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Want to help us keep playgroups running?

We have an amazon wish list of items we need in order to keep making playtime a possibility for the dogs in our shelter!

The South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter has been on quite a journey in the past five years, and this progress is especially evident with our dogs.

It's probably not surprising to know that 10 years ago, most dogs faced overwhelming odds once they entered the shelter. A clock started ticking and it felt like the most one could do was to cross their fingers and hope for the best.

Fast forward to today, we are saving the vast majority of dogs who enter the shelter. We are providing medical care that used to be only a dream; we are able to give them more time; and this weekend we added another tool in our toolbox - dog playgroups.

 Playgroups are something that we have done casually for many years, as time allowed. Last year we were introduced to an organization called "Dogs Playing for Life". We met them at a conference and attended a workshop at a partner shelter and began to improve our playgroups based on their practice. This week, thanks to a grant from the Animal Farm Foundation, we were fortunate enough to welcome Kodi and Lexie from Dogs Playing for Life to our shelter so they could meet our dogs, evaluate them and teach our staff how to really work this amazing program.

A playgroup is an opportunity for dogs to go out to a play yard and interact with each other. It's a wonderful way for them to get both physical and mental exercise, as well as a chance for us to gather tons of important information about them that will help us make successful placements. To explain the benefits of playgroups, I will share the words of Aimee Sadler, the founder of Dogs Playing for Life:

"Our programs stress the consideration of the whole animal, physically, emotionally, and behaviorally," she said. "We treat all animals as individuals. None of our behavior programs discriminate due to breed or category ... There is no doubt that offering a more natural environmental and comprehensive approach helps shelters to better assess behavior, maintain healthy behavior and support better adoption matches."

Kodi and Lexie were with us all day, for three days. We were outside working with the dogs, sometimes enjoying beautiful weather, but also in the mud and pouring rain. Dogs Playing for Life's motto is "Every Dog, Every Day" and that's what we did.

Every dog came out and had a chance to show us their stuff. The dogs really impressed us, maybe King most of all. King has been with us since December and he really shined - he was out for most of every day and probably played with dozens of dogs! We also have a mastiff named Bing. He was terrified at first, but the playgroups worked the way they were supposed to and we soon saw a big playful pup instead of a terrified one. One of my favorite dogs to watch was beautiful Bella - she's been with us since January and has undergone a surgery and crate rest to fix a pin in her leg from a prior surgery. After getting vet clearance to let her loose, Bella was probably one of the happiest dogs in the world to finally be able to run and play again.

Some dogs needed to be muzzled to start, but most of them were able to shake the muzzles once we made sure they were with the right dogs. Lakota, a big husky mix made a lot of noise at the gate, but once inside the yard showed us that he's much more bark than bite! It was truly amazing to see dogs that could easily be classified as "dog aggressive" interact with other dogs and shake their labels. It's just another reminder that what you see usually isn't the whole picture.

While we learning so much about the dogs was fantastic, the most valuable part of the workshop was the hands-on training provided to the staff; because the dogs of today will not be the same dogs of tomorrow and we are committed to providing all of our future dogs with the same opportunity to play and to be understood. In fact, staff has put their training to use and held playgroups every day since training concluded.

We are more than ready to start match-making so come on down to the shelter! Some playgroup rock stars that may be just the match you are looking for include Scooby Doo, Bing, Chicha, Bella, Hastings, King and French Vanilla. We now have a really great idea of the type of dogs that they will do great living and playing with since we more information about their play styles and tolerance levels.

We would also like to send a huge shout out to Valerie Bruder, a HeART's Speak photographer, who took hundreds of amazing pictures of our dogs and staff in action. You can check these pictures out on the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter and Second Chances Facebook pages. We are so grateful to have such an amazing experience captured forever, and we know that her pictures will find their way to potential adopters hearts!

For more information about Valerie, please visit





Source: Dog playgroups match the shelter perfectly

Want to help us keep playgroups running?

We have an amazon wish list of items we need in order to keep making playtime a possibility for the dogs in our shelter!

Posted in 2019, SJRAS Articles, Special Programs