Component analysis of dog-dog playgroups in shelters: Impacts on human and canine welfare

The use of playgroups in animal shelters is an increasingly popular intervention in both public and private animal shelters. However, little scientific research to date exists on whether or not playgroups - and furthermore, what components of playgroups make playgroups most effective. This begs the question, “What is the best way to run playgroups?” In this session, Dr. Mehrkam will discuss the effects of different playgroup components (e.g., size of playgroups, use of appetitive and aversive stimuli) on shelter dog physiological (salivary cortisol) and behavioral (in-kennel) welfare. Video demonstrations will be provided. Finally, Dr. Mehrkam will discuss preliminary data on whether shelter staff at shelters that run playgroups vs those that do not run playgroups differ in their risk of compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and workplace perceptions and attitudes.