TikToker's unique method of volunteering with disobedient shelter dogs gives them a new 'leash' on life

Three screenshots of TikTok videos posted by @forthedogs. Left: A man sits beside an Australian Shepherd outside. Center: A man hugs a hound dog in the grass. Right: A man holds a hound dog after a run.

When you think about helping animals and volunteering for a shelter, you probably think of tasks like cleaning kennels, picking up pet poo, or even using your photography skills to encourage folks to adopt a dog

But Wesley Swainston, a dog trainer and content creator, likes to do something a bit more engaging.

Swainston volunteers at Adoption First Animal Rescue in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where he goes for runs with hard-to-adopt-dogs.

Many of his running companions have been returned to the shelter for having too much energy, poor behavior, or even running away. 

However, with realistic videos showcasing some training tips — and offering the dogs a chance to expend their energy — Swainston proves that these pups just need a little love, patience, and adventure.

A recent video of his went viral, garnering over five million views on both TikTok and Instagram. He starts off with a succinct and compelling call to action. “Come run with shelter dogs no one wants to adopt,” the title of the video reads.

A screenshot of a TikTok video shows a guy standing in running clothes with the caption "come run with shelter dogs no one wants to adopt"
Photo courtesy of Wesley Swainston/TikTok

From there, Swainston greets his buddies in their kennels, and shares some information about them. There’s Cindy, who was returned twice for “having too much energy,” or Rooster, who was brought back to the shelter for “running away too much.”

The rest is simple: Swainston leashes up the pups, and they go for a run around the neighborhood.

“I’m telling you, if you want to get into running, this is the way,” he says, jogging. “I’m about to hit a PR right here!”

In another video, he shares the reasoning behind this approach.

“The reason I started running with shelter dogs is because as a volunteer trainer it is extremely difficult to work with a dog that has no energy outlets,” Swainston explains. “ I love running and I love training dogs, [so I] might as well combine the two.”

While Swainston has gained some popularity for his daily run videos on social media, there are plenty of organizations around the country that help runners with shelters nearby do the same thing — like Miles & Mutts, or Dallas’s D90 Runners program.

“When high-energy dogs get the exercise they need, they have a higher quality of life, are less susceptible to illness, behave better in their kennels, and have higher chances of adoption,” Dallas Animal Services wrote about the D90 program.

“Each participating dog runs one mile, which may seem small to seasoned runners, but it makes a world of difference to a shelter pup.”

Whether they were inspired by Swainston or were already eager to lace up their shoes, commenters on the creator’s videos also had some big ideas to help adoptable dogs in need.

“What a brilliant idea for high school track team[s] or individual run teams,” one commenter wrote on TikTok.

“They should advertise high energy dogs at marathons,” another suggested.

Ultimately, though, folks were just grateful to see someone giving some animals the space they deserved to run like the wind.

“As a shelter employee who often takes out dogs on our hikes, I appreciate you showing the kennel behaviors that often turn adopters off as normal and totally fixable with love, time, and effort,” one commenter said. “This is what I wish I could show everyone.”

“Not all heroes wear capes,” another commenter said. “Some wear waist-attached leashes.”

Header images courtesy of Wesley Swainston/TikTok

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April 2, 2024 12:22 PM
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