by austinpetsalive • Posted in: Behavior

Twice daily dog playgroups are now in full swing over at the Town Lake Animal Center thanks to our new dog behavior manager, Mike Kaviani.

For about 2 weeks, our dogs have gone out together to play in the yards.  See video of a playgroup in action:


We’ve already seen enormous changes in our dogs.  Instead of frustrated, bored dogs barking at everything that walks by, we now have calm, relaxed dogs hanging out in their kennels after a long session of playing, dreaming about their next session with their new friends that’s coming that evening.

It’s so easy for stress to spiral out of control for dogs in shelters.  With all of the barking, the dogs get stressed, which causes them to bark more, which then raises the overall stress level even more.  Since implementing playgroups, all of that stress is dissipating and we’re getting to see the true sides of a lot of the dogs.

We have learned that many dogs who were once labeled as “reactive” and possibly “aggressive” toward other dogs are anything but, and have become some of the best playmates at the shelter, making their adoptability go way up.

Two dogs in particular have been great success stories:  Susie and Kita.

Susie had become so frustrated, reactive, and difficult to manage in the shelter environment that she was put in a special place in the shelter where the public wouldn’t be able to get her out of her kennel and only staff worked with her.   After 4 days of playgroups, she became a loose, wiggly, happy girl.  She was moved to where the public could meet her and was adopted a few days after that.

Kita had a similar story to Susie’s.  She was highly reactive toward other dogs – she lunged at them and it was hard to walk her anywhere in the shelter because she wanted to pull toward any dog she saw and make a big scene.  After 2 days in playgroups, she ignored other dogs when she was walked in the shelter and was  adopted in a couple of days.

Not only are playgroups making for happier and more adoptable dogs inside of the shelter, they are giving us good information to make better adoption matches and better inform potential adopters about the dogs they are interested in adopting.  Happier dogs, happier adopters, we’re on our way to saving all of the dogs at the Austin Animal Center so that we can be a true no kill city!