Shelter Play Groups

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Shelter Play Groups

Postby Amie » Wed Mar 16, 2011 7:19 pm

I'm attending a workshop for the next two days about play groups in the shelter. It's led by Aimee Sadler, and here's a little about it: http://network.bestfriends.org/campaign ... /news.aspx

Anyone else do this in their shelter?
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby tbluverjumper » Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:23 pm

*sigh* I wish!
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby heartbullies » Thu Mar 17, 2011 1:26 am

At the first places I worked at, yes, and it was great for the shelter dogs that could participate. Currently it's scary and we've quarantined dogs; the volunteers who run the play group are not all exactly good at reading dog body language or understanding dog behavior. "She really wants to meet you! She can't stop staring at you!" regarding a terrified dog staring at a tall man; predictably to everyone around except for the person who uttered the previous words, when the man slowly approached the dog barked and growled and tried to run away from him. So, these are the people who run the play groups. If you have different sorts of people to run the play groups and they have good dog skills and are also able to take care of an emergency situation (like, yes, a fight) and manage resources (like treats/toys) and activities among the dogs, then play groups are really great!
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby heartbullies » Thu Mar 17, 2011 1:50 am

Would you then be the person at the play groups? Or would you teach other people (coworkers? long-time volunteers?) how to run them? I think when they are well-done, just like any good and appropriate dog-playtime even with our own dogs, the benefits are wide-ranging. Not only do the dogs get more tired, but they also appear more friendly to adopters (both because they have burned off some steam and also because you know they can play with another dog, which is a major selling point for shelter pit bulls, whether breed fanciers like it or not). Plus if a potential adopter can witness a play session, see the structure, learn how to manage resources successfully (ie, do not leave a meaty marrow bone in the mix) and when to do play-breaks/time outs, etc. so that the adopter has some more skills which is always a good big part of a successful, lifelong adoption.

One place I volunteered a lot, a long time ago, had play groups with more than 2 or 3 dogs. They had a big yard and there were many experienced volunteers; dogs could play with each other in a monitored, structured, and appropriate way, or interact with humans and just have low-key, positive passing interactions with dogs. It really makes a huge difference IMO if it can be done well.
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby Amie » Thu Mar 17, 2011 7:02 am

I'm not sure how BARCS intends to set them up, but I'm hesitant, honestly. Not because I don't think it's a great idea, and not because I don't value how much more sane Oscar appears since Liberty came to take away most of his energy playing, but our volunteers are NOT well trained, however well meaning they are. There's talk of me doing a few classes for them, but honestly I've been offering to do those for over a year and been turned down repeatedly (not by the volunteers - I work with them secretly when I can!) so I'm not sure if I should hold my breath. If we could hand pick the volunteers to participate and enforce that it's just them doing this (the enforcement is the issue) than I think we'd have a good starting point.

Either way, I'm really looking forward to the workshop for my own information, whether or not BARCS is able to put it to use!
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby heartbullies » Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:41 pm

Amie wrote:.... There's talk of me doing a few classes for them, but honestly I've been offering to do those for over a year and been turned down repeatedly (not by the volunteers - I work with them secretly when I can!) so I'm not sure if I should hold my breath. If we could hand pick the volunteers to participate and enforce that it's just them doing this (the enforcement is the issue) than I think we'd have a good starting point. ....



Yes. I totally understand. I've offered to help in an informal class setting, to no avail. So now I just try to help individuals as I can. Watching people walk reactive dogs on a choke chain with the ends clipped together and about 6" of loose space (ie, the dog can totally get out) or with a Sense-Ible harness on upside down/backwards, or letting a dog pull for 3 miles, hard, on a prong collar... or the aforementioned "she loves him and can't take her eyes off him!" comments... it's really hard even without a playgroup. Heh. But yeah-- more information is always good to have and hopefully can help benefit the dogs!
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby Amie » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:29 pm

Well, the seminar was frustrating! While it was refreshing to see people learn about canine body language, it was great for the dogs, and I think the program will overall have a positive effect on the dogs' behavior, the person who led the workshop has some very different opinions than I do about training techniques. She repeatedly claimed Cesar Milan is her hero, and an absolute brilliant master, and was very snide about "positive" training methods without showing me that she even really understood them.

