Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant

Saving Grace Pet Adoption Center: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

What was the money or product used for?

Grant funds paid the tuition for Destiny Bennett to attend the Dogs Playing for Life mentorship in Longmont, Colorado.

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

Destiny Bennett gained a great deal of knowledge on how to implement playgroups through the mentorship. Though an animal-care tech when she attended, Destiny was promoted to kennel manager within two weeks of her return to the shelter. Destiny described the experience as having completely changed her perspective on caring for dogs in a shelter. Not only did she learn how to conduct playgroups, she also learned that, through playgroups, we can save more animals by getting a better assessment of barrier reactions and dog-dog interactions. Prior to attending, behavioral assessments of dog aggression were performed only with leashed dogs. Dogs showing aggression during these assessments were often euthanized. Based on the training, assessment of dog aggression can be done safely without barriers giving a skewed perspective on the dog’s true behavior. Destiny is teaching the staff and volunteers to look beyond the barrier frustration to see the dog’s true personality. We now place these dogs on the adoption floor, and convey information about barrier-based behavior to potential adopters and encourage them to meet the dog outside the kennel.

Learning how to safely conduct playgroups has, of course, given us the ability to get dogs out for socialization and exercise. This has reduced stress and barking in the kennels, improving conditions for all the dogs and making the kennels more appealing for potential adopters to linger. Playgroups have kept dogs from getting kennel-stressed during extended stays.

Destiny’s experience during the mentorship gave her the skills to better know the shelter dogs and facilitate meet-and-greets with potential adopters’ current dogs. Thus we have discouraged several problematic matches, with the confidence that our dog could safely and sanely wait for the right home – and we recognized a good match when that family arrived.

Beyond these dog-specific skills, Destiny’s participation has given her additional leadership skills, taught her better teamwork skills with strangers including communicating as a leader, offered her the chance to experience another animal shelter and spend time among dog trainers. Playgroups have provided a better setting for teaching dog behavior to staff, building volunteer involvement, and improving the public’s perception of shelter care. Destiny’s mentorship has been a catalyst for tremendous improvement at Saving Grace. We are very grateful, and have renewed energy for continuing our efforts.

How many pets did this grant help?

Directly, at least 50 dogs have benefited thus far. This number continues to grow as playgroups continue, and the indirect benefits to other dogs are innumerable.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

Artemis was surrendered by her owner in a basket muzzle. Her owner stated that she couldn’t digest food properly and would eat anything without the muzzle. Without vet records supporting this claim, we evaluated the emaciated dog and started her on a re-feeding regimen. During this slow process, Artemis was able to go out to play. For the young husky/saluki mix, exercise and socialization were vital to keeping her happy and socialized. Though she was extremely stressed when she first arrived, Artemis’s behavior improved during her stay, as did her health. After almost six weeks in our care, Artemis was declared ready for adoption. Today, in fact, was her adoption day! Artemis had a very successful meet-and-greet with two senior dachshunds. They were less than excited about meeting such a large, bouncy dog, but Artemis had learned a great deal in playgroups and respected their rebuff. She turned her playful attentions to the humans, and a match was made! Thank you for the training to implement playgroups, which gave our staff (and our dogs) the skills to save lives like Artemis’s.

Wenatchee Valley Humane Society: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

What was the money or product used for?

Dogs Playing For Life tuition

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

This grant gave us the ability to create a new program and position for our shelter dogs. The Wenatchee Valley Humane Society (WVHS) is using Dogs Playing for Life techniques. We have now implemented this program for our shelter dogs. We will be using DPFL daily. A new position was created just for enrichment. Karen Headlee, the behavioral specialist and DPFL attendee, will be operating this program. Karen will be spending 3+ hours per day with 8-10 dogs doing playgroups. The goal is to get every one of these dogs out and socializing. They are already showing improvement and are becoming more adoptable with each session.We are grateful to the Petfinder Foundation for this opportunity!

How many pets did this grant help?

