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2023 Impact Report

Report Highlights

Dogs Playing for Life (DPFL) is redefining the meaning and importance of quality of life for sheltered dogs across North America. Our 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 ever-expanding virtual offerings, we have continued our remote support to shelters across the country and anticipate that these long-distance resources will continue beyond the pandemic as a way to expand access to our programming. 

Our 2023 Impact Report details our yearly efforts and includes analysis of our shelter survey responses and a discussion of this year’s developments as well as updates from our Canine Center Florida. 

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:

  • 91% have continued to run playgroups since their DPFL seminar
  • 88% reported that dog fights requiring vet attention “never” or only “rarely” happen in playgroups
  • 52% 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 (80%)
  • Improvements in staff and volunteer morale (79%)

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 (99%)
  • Allowed staff to better assess dog-to-dog concerns (98%)
  • Supplied useful information about dogs beyond their dog-to-dog sociability (97%)
  • Afforded shelters time to provide additional enrichment to their dogs (81%)

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

  • Average canine live release rate increased 3 percentage points
  • Average canine length of stay decreased by 6.6 days

For large dogs, the average length of stay decreased by 11 days

CANINE CENTER FLORIDA

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, 2023, CCF has:

  • Served 457 dogs (61 new dogs arrived in 2023)
  • Worked with dogs from 80 shelters and rescues (12 new organizations served in 2023)
  • Achieved an 83.5% save rate with this highly specialized and at-risk population

Other DPFL PROGRAMMING

In-Person Programming

  • Mentorships I and II: 60 new mentees in 2023
  • Shadow Program: 34 new shadow students over a total of 120 days in 2023

Virtual Programming

  • Playgroup Webinar Series: 941 attendees in 2023, including 249 who completed the full 3-part series
  • Handling and Training Series: 1,967 attendees in 2023
  • Added a new webinar on creating mutually beneficial relationships between shelters and private trainers

Willan Fund Scholarships

  • In 2023, 22 recipients received scholarships for 97 days of instruction in Level 1 and 2 Mentorships and the Shadow Program
  • Awarded $39,250 in 2023
Kokomo Humane Society Playgroup Dogs

INTRODUCTION

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 North America, providing these organizations with the skills and practical knowledge to implement and maintain successful playgroups for their dogs. These seminars, and the programs they inspired, 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 our Level I Mentorship, focusing on playgroups, kennel routines, and basic Fancy Footwork
  • 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
  • 2022: DPFL began working within large municipal shelters to cultivate the next generation of canine caregivers. The first partnership of this kind, with Los Angeles Animal Services, began in September.
  • 2023: DPFL began offering a Stranger Danger Mentorship, an additional Level 2 Mentorship out of CCF, focusing on routines and protocols to support wary-of-strangers dogs. We also embedded a staff member at Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services as part of an ongoing effort to support and promote playgroups in the state of Florida

Each year, we take a close look at our programming through the lens of our extensive data set and examine industry-wide trends with a view toward 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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