission and philosophy.

Do some research to find a shelter whose values align with your own.

Once you have considered all these factors, you should have no trouble finding the perfect dog shelter to volunteer at!

Read our related article, Do Dog Shelters Take Used Toys? Donating is another great way to support shelter dogs!

Benefits of Volunteering

If you're a dog-lover, volunteering can be a rewarding experience for you.
Volunteering can benefit both the dogs and the volunteers.

Volunteering in a dog shelter can benefit both the dogs and the volunteers.

For the dogs, it’s an opportunity to socialize with people and get some much-needed exercise and attention.

For volunteers, it’s a chance to give back to the community and make a difference in the lives of these animals.

IMPORTANT FINAL NOTE: Ensure that you’re comfortable around dogs of all sizes and temperaments and be prepared to devote a minimum of 2 hours per week.


Volunteering at a dog shelter is an extremely rewarding experience that can help improve the lives of dogs and their human companions.

If you are looking for a way to get more involved in your community and make a difference in the lives of animals, volunteering at a local dog shelter is a great option.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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