Are Dog Playgroups a Good Idea?
Playgroup sessions provide a fantastic exercise outlet for dogs and improve their social skills. Owners usually enjoy them too, as the shared interest in dogs provides a wonderful conversation icebreaker. I’ve received some great tips while chatting with other pet owners.
The Animal Humane Society in Minnesota is one of many different places that organize such playgroups. This particular organization offers playgroups for small dogs, puppies, featherweights, micro dogs (canines under 7 pounds), teen puppies and, my favorite, the “yappy hour,” which is a mixed-age, all-size group. Make sure you bring your dog to the appropriate group; if your pet is small and skittish, larger dogs might intimidate it.
- The society advises that your dog goes to the bathroom before attending these or other playgroups. They recommend toileting your dog before you get in the car and also after you arrive. If your dog marks, it must wear a belly band or sani-panties.
- Arrive early to ensure your dog’s placement in the group. If it’s your first time, most organizers require that you fill out some paperwork and provide proof that your dog is up-to-date with vaccinations. Rabies, distemper/parvo and bordetella are the usual basics.
All such preparations help to make the experience a safe and enjoyable one for you and your dog.
What Are the Benefits of Dog Playgroups?
Across the country, dog social groups are enabling dog owners and their pets to find common ground. Dog-centric social groups provide both with an outlet for relaxation, shared fun and a source of information and support. Groups gather in dog parks and pet boutiques, or meet for activities (e.g., hikes or days at the beach).
Calendar-Worthy Special Dog Events
Janene Zakrajsek, owner of Pussy & Pooch pet boutiques in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., says her Mutt Mingles are “our version of a ‘Yappy Hour’ for all.” Pussy & Pooch has been holding Mutt Mingles for almost five years, and the store works to make the events special for both dog and human participants. Mingles have included a tea party to celebrate International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day, an Earth Day Bark for Green party and an Oktoberfest Dog Beer & Sausage-Fest.
“Minglers enjoy the freedom of letting their little ones run around the store leash-free for some much-needed pup playtime,” explains Zakrajsek. “Naturally, our guests also enjoy the refreshment, raffles, Pawbar tastings (at the store’s pet cafe), and other fun we create for them.”
Regular Dog Playdates, Thanks to Facebook
While attending Mutt Mingles is like having a date night with your dog, other dog-oriented social groups meet on a more casual basis. “I belong to a group of dog owners who meet at the dog park daily,” says Kimberly Gauthier, a Seattle blogger/photographer. “We have a group on Facebook and check in throughout the day to see who’s going to the park and when. What I find hilarious is that we identify each other by our dogs’ names. We know all the dogs and their personalities.”
Using a social networking site strengthens the group’s connections, explains Gauthier. Facebook allows the group to easily set schedules, to make plans outside of their dog park encounters and to keep up-to-date on potential issues. “One dog was diagnosed with kennel cough, and we were all informed immediately,” she says.
Ask the Right Questions of Your Dog Playgroup, Do Your Homework
If you plan to either join or start a canine social group, it’s important to consider several factors and to take a few precautions, say social group coordinators and participants. This checklist should help:
Ensure the Dog Playgroup is Safe for Your Dog – Can Dogs Get Sick from Dog Playgroup?
“If you’re joining someone else’s group, you want to know if they screen for dogs being up-to-date on shots, aggressive tendencies and more,” advises Janice Costa, who manages the 145-member The Canine Club Meetup Group in New York City and runs the dog vacation business Canine Camp Getaway. “You want to know if the group leader has any formal experience working with dogs, if he or she has ever broken up a dog fight, how they handle behavioral problems.”
How Is the Dog Playgroup Managed?
Will the group mix dogs of various sizes? Is the event on- or off-leash? How many dogs will attend? Costa limits off-leash events to a manageable 12 to 15 dogs and keeps activities to just a few hours.
Consider Your Focus for Dog Playgroup
Whether you’re joining a group or starting one, the activities should suit you and your dog. If you and your dog are couch potatoes, then an energetic dog/owner hiking club isn’t for you.
Think About Supporting a Dog Charity
Often, canine-focused social groups enjoy supporting dog-related causes. Kate Singleton, who founded the San Francisco Chihuahua Meetup in 2007, and her fellow Chihuahua owners use their meetup to address the problem of homeless dogs. “We have had lots of dogs adopted via the meetup, and many of the members, including me, have started fostering,” she says. “We often will have raffles to raise dollars for rescue groups or to help our group with Meetup.com fees.”
Manage the Dog Playgroup Consistently
“Our group works because the people like the consistency,” says Singleton.
Most important of all, you and your dog should enjoy the experience. “The exercise and socialization in a safe and pleasant atmosphere is the key,” says Zakrajsek.
Article written by Author: Kim Boatman, and The Dog Daily Expert