2020 Impact Report

2020 Impact Report Highlights

Report Highlights

Dogs Playing for Life (DPFL) is actively redefining the meaning and importance of quality of life for sheltered dogs across North America. Our in-person playgroup and training seminars, Mentorships, and Shadow Program provide shelter staff and volunteers with the knowledge and hands-on experience required to better support the behavioral wellbeing of the dogs in their care.

At our Canine Center Florida, we are working to provide quality of life that often results in live outcomes for at-risk sheltered dogs in need of our specialized training expertise. Finally, through our newly created and expanded virtual offerings, we have continued to support shelters across the country even when we are unable to mentor them in person due to the pandemic.

Our 2020 Impact Report details our yearly efforts and includes analysis of our shelter survey responses and a discussion of DPFL’s overall developments, introduces our Canine Center Florida, and provides an overview of our other in-person programs and virtual offerings.

Survey Results

The responses to our surveys, which are administered to shelters before and after a playgroup seminar, reveal much about different organizations’ experiences with playgroups and the ways in which playgroups are benefitting dogs, humans, and shelters alike.

Among survey respondents:

  • 92% have continued to run playgroups since their DPFL seminar
  • 87% reported that dog fights requiring vet attention “never” or only “rarely” happen in playgroups
  • 50% of shelters run playgroups at least 5 days per week

100% of survey respondents believed that the benefits of playgroups outweigh the risks

Shelters reported these organizational benefits of playgroups:

  • Improvements in staff/volunteer handling skills (90%)
  • Improvements in staff and volunteer morale (84%)
  • Improvements in the public perception of the shelter (77%)

99% of respondents believed playgroups provide dogs with a better quality of life while sheltered

Shelters reported that playgroups benefitted dogs in the following ways:

  • Helped the shelter make better adoption matches (98%)
  • Allowed staff to better assess dog-to-dog concerns (98%)
  • Supplied useful information about dogs beyond their dog-to-dog sociability (96%)
  • Afforded shelters time to provide additional enrichment to their dogs (74%)

Shelters reported the following statistics a year after a DPFL seminar:

  • Average canine live release rate increased 8 percentage points
  • Average canine length of stay decreased by 11 days

For large dogs, the average length of stay decreased by nearly two weeks (13 days)


Since the summer of 2017, DPFL’s Canine Center Florida (CCF) has worked with sheltered dogs at risk of behavioral euthanasia. As of December 31, 2020, CCF has:

  • Served 240 dogs (81 new dogs arrived in 2020)
  • Worked with dogs from 40 shelters and rescues (16 new organizations served in 2020)
  • Achieved an 86% save rate with this highly specialized and at-risk population


In-Person Programming

  • Mentorships I and II: 235 mentees to date
  • Shadow Program: 12 shadow students over a total of 51 days

Virtual Programming

  • Virtual shelter meetings: nine shelters took advantage of this offering in 2020
  • Dogs Playing for Life Learning Library: downloaded 409 times in 2020
  • Playgroup Webinar Series: 415 total attendees from nine different countries and 101 new shelters and rescues reached in 2020


Dogs Playing for Life (DPFL) is a nonprofit animal welfare organization with a mission to redefine the meaning and importance of quality of life for all sheltered dogs by improving their experience through playgroups and individualized training, resulting in urgent and responsible lifesaving. In 2009, DPFL founder and CEO, Aimee Sadler, began offering playgroup seminars to shelters and rescues across the United States and beyond, providing these organizations with the skills and practical knowledge to implement and maintain successful playgroups for their dogs. These seminars, and the programs they kicked off, have enhanced quality of life and improved outcomes for countless shelter dogs across North America.

Though playgroups remain the cornerstone of our programming, DPFL’s contributions to canine wellbeing have expanded and developed over the years.

  • 2015: DPFL began offering a Level I Mentorship at our two model shelters
  • 2017: DPFL opened its Canine Center Florida (CCF), an advanced board and train facility serving sheltered dogs at risk of behavioral euthanasia
  • 2018: DPFL’s shadow program began helping shelter personnel and others interested in learning from CCF’s exceptional trainers to advance their skills
  • 2019: DPFL began welcoming next-level students and mentees to CCF for our newest Level II Mentorship

Each year, we take a close look at our programming through the lens of our extensive data set and examine what is and is not working and how we can better support shelters, shelter personnel, and shelter dogs. What follows are lessons learned, discussions of advancements in the animal welfare field, and benefits experienced by

shelters that have implemented our programming. We examine the ways in which DPFL playgroups and other programs can offer vast improvements in areas such as quality of life, lifesaving, shelter operations, and staff experiences. This report offers an in-depth look at the responses from our pre- and post-seminar surveys, provides a review of developments at our Canine Center Florida and with our other in-person programs and virtual offerings, and maps out the framework for DPFL to implement changes needed to remain an invaluable resource to the shelters and dogs we serve.



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