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Talking with Medical Staff

Before implementing playgroups, it is important to consult with your veterinarian or veterinary staff regarding possible health concerns related to dogs having greater social and physical access to each other. General topics to bring to your medical staff for discussion include:

  • Medical eligibility for inclusion in playgroups;

  • Cleaning & disinfecting measures for playgroup areas and equipment;

  • Protocols for treating injuries to dogs sustained during playgroups;

  • Range of weather conditions under which outdoor playgroups can be held safely (temperature, etc.)

Work with your veterinary and kennel staff to develop standard operating protocols (SOPs) to minimize potential disease spread and to plan for prompt treatment of any injuries to dogs. Below are lists of considerations for SOPs and links to related resources that may be helpful to your staff.

Medical eligibility for inclusion in play groups SOP may include:

  • Vaccination, deworming, & flea & tick treatment status

  • Spay/neuter status & time after surgery

  • Heartworm status (testing, treatment stage if positive)

  • Orthopedic health (recovering from injuries, arthritis)

  • Dermatologic conditions (Demodex, skin allergies)- presence & severity

  • Parvovirus & distemper screening

  • Nail trimming (if concerned about long nails scratching dogs or people)

  • Kennel cough infection

  • Weather if holding play groups outdoors

Cleaning & disinfecting SOPs should address methods & frequency of cleaning of:

  • Play yard surfaces;

  • Water bowls/buckets;

  • Fight kit items;

  • Leashes, harnesses, muzzles;

  • Staff/volunteer clothing, hand washing.

SOPs for responding to injuries to dogs sustained during playgroups should consider:

  • Days/hours veterinary staff are on-site/available;

  • If playgroups will be conducted when veterinary staff are not available, where will dogs be treated;

  • Whether veterinary staff will be called for minor scrapes and scratches;

  • Where dogs will be held while waiting for veterinary attention;

  • Which staff or volunteers will be responsible for removing the injured dog from playgroup.

For more information on disease control among dogs in group settings, see:

If there are concerns about allowing under-vaccinated puppies to meet and play, the following handout by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior may help medical staff supporting shelters and rescues to strike the right balance between puppies’ behavioral and medical needs, in setting guidelines for puppies:

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