I love talking about my dog Lucy. I could have a constant conversation about how she tilts her head to the side, ears up and out when she wants to go for a walk. Or how she turns a little when she wants something special. Sometimes I wonder how obsessed I am with my little Chiweenie. Until … I meet another dog owner.
Let’s face it, we’re 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 hour, singles meetups, beach days, and park playdates – designed to connect people who want to talk as much about their dogs as we do!
Of course, it’s not just about us; There are also advantages for the dogs.
Dog playgroups can help with socialization and exercise with other furry friends in a safe setting. There are hundreds of free groups across the country and most likely one right in your city. Before joining your dog-loving neighbors though, consider the following tips to keep your meetups safe, well-groomed, and fun.
For energetic dogs
Find a dog playgroup that meets regularly at parks, hikes, or walks around your town: activities that will send your puppy home for a nap.
Because of this, Chrissy Longcore, who founded the Doberman Gang of NYC in 2013, began sharing her weekly dog parking schedule online. Her Doberman puppy Lucy had so much energy that Chrissy wanted other dogs to play with and other dog parents to talk to.
The group began to grow so large that Chrissy had to limit the number to around 150 active members in order to keep the large dogs in a group safe.
“It was a family atmosphere,” she says of the weekend parking data around the five boroughs, the hikes and the excursions in New York State.
For small breeds
Find a dog play group that requires dogs to be under a certain weight or low energy.
Arielle Kaplan took over the Denver Small Dog Group late last year. She organizes weekly park playdates through meetup.com at designated small dog or low energy dog parks in the Denver area. Because of COVID, she had to stop using an indoor training facility where the dogs played and worked on mobility.
“I’ve seen a huge improvement in my rescue dogs socially and emotionally,” says Arielle, adding, “It’s wonderful to meet and talk about problems with small dogs.”
For community support
Look for breed specific groups or groups based on the size of the dog rather than the activity.
Chrissy often receives messages from Doberman parents who feel they have been discriminated against because of the breed’s aggressive reputation. The group has a member google doc that lists breed-friendly apartments, pet sitters, and walkers.
“We have a huge network,” she says. Dobermans often have heart problems, and it’s comforting to have a support group when these problems arise – and a list of vets who specialize in treating them. “(Members) realize that we’ve all been through it; You can rely on us, ”says Chrissy.
At the Denver Small Dog Group, Arielle welcomes people who feel isolated due to the ongoing pandemic.
“It’s as much to me as it is to my dog,” she says. “It was a lifesaver especially during COVID.”
For energy-saving or older dogs
Find a dog playgroup that meets for happy hour or coffee, leisurely walks or beach get-togethers.
John Gonzales, founder of @igbulldogs_SoCal, uses his 15,500 follower Instagram account to connect French and English bulldog owners in Southern California.
Bulldogs are only particularly active when they’re young, explains John. Much of the meetups take place in photo-friendly locations, like the Hollywood Sign, the San Diego Racetrack, or dog-friendly beaches to snap a photo for Instagram and give people time to chat and the dogs to relax.
He encourages people in sister bulldog groups across the country to post pictures of their outings. “I don’t care if I’m in NYC or in the Iowa cornfield,” says John. “I love seeing dogs everywhere.”
Chrissy Longcore, who founded the NYC Doberman Gang, says the group has a family-like feel to it.