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The Santa Barbara Humane Society recently adopted Dogs Playing for Life, a program rooted in the notion that a dog’s natural instinct is to play. (Santa Barbara Humane Society photo)

By Amy Bernstein for the Santa Barbara Humane Society | Published on 04.09.2015 5:21 p.m.

Dogs awaiting new forever-homes at the Santa Barbara Humane Society were recently treated to innovative new playgroups that combine positive social enrichment with a good old-fashioned romp around the yard with other doggies.

The Santa Barbara Humane Society recently adopted Dogs Playing for Life, a program rooted in the notion that a dog’s natural instinct is to play, and that play can help shelter dogs in particular to thrive. On March 20-22 at their local shelter, the Humane Society held a three-day seminar with Aimee and Kodi Sadler, founders of Dogs Playing for Life Inc, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping dogs become less fearful, more secure and more socially satisfied.

“This is the most progressive behavior program in sheltering,” said Dr. Pamela Reid, Ph.D., a certified applied animal behaviorist.

Participating in playgroups helps to keep the dogs mentally, physically and socially stimulated, which translates to better behavior, more accurate behavior evaluations and healthier, happier dogs — which in turn helps them to get adopted!

Santa Barbara Humane Society staff and their Canine Companion Volunteers joined together to attend this intensive three-day workshop held on-site at 5399 Overpass Road in Santa Barbara. The Humane Society also hosted volunteers and staff from animal welfare organizations throughout California to participate, including Long Beach Animal Care Services, Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society, and Berkeley Animal Care Services.

The workshop was long sought out by Santa Barbara Humane Society Director of Veterinary Services, Christina Paris-Sisk, D.V.M., and Executive Director Peggy Langle to enrich the lives of their adoption dogs by providing the social engagement of a playgroup.

“One of our goals in implementing this program is to allow the dogs being cared for by staff and volunteers to remain adoptable, especially during longer stays with us, and for us to even more effectively assess the dogs’ personalities in order to make the best matches with their forever-homes,” Langle said. “We are committed to innovations that promote the best and kindest treatment of animals possible, as well as create unique and high-value resources for our entire community.”

In other shelters, these playgroups have helped to bring out the best in the dogs’ personalities. In addition to satisfying the social needs of the dogs, the playgroups give the dogs more exercise than they would be able to get from on-leash walks and maximize efficiency by allowing staff and volunteers more time to focus on other aspects of the shelter. The ability to release their pent-up energy with active play also helps the dogs relax in their kennels, which makes for a more pleasant shelter environment for everyone.

“Our amazing staff and volunteers came away from the workshop energized and inspired, ready to make a difference in the lives of the dogs in our shelter,” Langle said.

The Humane Society welcomes community members interested in adopting to come see their dogs in action by observing a playgroup. Playgroups are scheduled Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 5399 Overpass Road. Interested adopters can also view playgroup videos on the Santa Barbara Humane Society’sFacebook  or Instagram.

— Amy Bernstein is a publicist representing the Santa Barbara Humane Society.

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