As much as you or I need socialization to relax and have fun, so do our dogs. They are naturally pack animals and rely on interaction for entertainment and development.
But although humans can just grab a cup of coffee with some friends to fulfill our socializing needs, dog-friendly cafés are too few and far between to help satisfy our pets socializing needs.
The solution? Join or create a community dog group.
Advantages to Joining
Aside from the benefit of getting to take your dog with you when you go out on the town, community dog groups provide members with:
- Pet advice
- Recommendations for professional services (veterinary care, grooming, etc.)
A network of like-minded individuals and their canine companions provide both you and your pet with “an outlet for relaxation, shared fun and a source of information and support,” says Kim Boatman, managing editor of Exceptional Canine.
The Doberman Gang of New York City (DGNYC) is one example of a community dog group that rocks.
Founded by Christine MacNeill in 2013 as an exercise group for her Doberman, Lucy, DGNYC started with only a few members. Within 2 years, DGNYC’s membership numbers skyrocketed and exceeded MacNeill’s expectations, with 99 active members and more than 2,800 followers online.
With so many involved members in DGNYC, help and support is always available for the group’s members:
- Connections to health and behavior specialists
- Breed knowledge
- Tips for raising great Dobermans in an urban environment
Through the group, Lucy has bonded with other dogs and meets with them regularly all over the city and beyond. The Dobermans’ human counterparts mingle as well, creating friendships through a shared love of the breed.
“The DGNYC is more a family than a group,” member Dennis Santiago Ramos tells me. “It’s where I can go for advice for my dobie, or just share my experiences.”
Scott Sam, another member of this group, agrees: “We are a support system, a friend network, lovers of the craziest dogs. And that sounds like a family to me.”
Create Your Own Group
Before you start a community dog group, make sure there isn’t already one floating around your area:
- Check social media sites for active local pet groups.
- Glance through the social ads in the paper or on Craigslist.
- Look at bulletin boards in pet stores or veterinary offices.
Has no one already got the ball rolling on a local pet group? Go ahead and take the wheel.
Social Media Avenues
When she started DGNYC, MacNeill posted meetings on Meetup. It’s one of many virtual options available to generate interest and gather members for your group.
It may seem old-fashioned, but don’t skip out on conventional means to get the word out: fliers, leaflets or newspaper ads.
Don’t be discouraged if your group doesn’t blow up like DGNYC did. Even if you manage 10 to 15 members, that’s a strong foundation and a great reason for you and your dog to get out and socialize regularly.
“[There are] thousands and thousands of pet Meetups a month in small towns, big towns, medium towns,” says Meetup.com CEO and co-founder Scott Heiferman, quoted in the book One Nation Under Dog. “I’ve poked my head into some of these Meetups,” he says, adding that “the dog is sort of the excuse. They come for the dog but stay for the company.”
Your dog group doesn’t have to function only within the confines of its own membership. Get your group locally recognized and loved by supporting the community through events and promotions.
DGNYC rents space for community events, participates in parades and even had a fundraising event last month to support Doberman Rescue Unlimited. The group also uses its extensive network to help transport and rehome adoptable dogs across the country.
Your group can make an impression on your community by:
- Organizing fundraisers under the group’s name
- Holding advertised monthly meetings
- Creating informational booths at local fairs and markets
The more attention your group receives through this community outreach, the better your chances are of increasing its membership. And, of course, larger groups can make an even bigger impact when raising money and helping communities.
Starting Small Is OK
DGNYC is just one of countless active pet groups around the country. It specifically targets Doberman families, but other dog groups out there embrace all different breeds. Groups for cat or bird people are available as well.
What do all of these groups have in common? Big or small, they help their members, and in doing so, they help the animals. When your pet group gets big enough, it will be able to help even more than its members.