Last December a number of BACS volunteers attended a training session about conducting dog playgroups in the shelter environment. It was led by Aimee Sadler who has created a program called "Playing for Life" which she teaches around the country to eager shelter staff and volunteers. It is a dog-enrichment program which can have a profound impact. Read more about it in this article. I encourage you to google "Aimee Salder playgroup videos" to find some amazing footage of 20+ shelter dogs playing together at a time.
This month, several of us took a trip to Oakland Animal Services (OAS) to watch the dog playgroups they are conducting there. We've done are own small playgroups at BACS and we were keen to see how the groups at Oakland were going. Animal Control Officers Jackie and Nicole very kindly agreed to show us a large dog playgroup. They gave us some great tips on reading dog body language and best practices that they've adopted.
It was fun to hear that with the little dogs they simply open the cages and let them all go dashing out into the dog yard. There could be as many as 30 little guys running around! It's a bit more involved with the larger dogs and it's necessary to be more cautious about introductions and have the proper safety tools at hand (air horn, water bottle, etc.)
It was great to hear that the OAS groups have been quite successful in that the doggies have a fun social time (with no major incidents!) and the staff learn more about how the dogs interact with other dogs. They currently have 200+ dogs (BACS has maybe a tenth that many) so they have lots of pooches to choose from. It was lovely to meet the ones that we did though in playgroup humans are secondary and we're not supposed to interact with the dogs much. This is all for the dogs!
We're hoping that the next knowledge share will be here in Berkeley at our facility. Can't wait!
|Jackie (left) and Nicole (right), ACO's at OAS|
|A Doberman invites the gorgeous Mastiff to play with the classic play bow|
|The two shepherds in the back were quite shy when they first joined the group but they loosened up over time|
|Jackie very adroitly manages the gates as a new dog enters the yard|
|OAS has several adjoining yards. We started out in the larger backspace but moved the gang into the smaller yard to get a sense of playgroup in a smaller space|
|This grey girl was the first dog we met and she was a lovely player, running around making sure everyone was behaving|