Nonprofit Dogs Playing for Life Spends Week at Animal Center | WLife


For many years, the industry norm was that animal shelters kept dogs in their kennels with very little opportunity for physical or mental stimulation.

Whether out of fear of health and safety risks or a lack of resources, shelter managers have been reluctant to allow their dogs to interact. However, Dogs Playing for Life (DPFL) is a non-profit organization dedicated to changing what is a typical experience for shelter dogs around the world.

While DPFL’s mission is to redefine the experience, its goal is to get dogs out of shelters and into homes.

“We believe shelters should be like summer camp,” said Ally Tio, outreach director for the DPFL. “It’s a quick stop where the dogs are before they find their adoptive homes.”

Darla is a 3-year-old mixed breed that is friendly, people-loving, and water-loving. She knows how to “come” and did well on a leash. Darla, this week’s Pet of the Week, and all the animals available for adoption at the Williamson County Animal Center are waiting for you!

Thanks to a generous donation from the Friends of the Williamson County Animal Center, Tio and director of shelter programming Aaron Caldwell recently spent a week at the Williamson County Animal Center (WCAC).

“The most important thing is the dogs coming home,” Caldwell said. “Dogs are naturally social creatures, so we just try to fit them into playgroups. That’s key. Playgroup gives shelters the ability to use fewer people to care for more dogs in a period of time. more confined time while providing enriching experiences for dogs.

Tio and Caldwell taught staff and volunteers dog behavior, leash handling and demonstrated the techniques used to run safe and beneficial playgroups, the cornerstone of DPFL’s rescue programs.

According to WCAC Director Ondrea Johnson, the main focus was how to improve the shelter experience for the most vulnerable dogs and those struggling to thrive at the centre. Johnson said staff and volunteers have learned to better assess and correct behaviors that prevent dog adoption and more effectively match potential adopters with the right dog, reducing average length of stay.

Johnson, who implemented structured kennel routines at WCAC in 2018 and then DPFL programming in 2019, called the impact “transformational.”

“I can’t imagine life in the shelter without playgroups,” she says.

“The DPFL has changed our lives here,” added Suzanne Asher, an eight-year WCAC volunteer. “Dogs can play, learn from each other, teach each other and it helps them to be more adoptable. Sometimes adopters just choose a dog directly from a playgroup because they can see exactly who that dog will be.

Since 2020, the average length of stay of adopted dogs at WCAC has decreased by two days even though intake has remained relatively constant. Having DPFL on hand for the week-long training was a dream come true for Johnson, but she also has a vision for WCAC to become a mentorship haven.

“Imagine the impact we could have if shelters across the Southeast learned how to run playgroups,” she said.

Staff at several local shelters attended the last two days of training and have since reported to Johnson that they are rethinking their views on socializing and playgroups.

“Hearing a quiet kennel full of dogs exhausted from playing and seeing how rewarding DPFL has been for staff and volunteers is the best reward,” Johnson said.

For more information on Dogs Playing for Life, visit

The WCAC is located at 1006 Grigsby Hayes Court in Franklin, near the Franklin Christian Academy. The center is open to the public Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and closed on Sunday.


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