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Animal Friends’ Playgroups De-stress Dogs and Save Lives

Aug 31, 2015 11:32AM ● Published by North Hills Monthly magazine

“She was more relaxed this time and engaged in more play.”

“…did great and quickly graduated to off-leash, full-on play! She had a blast!”

“A bit timid coming into group but opened up nicely and started running and playing.”

These are just some of the observations that our dog behavior team members make about shelter dogs in our weekly playgroups. Playgroups here at Animal Friends are just one of the many ways that our dogs get out of their kennels for some much needed exercise and socialization. Well-exercised dogs make tired dogs—and tired dogs are happy dogs. 

Playgroups are supervised by our dog behavior team and behavior staff members to make sure all dogs play nicely. Staff and volunteers keep track of which dogs are special playmates and ensure that those dogs get a little extra time together. In the summer, the dogs enjoy running in our fenced-in, grass play yards, but don’t think that when the snow starts falling, playgroup stops! Playgroups move to our large, indoor outreach center during inclement weather. 

Playgroup allows staff and volunteers to evaluate the ways that dogs react in social situations, and they also assess the ways that dogs play with other dogs, which is an important piece of information that adopters need to know.

Playgroup success stories are numerous and varied. There are many dogs that become social butterflies in playgroup when previously, they were shut-down and depressed. One particular dog, Champ, is a great example of why playgroup is so important.

Champ came to Animal Friends in November 2014 as a stray. He spent nearly five months here, waiting for his forever home. During that time, Champ’s mental health deteriorated and his stress levels increased. He was reactive to other dogs as he came in and out of his kennel and as the days passed, he became more and more frustrated.

We had to do something, and playgroup was the answer. Champ was a totally different dog in playgroup! He turned into a playgroup ambassador, a dog that would help to bring other dogs into playgroup, bringing out the best in each and every dog he met. Champ thrived in playgroup and eventually found his forever home in April of this year.

It might seem like all fun and games (and it is for pups!) but playgroups are so much more here at Animal Friends. Success stories, like Champ’s, prove that play is an integral part of a dog’s life and when used in a shelter setting, can truly save lives.

Special thanks to volunteer Brian Johanson and dog behavior team member Rose Ravasio for taking photos of our dog playgroups!

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