Letting dogs be dogs: How playtime is helping Habersham’s shelter animals

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With all the stress that dogs are exposed to in shelters, dogs that are scared, bored, or just excited to see someone are classified as aggressive jumping and barking behind kennel walls. But after attending an animal socialization seminar, Habersham Animal Shelter gives dogs the chance to become the playful, friendly, and decent animals they are.

Volunteer Rosa Allen shares some love with Kye (left) and Abbott (right) during the socialization period. (Hadley Cottingham / now Habersham)

“Two weeks ago the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia hosted a group seminar called Dogs Playing for Life, and this is a class that focuses on making dogs be dogs,” said Madi Nix, director of the Habersham County animal shelter. “Part of that [class] was that [the humane society] said we need to socialize our dogs when they come in here. “

Nix says the shelter fights a fair bit of fences between the kennels, which makes some shelter dogs seem like aggressive animals.

“A lot of dogs pretend to be brutally aggressive and we judge them far too quickly,” says Nix. “I was also guilty and said, ‘Well this dog looks like it is killing someone who walks past it so it can’t live with other dogs.'”

The workshop taught Nix and the volunteers dog body language and discussed some body language that we normally consider aggressive, such as standing the dog’s hair. Nothing says that this is not a sign of aggression at all, it can mean a lot of things like fear, excitement or otherwise stimulated, just like when we humans feel our hair straighten up on the back of our necks.

After the workshop, Nix and the rest of the shelter team set up a room and schedule for their dogs so they can play together regularly.

After just over half an hour of play, the dogs Kye (left) and Bucky (right) are ready for a nap. (Hadley Cottingham / now Habersham)

Habersham Shelter Volunteer Rosa Allen says 30 minutes of play time for these dogs is equivalent to a two hour walk for both mental and physical health. When those thirty minutes are up and the dogs return to their kennels, they are happily exhausted.

“Every single dog here on the adoption site has at least one buddy they can go out and play with and just do dog-thing,” says Nix. “We don’t intervene unless something has to be done [done], but it was just really cool. “

The dogs usually play in groups of five or six, and Nix says dogs that they thought would not respond well to socialization have made breakthroughs. Her goal is to get every dog ​​used to socializing with humans and animals and to get closer with every play session to finding a forever home for every dog.

All of the dogs featured in Madi Nix’s TikTok video have found a home thanks to the socialization program.

You can check out the shelter’s adoptable dogs on their Facebook page here.

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