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Playgroups

Talking Points: Management Staff

Before starting a playgroup program, your shelter or rescue’s leadership team should be on board with playgroups in general, and your protocols in particular. Here are some topics that should be discussed.

COSTS

A basic overview of what is needed to run playgroups is available in What Do You Need? Here are some details to discuss with your shelter or rescue leadership when deciding whether and how to implement playgroups.

  • Staff or volunteer time. Playgroups might require an increase in staff or volunteer time at first, while figuring out how to integrate playgroups into the daily routine. Once playgroups are up and running, they might not require more staff/volunteer time than your previous routines.   

    • Staff/volunteer training. Staff or volunteers will need to be trained to run playgroups.  Basic training might require 4-6 hours for playgroup leaders, 2-4 hours of for playgroup assistants, and 1-2 hours of training for runners, depending on training the personnel already have. More training may help to reduce risk (see below).

  • Play Space. An enclosed indoor or outdoor play space is required to run playgroups. Some shelters or rescues may already have space available in the form of large meeting rooms or classrooms, adoption meet-and-greet areas, or play yards. If no suitable space is available, resources would be required to create a playspace, or improve an existing space. See Setting Up the Play Space for details and additional ideas.

  • Risk of injury, disease, and poor outcomes for some dogs might be considered a cost of playgroups. Forgoing playgroups also carries some risks.  See below under Safety, as well as our document Risk Associated with Playgroups.

BENEFITS

See Why Playgroups? for a general discussion on the benefits of playgroups. Some benefits to discuss with shelter or rescue leadership should include:

  • More efficient animal care. Playgroups can make general animal care more efficient by getting several dogs out for potty breaks at once, while meeting exercise and enrichment needs. Kennel cleaning might also be sped up when several dogs are out at once;

  • Better animal welfare, due to providing for many dogs’ basic need for social access to their own kind, greater exercise and enrichment;

  • Decreased risk of poor behavior and poor health due to more exercise, and the opportunity to maintain or build canine social skills;

  • Positive public relations. Dog play can be recorded and shared on social media;

  • Information for adopters. Adopters will know if the dog they are bringing home plays well with other dogs, and what play style their dog has exhibited.

SAFETY

  • Increase in some risks. Some injuries to dogs, staff or volunteers may occur. The risk of injuries can be decreased if staff:

  • Decrease in some risks. As playgroups become a routine part of the animal care infrastructure, some risks might decrease. For example, the risk associated with handling a dog who is under-exercised and confined for most of the day in a kennel, may be reduced when the dog gets adequate exercise and social time through play groups.

    • ​Well-exercised dogs might be less likely to jump or nip at staff, volunteers or potential adopters.

    • Dogs with frequent social access to other dogs might be less likely to be barrier-frustrated.

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