This grant has helped approximately 12 dogs so far. The goal is 4-5 playgroups per day with 8-10 dogs involved.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

This grant helped Athena (first two photos). This beautiful dog was adopted as a puppy and returned because of landlord issues. She was then adopted by a woman who loved her, but ended up having domestic-violence issues (and possible drug issues as well) and became homeless. Our Pets for Life program housed Athena for two weeks and her owner picked her up. They lived homeless for a few months and when the owner found a temporary place to stay, she couldn’t take Athena. We took care of Athena for three weeks, but the owner never came back for her. Athena went up for adoption and is still adoptable. She is a sweet dog, but never learned stability or what it means to live in a house with loving pet parents. Dogs Playing for Life is helping Athena learn boundaries and socialization. She is doing very well and will make a great addition to a new family. Meet her: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/39904770

Cache Humane Society: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

What was the money or product used for?

Petfinder Foundation support was used to send our dog kennel manager, Maygan Jiminez, to Longmont, Colorado, for a mentorship with the Dogs Playing for Life program. We are now hosting shelter-wide dog playgroups four mornings per week with a team of trained staff and volunteers.

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

We’ve observed a significant reduction in shelter stress and related health problems. Our dogs are happier and more easily approachable by adopters. We’ve also begun using observational forms during playgroups to create better personality profiles for our shelter dogs. Our new profiles help us find the perfect homes.

How many pets did this grant help?

800

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

Zero (first photo) came in extremely under-socialized and displayed nervous reactivity with other dogs and staff. We knew he had potential, but we weren’t sure how to bring it out safely and positively. We slowly introduced him to playgroups and he is now officially recognized as a playgroup rock star, an honor reserved for dogs who help newcomers and nervous dogs feel comfortable and welcome and playgroups. We are confident that his status as an exceptional dog-buddy will help him find the perfect home. Meet him: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/39731875

Humane Society of Northeast Georgia: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

What was the money or product used for?

In the first six months of 2017, the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia held a crowdfunding campaign to raise monies to build a brand new outdoor play area for our rescued canines. Our campaign was successful, and the Bark Park opened in June. One of our considerations when we were building the Bark Park was building yards large enough to host playgroups, and we spoke about this opportunity during the fundraising process. I was familiar with Dogs Playing for Life and had already been in contact with them about training opportunities for our team, so when the mentorship opportunity became available, it was like a blessing for us! We applied, were accepted, and in early November, our Adoption Center manager, Yesenia, went to Austin Pets Alive! to train. She came back full of knowledge, and has been working out protocols and training schedules for playgroups.

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

Last week, we had our first “test run” playgroup with two adult dogs and it went perfectly! We are so excited for this new enrichment opportunity for the rescues in our care and cannot wait to see the impact it will have on their lives while with us as well as their adoptability. We are very grateful to the Petfinder Foundation for this opportunity to learn best practices for playgroups so that we can implement them safely and effectively. We hope to be able to have a future opportunity to send another team member to train as our program grows.

How many pets did this grant help?

100

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

This summer, HSNEGA was awarded the Dogs Playing for Life (DPLF) Mentorship Program Grant by the Petfinder Foundation! Thanks to this grant, Yesenia, HSNEGA’s Adoption Center Coordinator (far right, standing), was able to attend this program in Austin, Texas, this past week. “I will always be tremendously grateful for the opportunity to work with the DPFL team. They do amazing work and their passion is truly admirable,” Yesenia says. “I look forward to starting playgroups with our dogs and seeing them transform into more stress-free, happier dogs.” HSNEGA cannot wait to hear and implement all of the wonderful things Yesenia learned while attending this mentorship program! Thank you again to the Petfinder Foundation and DPFL for this “paw-some” opportunity!

Easel Animal Rescue League: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

What was the money or product used for?

The money was used for one person’s tuition for a four-day mentorship for Dogs Playing for Life at the Longmont Humane Society in Colorado.

