The funds from this grant were used to purchase supplies to support dog playgroups at our shelter. The supplies we purchased were suggested by the professionals at Dogs Playing for Life and included martingale collars, long leashes, air horns, and walkie talkies. We also purchased Gentle Leader halters and basket muzzles for our high-energy dogs who can easily become overstimulated. To avoid resource-guarding, we provided our playgroups with kiddie pools instead of traditional water buckets. We provided each staff member involved in playgroups with a walkie talkie to keep our staff safe and make it easy to call for additional help in the case of an emergency.
This grant made such a huge difference for the pets in our care! With limited resources, we try our best to provide our animals with enrichment opportunities to keep them both physically and mentally stimulated. After attending the conference, our staff was excited for the opportunity to implement playgroups at our shelter. We had tried playgroups at our shelter before but never with more than three or four dogs at a time. The benefits of playgroups were very apparent, especially after learning more about Dogs Playing for Life at the conference. Since implementing playgroups, we have seen a huge change in our dogs! Stress in the kennels has definitely decreased and the dogs are visibly more relaxed.
Working in a shelter environment, it’s easy to have our guards up and be prepared for the worst to happen. I think that’s why we had been a little apprehensive implementing large playgroups at our shelter before. We always imagined the possibility of a large dogfight breaking out. The people at Dogs Playing for Life made a point to tell us that it’s unlikely for animals of the same species to want to hurt each other. Dogs are social beings and communicate differently than we do and it’s our job to learn how they communicate and offer them freedom and support while in playgroups.
Every dog we have introduced to playgroups has done amazing! Each dog has their own particular play style and we have learned which dogs will do well with others. This program has worked wonders for many of our dogs who were considered “dog reactive” initially. Playgroups allow us to do a much more accurate assessment of their personality and gauge whether they would do well in a home with other dogs. The public also loves watching dogs interact in playgroups and doing so helps them consider dogs they may not have previously considered. We have seen the length of stay decreased for some of our dogs and placed others who had been considered long-term residents.
Bailey (first photo) was a 4-month-old German shepherd dog who’d come into our care months earlier. Some kind people had saved her from a bad situation and she was severely under-socialized. For the first couple of weeks in our care, she wouldn’t let any of our staff members even touch her. We sent her to an experienced foster home, but she wouldn’t warm up to strangers coming into the house. Eventually, she came back to the shelter, where we worked with her each day to ease her stranger-danger and make her feel safe with new people.
She was one of the first dogs introduced to playgroups at our shelter and we saw a change in her immediately! She loved being around the other dogs and easily read their body language. She was tolerant and understanding and quickly became a playgroup rockstar. She also started warming up to strangers very easily when in a playgroup setting and back in her kennel. She was the first one to join the playgroup and the last one back to her kennel at the end of the day. For the first time, we saw her hold her ears up in excitement.
After 112 days in our care, Bailey was adopted just a week after first participating in playgroups. The change in her, as with many of our other animals, has been astounding. We are incredibly grateful to have received this grant and look forward to witnessing more success stories each week!