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Skating shelter dogs into adoption: - They transform right before our eyes

In 2018, Skate Dogtor was established as the first-of-its-kind dog exercise company when founder Max Nicastro combined his professional hockey background with his unconditional love for dogs. 

Once a week, Max visits shelters to go skating with adoptable dogs. His goal is to brighten their days and help these shelter dogs find their forever homes by skating them into adoption.

Importance of physical activity

For Max, it has been an amazing experience to pursue something new in the competitive pet care industry.

- It has opened the doors to an impactful opportunity in which we can serve animal welfare by skating adoptable shelter dogs. So far, we have built strong relationships with Charleston's five local animal shelters. We offer a third-party volunteer service providing exercise and a social outlet to shelter dogs who have passed their behavioral test. We all understand the importance of mental and physical activity, especially for a stressed shelter dog, which is why we work as a team to give the dogs the exercise they need and deserve. 

Max coordinates with staff and volunteers to load the dogs scheduled to skate that day into the shelter's van or personal vehicles and transport them to a safe location to go skate.  

Big transformation

The benefits of this type of enrichment are immediately evident. The dogs get a break from their strenuous shelter stay, leave their worries behind, and run like they were born to do. 

- It's a beautiful thing seeing them transform right before our eyes into happy, loving, friendly dogs. Skating dogs like I do gives them an outlet they haven't experienced before. There is no better feeling than seeing a dog's initial response to our skate. It's so rewarding seeing them open up right in front of me. 

He sees that in regular client's dogs as well, but the shelter dogs get the most out of what Max offers. 

- It's more of a mental exercise for them. Dogs can go "crazy" being at the shelter too long, so when I get to give those dogs the opportunity to stretch their legs and take their mind off things, we can see instant improvement with their mental health. Dogs aggressive towards other dogs in the shelter get the chance to work with trainers to correct bad habits. Once I coordinated a skate with one of those dogs before their training sessions, where they were practicing meeting other dogs. I skated the dog until his physical needs were satisfied. Then he rested and had a successful training one hour later. The dog passed the test with flying colors. 

Healthier life

Skating is beneficial for the dogs' wellbeing in several ways. By moving, the dogs also build strength, endurance and lose weight. Max recently skated an overweight dog that lost 10 lbs in a couple of months. 

- I also skated a 2-year-old Husky for months, five times a week. At six months, the Husky got attacked and fractured his fibula and tibia. He recovered fine but, once I got him into a routine, we really strengthened his entire body. He was in impeccable shape. 

- Bring out the best in me

Dogs mean everything to Max. He grew up with dogs and always loved them unconditionally. 

- Dogs bring out the best of me. I'm always happier being around them. 

Max's future goal is to skate and showcase several dogs daily in the community, enriching their overall health while promoting them and their shelter.  

The long-term vision is to change people's perspective on rescuing animals by lifting the spirits of struggling shelter dogs at a Skate Dogtor Sanctuary. 

How to skate with a dog? 

If you want to try skating your dog, Max recommends you to get really good at skating first.

- That includes stopping! Once you feel comfortable bringing a dog with you, make sure you have them in a sturdy harness. 

Max is using the Line Harness and Bungee Leash for the dogs he is exercising.

- Bring treats if your dog is food motivated. When you have space, take quick stops and reward your dog for stopping with you. 

Be aware when you approach blind corners. 

- If you see a situation in front of you that you're not sure how to handle, step off into the grass and wait till clear. Once you're a better skater, you can change the side of the street you're on. That's why I'm great at controlling the dogs because I'm always two steps ahead of the situation. 

Let your dog choose the speed and allow him to run on grass whenever possible. Before and after running, you should always do a warm-up and a cooldown.

And most important: have fun together! 

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