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

The knowledge and skills gained at the training allowed the trainer to share the same to some extent with the shelter manager and two other volunteers at the shelter. We see the benefits of the tools that were learned at the training, so we have ordered the following tools: A set of walkie-talkies, two air horns, two Pet Corrector sprays, two Spray Shields, a cattle paddle, and two break sticks. We plan to incorporate a more formal training session on playgroups within safe limits with two or three volunteers upon receiving the above. In the meantime, we have incorporated the skills learned for dog mediation in playgroups multiple times with two dogs, and couple of times with three dogs.

How many pets did this grant help?

We performed playgroups with four dogs at our shelter with the tools we have so far. Upon receiving the required ordered tools, we would be able to adapt the techniques to our current 10 adoptable dogs, with a capacity of about 16 at the shelter.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

This is the first attempt that we had with more than two dogs in the play yard together. We knew that they were balanced enough to get along as a group. We used the tools we have so far (water squirt bottles, shake cans made out of bottles with rocks in them, and Pet Correct spray with compressed air) to manage and interrupt any negative behavior in those dogs during play. This activity helped Legend (first photo); Pippi, the white-and-tan female; and Athena, a brown-and-white female. Since Legend did not respond to the water bottle because he loved to lick the water, the shake can helped him. We clearly observed that Legend and Pippi are able to properly understand other dogs and get more mental stimulation and better exercise, instead of playing on their own without specific corrective actions. We also attempted a two-dog playgroup with Pippi and Dante, who were not used to each other yet, and the shake can worked great to interrupt their negative behavior.

Meet our adoptable dogs currently in training:
1. Legend: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/39776558
2. Pippi: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/39955656
3. Athena: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/39529000

Front Street Animal Shelter - City of Sacramento: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

What was the money or product used for?

Dogs Playing for Life mentorship

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

We sent two employees to Longmont, Colorado, to spend four days actively learning about and practicing dog playgroups. As a result, we have been doing dog playgroups in our shelter since their return. We have established protocols and procedures which both staff and volunteers adhere to.

How many pets did this grant help?

From Oct. 18-Nov. 29, 101 dogs were helped by playgroups. Most of these dogs are single-kenneled in our back kennels, primarily due to our being able to pair them up successfully in our multi-dog kennels. We have experienced a quantifiable increase in dog save rates in a very short period of time. In October and November 2016, our dog save rate was 83 and 82% respectively. In October and November 2017, the save rate for dogs was 87% and 86% respectively.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

We recently partnered with a local pet-friendly technology company (RedTail) that allows its employees to foster shelter dogs and bring them to work. Jack had recently been introduced to playgroups. He had been kenneled in the back of our shelter and would most certainly not have been identified as the first dog to go to RedTail had we not been doing playgroups. Jack is a typical black-and-white pit-type dog, of which we have many. Playgroups allowed us to see his true personality. As it turns out, Jack was completely trained, and social with people and other dogs (of all sizes). Jack was our first RedTail success and really a light-bulb moment for our staff. He has been adopted by an employee of RedTail, goes to work every day and is a shining example of what can happen when dogs participate in playgroups!

Downtown Dog Rescue: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

What was the money or product used for?

Dogs Playing for Life mentorship at Austin Pets Alive! in Austin, TX.

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

As the kennel manager, I socialize our adoptable dogs. I lacked the skills and confidence to do this properly. I’m now able to successfully conduct playgroups on a daily basis. This reduces the anxiety and stress of our dogs. They are able to play and socialize while I learn more about their personalities. This gives me the knowledge to properly place them in forever homes and save more dogs from our city shelters.

How many pets did this grant help?

Dozens, and counting

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

LuLu is a black, adult pit bull who had a slim chance of making it out of the shelter. We rescued her and brought her to our kennel. I had a hard time reading her body language and was nervous about placing her in playgroups. Once I was able to learn from Dogs Playing for Life, I had the confidence and skills to get her socializing. LuLu is a wonderful dog and is now playing with dogs and less stressed in her kennel. I’m able to observe her interacting with different dogs, so I’ll be able to successfully adopt her out to the right home. She is still up for adoption; here is her link: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/40034936

Second Chance For Homeless Pets: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

What was the money or product used for?

