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Nonprofit organization partners with Williamson County Animal Center to improve dogs' shelter experiences

Dogs Playing for Life trainers work with a pup as part of a demonstration
Posted at 7:09 PM, Jul 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-16 20:13:31-04

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nonprofit Dogs Playing for Life (DPFL) is partnering with Williamson County Animal Center (WCAC) to provide a better quality of stay for dogs in shelters while they wait to find their forever homes.

“We believe that shelters should be like a summer camp,” said Ally Tio, DPFL Director of Outreach. “It’s a quick pit stop where dogs are before they find their adoptive home.”

The industry norm for shelters has been keeping dogs in kennels with few opportunities for physical or mental stimulation. DPFL is looking to change that.

The nonprofit spoke to WCAC staff and volunteers about dog behavior and leash handling. They demonstrated techniques used to run safe and beneficial playgroups, which is the cornerstone of DPFL's programs.

dogs playing for life playgroups
Shelter dogs participate in playgroups as part of the Dogs Playing for Life program.

“The biggest thing is dogs going home,” said Director of Shelter Programming Aaron Caldwell. “Dogs are naturally sociable creatures, so we’re just trying to get them into playgroups; it is essential. Playgroup gives shelters the ability to use less people to attend to more dogs in a more confined period of time while providing enrichening experiences for the dogs.”

With the training provided as part of the partnership, staff and volunteers of WCAC hope to better assess and correct behaviors that prevent dogs from being adopted. The training is also aimed at helping to more effectively pair potential adopters with the right dog.

“DPFL has changed our lives here,” said Suzanne Asher, an eight-year volunteer of WCAC. “Dogs get to play, learn from each other, teach each other, and it helps them be more adoptable. Sometimes adopters will just pick a dog right from a playgroup because they get to see exactly who that dog is going to be.”

Personnel from other local shelters stopped by to observe the final two days of training at WCAC and reported back that they were rethinking their views on socialization and playgroups.

“Hearing a quiet kennel filled with dogs exhausted from playing, and seeing how enriching DPFL has been for staff and volunteers is the best reward," said WCAC Director Ondrea Johnson.

You can learn more about Dogs Playing for Life on their website.