What do you need?
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
If you have an enclosed space, 2 or more dogs, and 2-3 staff or volunteers, you can run playgroups! There is not a one-size-fits-all checklist as every group has different resources. Below is a list of the basics to consider.
Key components you will need are:
A well-designed enclosed play space;
Play group gear and safety equipment;
Staffing for playgroups;
Protocols and policies encompassing all aspects of running playgroups.
When setting up the play space, consider size, substrates, pathways to areas, access to gear and water, gate types and play equipment for your playgroups (See Setting Up the Play Space).
GEAR AND SAFETY EQUIPMENT
A list of items needed for handling dogs, supervising play, communicating with staff, and breaking up fights can be found on the Playgroup Gear Checklist.
STAFFING THE PLAYGROUPS
Playgroups generally require 2-3 people at minimum for 20 to 60 minutes depending on the number of dogs who will be interacting together, their energy level, and how well-known the dogs’ play styles are. More handlers may be needed to spread out over a larger play space, to be able to reach dogs within a few seconds. A handler’s ability to move quickly over a large area on different surfaces should also be considered.
Playgroups can be staffed by shelter or rescue staff, or by volunteers. See Roles and Responsibilities of Playgroup Personnel. We have provided a “good, better, best” categorization for number of handlers to help you decide which option is best for you, based on your shelter’s resources, priorities, and comfort with risk:
Good: 2 handlers*
Better: 3 handlers
Best: 3 handlers + 1 additional handler per unknown dog**
*Recommend a handler should never be left alone in a yard in case of a fight.
**Recommend extra handler(s) per unknown dog.
PROTOCOLS AND POLICIES
A comprehensive overview and checklist of protocols and policies is available at Running Playgroups at a Glance. This document provides links to sample protocols and policies that you can use to jumpstart the process at your shelter or rescue.