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Getting People On Board


It is important to get buy-in from everyone who is involved or affected by playgroups before getting started. There will be challenges once you’ve started running playgroups, and having everyone on board will mean your program will be more likely to succeed.


When starting the discussion about developing a playgroup program at your shelter or rescue, involve all staff that will be impacted. This includes leadership, medical staff, canine behavior staff, and animal care staff. Volunteers who can be recruited to help support playgroups should also be included in the discussion, although you might choose to include them after staff are first on board.


The material you emphasize with different groups (leadership, staff, volunteers, etc.) will vary.  However, some topics should be discussed with everyone.

  • Why playgroups? Everyone in your organization, including support staff and volunteers, should be briefed on the reasons for starting a playgroup program, and have an opportunity to comment and be heard. Start with the big picture and let people agree that playgroups are a good idea, before digging into the specifics of how to run playgroups.  A good place to start is our page, Why Playgroups?.

  • How to run playgroups. Everyone in your organization should be briefed on the protocol you’d like to use. Allow time for questions and comments. Even staff and volunteers who may never participate in playgroups should be involved. This will allow everyone to feel more comfortable when questioned by the public, and understand what they’re seeing if they view playgroups in session.

  • Risks of playgroups and how to minimize them. Shelter leadership and medical staff should have a detailed discussion about the risks inherent in allowing dogs to play, and how your organization plans to address those risks. These include risks of injury to people and dogs and the risk of disease transmission. The document Accepting Risk can be a good starting point for discussion.

  • Benefits of playgroups for behavior purposes. If your shelter has a trainer on staff or a behavior team, discuss ahead of time how playgroups can be used to gather information on dog behavior and to help with behavior modification. This information may also help adoption teams and future adopters.

  • Benefits of playgroups for marketing purposes. If your shelter has staff or volunteers who run social media accounts or do other marketing, discuss how to best incorporate video, pictures, or other information gathered during playgroup for marketing purposes.

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