Shelter dogs get a new chance at life in play groups

Local News

WACO, Texas – When the Florida-based nonprofit organization Dogs Playing For Life came to the Waco Animal Shelter last week to train City of Waco and Humane Society of Central Texas staff in how to run dog play groups, staff were eager, excited, and a little nervous about putting a bunch of shelter dogs together in a yard and just letting them play.

But one by one, every dog at the shelter – regardless of their age, size, breed, or behavior – got into a play group. As a result, dogs that staff believed to be “dog aggressive” are now playing rambunctiously with other dogs, and shy dogs who were too scared to walk out of their kennels are now romping in a pack.

The Waco Animal Shelter serves as a sense of pride for the Central Texas community since it earned its No-Kill status. Like most municipal shelters, dogs are kept in individual indoor/outdoor kennels for much of the day, because there is simply no other way to safely house them. Volunteers and staff try their hardest to make sure every dog gets a walk every day – even for a few minutes – but there are almost always a few dogs who don’t get out. But now, because of play groups, ten to twelve dogs can play together all at once for 30 minutes when it would have taken hours to walk them individually. Dogs Playing For Life estimates a 15-minute play session is equivalent to a two-hour walk, so play groups are even more beneficial than a walk.

(Courtesy: Humane Society of Central Texas)

Dogs in play groups get the physical activity and mental stimulation they need to thrive in the shelter, which makes them happier and more adoptable, and tires them out for a good night’s sleep. It also allows staff to more accurately determine if a dog is friendly and sociable with other dogs. Ultimately, shelter dogs who are allowed to play are less prone to high levels of fear, anxiety, stress, and frustration which is so commonly seen in shelters – resulting in faster placement in forever homes.

Volunteers are a key component to the Dogs Playing For Life Program. They bring dogs from their kennels to play groups and back, ensuring that every dog gets a chance to play. You can sign up to become an volunteer at

Source: Humane Society of Central Texas

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