The following information has been adapted from material on the Center for Shelter Dogs website.
Playgroups can be meaningful and enriching for dogs, staff and volunteers alike, but they should never be taken lightly. Safety and other precautions should always be considered and a plan constructed before a playgroup is initiated.
- Be consistent with your animal centre medicine protocols. Only dogs in adoption should participate in playgroups to minimize the risk of infectious disease
- A minimum of two people should always be in the yard during a playgroup; two people are necessary to break up a fight if one occurs
- Playgroups must take place in a large yard or room with enough space for each dog to freely run and play with other dogs
- All toys should be removed from the playgroup area. Dogs should not be allowed to play with toys or sticks with dogs in the play yard, as toys can be a source of conflict between dogs
- Include a secure introduction area, preferably an enclosure with double doors or gates, to facilitate safe movement of dogs in and out of the yard and prevent escape
- Limit human interactions with dogs as much as possible, other than to quietly praise good behaviour (e.g. a shy dog who is finally leaving the gate area and walking toward you, or a dog who is having a tense interaction with another dog and chooses to move away)
- Never pet or interact with a dog if another dog is near. When people regularly give dogs attention, conflict between dogs can occur which could lead to a fight
- If other dogs are showing intense interest in a fearful dog, the fearful dog should be removed. Perhaps this dog would benefit more from interactions with people or one other dog
- Do not intervene in interactions between dogs unless you have received specific instructions to do so
- Do not let dogs run along the fence line, barking intensely or aggressively at other dogs or people who are walking by. There is a risk of redirected aggression toward other dogs or people in the yard in these situations. These dogs should be removed from the playgroup setting