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That’s when one of her clients, who had been so impressed


with Aimee’s work, offered to pay her to train the dogs at Southampton Animal Shelter in Hampton Bays, New York. Surprised at the large number of dogs to train when she first arrived at the shelter, she decided to let them play first in a loosely supervised group. “I had three hours to work with 20 dogs. I recognized pretty fast that efficiency was critical if my allocated time would be enough to help the dogs cope better in a shelter environment and ultimately find a family.” The playing and roughhousing actually relaxed the dogs,


making the training session easier than Aimee expected. She took note of the results, as did her client, who continued to pay her to work with shelters interested in the unique program. However, this was a relatively new concept, and convincing busy shelter personnel to incorporate playing as part of their training and socialization programs took some convincing and time. Aimee persevered and her client continued to support her efforts. Some seventeen years later, Dogs Playing for Life has


reached a landmark number, having just introduced its 200th shelter to playgroups. Additionally, the ASPCA and Petco Foundation recently partnered to grant $1.5 million dollars so Dogs Playing for Life could expand the playgroups program nationwide. The partnership will begin in Los Angeles County. For the most part, the original Ontario 18 dogs are


adjusting well to their new environment, interacting with their handlers and one another. When they first arrived, the dogs were suppressed and scared with high anxiety levels. They were placed in their own kennels and simply allowed time to decompress. “It was clear to us that they had not been handled much by


humans,” said Aimee. “We didn’t give them contact with other dogs for a couple of weeks.” During individual walks, the dogs also exhibited some weird behaviors, such as abruptly stopping to look up a tree. (Sometimes, as part of training in dogfighting,


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handlers will tie small animals up a tree as bait.) After a few weeks, the handlers began socializing the dogs, at first keeping muzzles on them. It would be two months in the care of DPFL before the dogs felt calm enough to finally lay down. Four additional dogs, including a puppy born to one of the


original 28 dogs, have since arrived at DPFL. Nine of the now 22 dogs have demonstrated high drive levels. A high drive dog can be of any breed or mix, is highly active both mentally and physically, and requires plenty of exercise as well as mental stimulation just to be able to relax, according to the website HighDriveDogs.com. DPFL is now collaborating with Jay Jack and his Next Level Dogs for training the nine high drive dogs in Gameness, Relationship, Control (GRC) Dog Sports. The competition training will follow the companion animal testing which will include passing and receiving the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification. Next Level Dogs has introduced, what it is calling, a new


breed of dog sport club. These high drive sports incorporate sports associated with the APBT (American Pit Bull Terrier) and will be open to all breeds. It focuses not only on the dog’s gameness and self control, but especially on the relationship the handler has with the dog. The training is relationship and motivational centered with testing in leash communication and obedience. There are no harsh or abusive treatments allowed with the GRC Dog Sports program. Ultimately, the goal will be to pair the dogs with adoptees who are enthusiasts of dog sports competition. Public opinion on bringing the dogs to Florida was not all


positive. Some initially advised Aimee against taking the dogs mainly because of the original assessments which labeled them a menace to society. Others questioned whether or not the move would only prolong their ‘suffering’ and just delay the inevitable. But, she did have her supporters, including Rob with Dog Tales and Connie Johnson with SPCA Florida. g(Continued)


Winter 2018 THE NEW BARKER 33


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