Staff with the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia are continuing their efforts to enrich the lives of adoptable dogs by implementing playgroups.
Playgroups provide a chance for dogs to socialize with one another by giving them a fenced-in area to run free without a leash.
On Tuesday, shelter staff hosted trainers with the nonprofit Dogs Playing for Life to instruct shelter staff on handling dogs during playgroups. Specifically, Dogs Playing for Life trainers focused on telling shelter staff what to watch for in the dogs’ behaviors.
“This is about letting the dogs get outside and actually letting their true personalities shine, and kind of taking a step back as the people who handle them,” said Kodi Sadler, lead trainer for Dogs Playing for Life. “Obviously, we’re giving [shelter staff] information and helping them not make mistakes if it has safety involved…but you truly get to see when this dog wants to play, what kind of play they like to do.”
Dogs Playing for Life works with shelters around the country to train staff on the art of playgroups and enriching the lives of shelter animals in general.
“The goal is focusing on quality life for each animal in our care, so that we can keep them happier,” said Sadler. “Happier dogs are healthier dogs, healthier dogs get adopted faster, so [we’re] creating more avenues to adoption through just enrichment and play.”
Sadler and his brother Willian spent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at the Humane Society training staff. During the two-hour sessions in the morning and afternoon, shelter staff would introduce one dog at a time into each fenced-in run to gauge how the dogs would interact with one another.
Adult dogs and puppies were kept separate from one another. Dogs who misbehaved were gently reprimanded with verbal commands or spritzed with water from a spray bottle.
While the trainers explained behaviors to watch for or reprimanded the dogs, shelter staff were encouraged to observe and practice the skills, as well.
Allison Mayfield, executive director of the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, said she noticed a major difference in some dogs just from three days in playgroups.
“You’ll have a dog that comes out here that’s real aggressive or either real withdrawn…in just the three days that we’ve been doing this, I’ve watched those dogs totally come out of their shell,” said Mayfield. “This is a behavior thing too, so [the trainers] are teaching them, while they’re in playgroups, to socialize.”
In addition to increasing a dog’s chance of getting adopted, Mayfield said playgroups help shelter staff better gauge their behavior.
“Out here, we can completely assess how good they are with dogs, how good they are at following commands, how good are they at receiving my body language,” she said. “It’s about behavior, it’s about enrichment and it’s about training.”
Immediately following the conclusion of training, shelter staff began implementing the playgroups. Mayfield said the goal is to have dogs in playgroups three times each day.
Potential adopters can view the list of available animals here. Hours for the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia are on its website.