I'm obviously not a fan of Cesar, but I am far less bothered by someone attempting his methods with a dog they own (and presumably know to some degree) than I am by the suggestion that people attempt these methods with shelter dogs, and that they use equipment like pinch collars, squirt bottles, and shake cans.
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby haircrazie016 » Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:27 pm

ut-oh. that stinks!

I am going to this seminar on Monday, i'm much less excited about it now. lol
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby Amie » Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:43 pm

Sorry! I'll be curious to see your take on it, though.
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby haircrazie016 » Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:08 am

I PM'd you but I thought I'd repeat it here...

Aimee didn't mention Cesar Milan at our seminar, but obviously shes not a positive only trainer. She kicked two dogs in the playgroup and that didnt sit well with me at all, but as I weighed the negative impact of the little kick to the positive impact of the dog dog interactions they were having it didnt seem so bad.

When she started the playgroup I really was shocked that she could take dogs that may have never met another dog, and certainly hadnt met any other dogs durring their stay at the shelter, straight from their kennels and into the yard, and manage the situation so well that no one got into a fight. I never would of been brave enough to have 8 unknown, shelter stressed pitties in a yard together armed with just a squirt bottle, a penny can, and a air horn. I have to say I was pretty fascinated by that....

I definitely dont agree with all of Aimee's methods, I watched youtube videos of her, and am not impressed by her use of a shock collar to teach heel and retrieves. I also have to come to terms with how irresponsible she truly is, when my OCD for safety protocols kicks in... but overall I thought the dogs benefited from the playgroup greatly, and I liked seeing that.
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby PitBull-Lady » Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:46 am

Good thing our Amie has one "E"!

yikes, sounds like an odd seminar. Shock collars, really?
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby Amie » Wed Mar 23, 2011 1:43 pm

She didn't use shock collars with us, but she did recommend them, show us videos of her using them on her shelter dogs. She couldn't stop talking about Cesar (interesting that she didn't mention him at all for you) and recommended alpha rolling and various other things as "valuable tools".

I'm still trying to figure out what I thought about some of her methods - spray bottles I'm not crazy about, but compared to a dog fight... Yeah, I need to think on that more. Throwing shake cans at dogs I'm even less comfortable with. Kicking, definitely not (she didn't kick our dogs, but she mentioned that Cesar video and said it was just taken out of context and that it was brilliant, master handling as always from him) But the aversives she recommended for just day-to-day shelter life really bothered me.


If was refreshing to have some of our volunteers come up and compliment me on being the only one who could challenge her on her behavior quadrant lecture (which she explained very poorly) and ask me what I would have done differently.
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby Kingsgurl » Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:23 am

When she started the playgroup I really was shocked that she could take dogs that may have never met another dog, and certainly hadnt met any other dogs durring their stay at the shelter, straight from their kennels and into the yard, and manage the situation so well that no one got into a fight.


It's actually surprising what sticking dogs into a group cold turkey gets you. Most dogs are not at all confident enough in that situation to spark up. You can peg those that are pretty quickly. We manage groups of stressed out, undersocialized, never met each other dogs every day without resorting to shake cans, shock collars or alpha rolls, though the stress levels in those big groups put my teeth on edge.
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby haircrazie016 » Thu Mar 24, 2011 12:38 pm

i should clarify she didnt use shock collars or mention them at the seminar. I found videos of her on youtube using one though, and thought it was completely uneccessary.

at the seminar she had a shake can, squirt bottle, and an air horn. she used all three, but primarily the squirt bottle and verbal correction.

personally none of those things bothered me, Im not a huge fan of shake cans, but thats only because I have a very noise sensitive dog, so its just one tool I wouldnt use. I do use a squirt bottle for correction at home for dogs and cats so I cant say much about that. The air horn worked the time she used it, which was a tense moment for sure, but considering how I've seen volunteers handle the same situation when they werent expecting it, I think an air horn is much more humane, then being choked off.

anyway there were things I liked and didnt like about her methods, overall I thought it was a positive experience for the dogs and the people who attended. I do hope that people do not over correct dogs because of their own anxiety, and if they are going to give it a shot, that they do it right and in the most positive way.
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Re: Shelter Play Groups

Postby Bully_Love » Thu Mar 24, 2011 9:28 pm

Hmm, somehow I didn't even know they were doing these play groups. Seems like I didn't miss out on much, though. The idea of using corrections on shelter dogs just doesn't sit well with me at all... poor things are going through enough as it is. Apparently they are having one this Saturday... I'll be up there and guess I'll check it out, but I don't know...
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