The money was used to send me, Jessica Walker, to the Dog’s Playing for Life mentorship program at the Longmont Humane Society in Colorado.

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

Through this grant I was able to attend the Dogs Playing for Life program, which we would not have been able to go to without it. What I learned I was able to share with our volunteers and employees, which has helped the dogs in our care. We have been able to put many more dogs in playgroups and more accurately understand dogs, which also helps us in finding them the perfect forever homes. The dogs have loved the implementation of the playgroups and we’ve seen many of our dogs blossom and shy dogs gain confidence. It’s wonderful to see how big a difference it has made for our dogs.

How many pets did this grant help?

20+ dogs and counting

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

Calypso is one of our dogs who greatly benefited from implementing the skills and methods I learned from the Dogs Playing for Life program. She first came to us with a litter of puppies and was placed into a foster home. Her puppies all soon found forever homes. Calypso, however, was extremely shy and distrusting. She didn’t like to be touched or handled and was shut down, not even wanting to take a tasty treat from anyone. She would flee to a corner or somewhere far away from people. We worked with her for over a month and eventually she would timidly take a treat, but we didn’t make a lot of progress. She still ran away from us out in our play yards, so we had to keep a long leash on her just to catch her.

After the Dogs Playing for Life mentorship, we started implementing playgroups, something we hadn’t done much of before. As we started bringing dogs out to play, we decided to see how Calypso would do with other dogs. Much to our surprise and delight, Calypso blossomed! She adored the other dogs and loved to play! She went from shy and timid to happy and playful almost instantly. It only took a couple of playgroup sessions before we started to notice a huge change in her. She quickly grew a lot more confident around people she was familiar with. She started letting us handle her and pet her without fleeing to a corner, and happily taking treats or food from us. While she is still a bit timid at times, she has come a very long way in a short time. When we are getting ready to let dogs out for a playgroup session, she excitedly waits her turn, and she has a sweet doggy smile as she bounds after the other dogs. The other dogs were able to help her relax and gain some confidence. She’s a very sweet dog and we hope she will find her forever home soon!

Calypso has not yet found her forever home and is still available for adoption: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/40084375

Animal Rescue Foundation: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

What was the money or product used for?

Dogs Playing for Life mentorship training at Austin Pets Alive! Our executive director, Trevor Denham, was able to attend with the grant issued.

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

This grant gave our executive director better insight into playgroups and how to help increase the enrichment and socialization activities for our dogs at the shelter. The goal is to help increase their adoptability, and we feel the training he received was exceptional and will do just that.

How many pets did this grant help?

All of our dogs at the shelter will reap the benefits, so I’d say countless. We now have a set of skills that we can use as more dogs come in. It really is invaluable.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

We have a dog, Will, who was very anxious being in the shelter. He had lived outside all his life and wasn’t accustomed to being there. Because he was so rambunctious, we were reluctant to group him with other dogs. Our executive director took the skills he learned and was able to successfully let Will socialize with other dogs. As a result, Will now has a roommate at ARF and they get to play together during our shifts. It has helped Will tremendously.

Kokomo Humane Society: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

What was the money or product used for?

Scholarship for the Dogs Playing For Life mentorship program at Austin Pets Alive! in Austin, TX.

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

This program allows dogs to act like dogs should. They get the social interaction and enrichment they need but normally wouldn’t get in a shelter environment. We also learned quite a lot about dog behavior that will allow us to work with dogs who previously would not have been adoptable. The staff also loves either leading or just watching playgroups, so I think this program even helps with the morale of the shelter.

How many pets did this grant help?

I would say 20-25 since returning from Austin, with more being added every day.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

Liberty (the white dog in the photo) was found as a stray wandering out in the county. When she first came to us, she was terrified and spent her first few days here hiding in her kennel. We introduced her to the playgroups when she became available for adoption. She was apprehensive at first, but as she watched the other dogs running and having fun, she began to come out of her shell. It was wonderful to watch her go from hiding behind our legs to running up to other dogs to get them to play with her. Meet her: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/40050711