Welcome to the Dorchester Paws playgroup diaries.
A major hurdle in the pursuit of bettering the welfare of animals in shelters is a lack of resources. This includes everything from a lack of volunteers, staff, funds, donations, space or more. For every idea that a shelter has to improve the care of their pets, there is a list of resources that are required to make it happen and often, the lack of resources prevents shelters around the world from being able to achieve their goals and provide even better care to their pets.
Often, this is the main reason that the idea of starting a playgroup program is put on the back burner. What a lot of people might not be able to see, however, is that the resources put into a shelter play group program can actually result in an increase of overall resources if it’s done right.
Increased volunteerism – All of the volunteers at Dorchester Paws are here because they truly love animals and would like the opportunity to interact with them. However, burnout is common due to the lack of time to spend with each dog, the amount of cleaning, maintance and mundane that comes with caring for the pets. Play groups offer a respite from the day-to-day work. They offer a chance for volunteers to see the dogs off-leash, free and having fun. The joy of play groups can off-set those feelings of burn-out that creep up on all of us.
Increased adoptions – Dogs who participate in play groups are much easier to adopt! For one, they have better kennel presentation because they are tired and more satisfied. They’ve been given the opportunity to “get their wiggles out.” Secondly, seeing dogs out of their kennel and interacting with other dogs gives staff and volunteers a better idea of what this dog might be like outside of the shelter environment. This makes it easier to match them with the right adopter with less trial and error.
Public perception – The public grows weary of hopeless stories about suffering animals that they feel powerless to help. Instead, they want to support programs that are succeeding and making positive progress towards better animal welfare. Nothing says positive progress like a bunch of “shelter dogs” romping and playing with each other just like the “normal dogs” at the dog park.
People want to adopt from, volunteer at and donate to shelters that are making a difference. Play groups make a difference.
We’ve been able to see the difference already through the animals who have partaken in our playgroups since Dogs Playing For Life visited us a few weeks ago.
One of the dogs that directly benefitted from their presence was Mr. Nutella. He’s a chocolate Terrier mix who was often overlooked and unconsidered because he’d been labeled as “dog reactive.” He received that label as a result of the notes that were given to us when he was surrendered. However, after putting him in playgroups, we realized there was so much more to this sweet chocolate chunk. When introduced to his friends in the way that works for him, he’s silly, loves to roll on his back and enjoys running around in circles!