General

The Ins & Outs of Joining a Dog Group

I love talking about my dog, Lucy. I could keep up an ongoing conversa­tion about the way she tilts her head to the side, ears sticking up and out, when she wants to go for a walk. Or how she does a little twirl when she wants a treat. Sometimes, I question my level of obsession with my little Chiweenie. Until … I meet another dog owner.

Let’s be honest, we are all obsessed with our dogs and could talk about them for hours. Here’s the good news for us: There are different groups — hiking and walking, happy hours, singles meetups, beach days and park playdates — designated to connect people who want to talk about their dogs just as much as we do!

Of course, it’s not all about us; there are benefits for the dogs, too.

Dog playgroups can help with socialization skills and provide exer­cise with other furry friends in a safe environment. There are hundreds of no-cost groups around the country and most likely one right in your city. But, before joining your fellow dog-loving neighbors, think about the following tips to help your meetups remain safe, well-maintained and fun.

For High-Energy Dogs

Find a group that meets regularly at dog parks, hikes or walks around your city: activities that will send your pup home for a nap.

That’s why Chrissy Longcore, who started the Doberman Gang of NYC in 2013, began sharing her weekly dog park schedule online. Her Doberman puppy, Lucy, had so much energy, Chrissy wanted other dogs for playing and other dog parents for talking.

The group began to grow so large that Chrissy had to limit the number to about 150 active members in order to maintain the safety of the large dogs in a group setting.

“It was a family atmosphere,” she says of the weekend park dates around the five boroughs, the hikes and the field trips to upstate New York.

For Small Breeds

Find groups that require dogs to be under a certain weight or low energy.

Arielle Kaplan took over the Denver Small Dog Group at the end of last year. She organizes weekly park playdates through meetup.com at designated small-dog or low-energy dog parks around Denver. Because of COVID, she’s had to halt use of an indoor training facility where the dogs played and worked on agility.

“I saw a big improvement with my rescue dogs socially and emotionally,” Arielle says, adding, “it’s wonderful to meet up and talk about little-dog issues.”

For Community Support

Search for breed-specific groups or groups based on dog size, rather than activity.

Chrissy often gets messages from Doberman parents who feel discrim­inated against because of the breed’s stranger-aggressive reputation. The group has a Google doc available for members that lists breed-friendly apart­ments, pet sitters and dog walkers.

“We have a huge network,” she says. Dobermans commonly have heart issues, and it’s comforting to have a support group when these issues arise — and a list of veterinarians who spe­cialize in handling them. “(Members) realize we’ve all been through it; they can lean on us,” Chrissy says.

In the Denver Small Dog Group, Arielle welcomes people new to the area who feel isolated because of the ongoing pandemic.

“It’s as much for me as my dog,” she says. “Especially, during COVID, it’s been a lifesaver.”

For Low-Energy or Senior Dogs

Seek groups that meet for happy hour or coffee plus leisurely walking or beach meetups.

John Gonzales, founder of @igbulldogs_SoCal, uses his Instagram account with 15,500 followers to connect French and English Bulldog owners in Southern California.

Bulldogs aren’t particularly active unless they are young, John explains. Much of the meetups are held at photo-friendly spots, like in front of the Hollywood sign, the San Diego racetrack or dog-friendly beaches, to get a shot for Instagram and give the humans time to chat and the dogs time to relax.

He encourages people in the sister bulldogs groups nationwide to post pictures from their outings. “I don’t care if I’m in NYC or in the cornfield of Iowa,” John says. “I love seeing dogs everywhere.”

Chrissy Longcore, who started the Doberman Gang of NYC says the group has a family atmosphere.

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