The power of playtime

Posted: Saturday, June 29, 2013 10:00 am

By CAMERON RASMUSSON Staff writer

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PONDERAY — Everyone needs to make a little time for play in their lives — even dogs.

That holds especially true for troubled dogs or dogs needing a new home. Solid, quality playtime sessions can help dogs become more sociable and help them interact better with both other canines and potential owners.

Panhandle Animal Shelter staff members and volunteers got a thorough lesson in the power of playtime this week with Aimee Sadler, a dog behavior expert from Colorado.

Between a morning class and an afternoon hands-on session Friday, animal shelter associates got their share of training over the best way to structure playtime involving several dogs and how to react when things get a little too rowdy.

The classroom session covered the essentials of using play as a source of therapy for dogs. Much like humans, dogs have different personalities, and that means they have different approaches to play sessions. Some can be overly aggressive, whiles others are often very hesitant to engage other dogs. Dogs often also bring different methods to securing a playmates attention. All these factors add up to several identifiable play styles that, if identified, can give a shelter worker insight into how to treat the dog.

Sadler and her associate Sara Thompson also brought distinct discipline tools to reprimand animals that got out of line. Rather than using discipline that would physically hurt the dog, they employed items like spray bottles, canned air, shaker cans and other items that alert the dog to its behavior.

Panhandle Animal Shelter associates had a chance to tackle these techniques for themselves at a hands-on training session during the afternoon. Between the sunny weather and the variety of dogs at the shelter, they had a chance to experience a variety of situations in managing playtime, including points where the play devolved into more serious fighting. Under the management of Sadler and Thompson, these occasions provided valuable chances in learning how to maintain control and break up fights.

The entire afternoon reinforced points of Sadler’s program, Playing For Life. Sadler travels all around the country giving seminars and training sessions centered around her successes with using play sessions to rehabilitate dogs. Local shelter employees and volunteers will continue their training over the weekend to learn more about the program.