Dogs Playing For Life
A Game Changing Enrichment Tool
The Piercing Eyes of Jill Flynn
Dogs Playing for Life (DPFL) is a program rooted in the notion that a dog’s natural instinct is to PLAY.
The desire to play does not have to be taught to or learned by most canines. Playing is a dog’s most natural form of positive interaction and communication with both humans and fellow canines. A dog at play provides the best opportunity to peer inside the canine soul and explore who the dog really is.
DPFL is an innovative training program that was founded by professional trainer Aimee Sadler.
The Program demonstrates both the practical efficiencies of play groups for the rescue organization, as well as the emotional and behavioral benefits for the animals. Play groups have proven to be a critical enrichment and assessment tool for shelters.
Allowing dogs to be dogs in and around the shelter is often a more reliable indicator of a dog’s true personality than the dog’s reactions during the intake process. Yet in thousands of shelters across the country, following intake – dogs are segregated, locked up, and their emotional and physical needs are denied until they are claimed by an owner, transferred, adopted, fostered, or euthanized.
A dog deprived of regular exercise, mental stimulation, and human touch can physically and emotionally decompose from the stress of being kenneled without any enrichment. DPFL allows dogs play time outside their kennels in a more natural habitat. In many cases, this enrichment tool instantly demonstrates to staff that dogs initially feared as being aggressive or unbalanced, really belong on the adoption floor.
Sadly, decisions about a dog’s temperament might be made during the shelter staff’s initial intake evaluation. That initial evaluation, combined with observations of the animal’s behavior while kenneled, might dictate whether a dog is grouped in a crowded kennel with other canines, put into isolation for medical issues, or kenneled with a warning that the dog is aggressive or unsafe for contact with volunteers and adopters.
Further, many dogs suspected of displaying unpredictable behavior may be the first ones euthanized in order to make room for the dogs perceived as being more highly ‘adoptable’ based upon age, color, breed, manners, markings, and physical appearance.
Yet, the truth is that sometimes what appears to be aggressive or insecure behavior can often be attributed to the pain and suffering being experienced by that dog, an overwhelming fear of unfamiliar surroundings, or being kenneled with other dogs that bully or deny the insecure dog food and water. Even worse, once dogs are mis-labeled, those canines may never get the chance to exit their kennel, wag their tails, sniff nature’s curious smells, romp with their buddies, and show their true friendly personality in more normal circumstances.
Instead, at some shelters, a death sentence can result from one unfriendly canine reaction that was actually caused by fear, confusion, illness, miscommunication, or pain.
The Lazin Animal FOUNDation applauds Aimee Sadler and her tireless efforts to save more dogs by proactively introducing play groups into shelters across the country.