Safety Tools and Devices for a Playgroup
The following are examples of safety tools that should be used and readily available while a playgroup is in session:
- Leashes: The Leader and the Assistant should both carry a leash at all times during the playgroup. The leash can be used if a dog needs to be separated or removed from the play area
- Communication device: e.g. two-way radios or a cellphone in order to communicate with indoor staff when needed.
- Leader vest: is worn by the Leader of the playgroup and keeps tools easily accessible. The leader vest contains one shake can and one large air horn. The Leader and the Assistant should wear a different colour so that both the Leader and the Assistant are easily identifiable by other people participating in a playgroup session.
- Assistant vest: is worn by the Assistant of the playgroup and keeps tools easily accessible. It contains one shake can and one large air horn. The Leader and the Assistant should wear a different colour so that both the Leader and the Assistant are easily identifiable by other people participating in a playgroup session.
- Intervention kit: ‘Y’ pole, catch pole, Kevlar gloves, slip leads with carabiners (for attaching a dog to a fence)
Safety devices should only be used to interrupt an interaction that the Leader believes may result in injury or significant stress. Frequent use of the devices on a frequent basis indicates that better planning is needed with regard to the selection of dogs, the initial order of introduction and/or which dogs should be removed from the group. The following are examples of safety devices that can be used and should be readily available while a playgroup is in session:
- Shake can: a can with coins in it, taped closed
Shake the can directly at or toward the dog
Advantage — noise can be aversive, and can be directed toward more than one dog simultaneously
Disadvantage — dog may not respond; other innocent dogs may also be punished; dogs may become fearful of handler or playgroup area
- (2) Large air horns: a quick pop or longer press of the air horn
Advantage — noise can be aversive. The person with the air horn does not need to be immediately adjacent to the dog. A quick pop of the air horn can be effective in de-escalating a dog-to-dog conflict
Disadvantage — the dog may not respond; affects many dogs in the play yard; the dogs may become fearful of the handler or the playgroup area
- Large blanket or quilt: keep a blanket handy
Toss over the dogs involved in the conflict
Advantage — causes confusion by engulfing dogs in darkness; can be directed at only the dogs involved in the conflict; can result in de-escalation
Disadvantage — takes some practice to implement effectively; obviously may have limitations on a windy day
- Garden hose connected to water supply, if available
Spray directly into the aggressor’s face
Advantage — ability to spray the dog while keeping at a safe distance
Disadvantage — may not affect the dog’s actions at this level of arousal
- Have an umbrella handy as it can be used as a shield when opened. Opening the umbrella suddenly may startle a dog long enough to use other measures.