Those of us with DINOS definitely want our space, but that doesn’t mean we never want our dogs to enjoy the company of other dogs. We simply want or need more structured socialization opportunities where we can count on other dog owners to respect our space.
This is especially true for reactive dogs who are learning to stay calm around other dogs.
If you’ve ever been in a reactive dog training class, you know that one of the best ways to increase your dog’s skills around other dogs is to practice, practice, practice. But that can be really hard to do once class is over and you no longer have a set time and place to meet up with other responsible families who are working on their dog’s leash skills.
That’s where dog walking social groups can really come in handy.
If you have a reactive dog and you’ve laid down the foundation for your leash work in a group class, a great way to continue working on your skills and exposing your dogs to other canine pals, is to join a dog walking group.
These groups are a terrific opportunity for any dog, reactive or not, to socialize with canine pals. Contrary to popular beliefs, off leash play isn’t the only game in town when it comes to socialization. Side by side walks on leash and training classes are social activities for your dog too!
So whether you have a dog that is a social butterfly, but prefers calmer, on-leash socializing (like a senior dog) or a dog who needs exercise in a more controlled environment than a dog park (like a dog recovering from an injury), groups walks might be the perfect fit for you.
Before joining a group, you need to do two things:
Know your dog and their limitations. These groups aren’t every dog’s cup of kibble.
Know the rules of the club. Every group is different.
Many of dog walking groups listed here follow the rule that dogs do NOT interact during the hikes or walks and openly encourage DINOS to attend their events. But please check first. Some groups allow more interactions between dogs and might not be the right fit for your pup. You’ll also need to know if your dog is up for the challenge of being around a potentially large group of dogs. You may need to start small and work up to joining this type of social outing.
If you’re looking for a dog walking group to join, take a peek at the listed below.
Note that many of the groups listed are pit bull groups, but don’t let that stop you from signing up! The overwhelming majority of them welcome all dog breeds to join in the fun and benefit from the structured group walk dynamic. Founded as way to socialize and exercise their pooches, these groups serve the dual purpose of educating the public about these misunderstood dogs. Pit bull peeps rock my world. Just sayin.
Chicago Sociabulls Chicago, IL
Contented Canine Palm City, FL (boarding facility that also organizes group walks – check for upcoming events)
Country Haven Kennels Mount Holly, NJ (boarding facility that also organizes group walks 2x per week)
Dog Walk Corpus Christi Corpus Christi, TX
Edmonton Dog Enthusiasts Edmonton, AB Canada
Lead the Ways Canine Community Bensalem PA
Lucas County Pit Crew Toledo, OH (rescue with monthly walks – see calendar)
Pack Walk with Willow and Friends Central Gulf Coast area, FL
Pit Crew Dog Walkers San Diego, CA
Philadelphia, Walk That Dog Philly PA
Portland Pit Bull Parade Portland, OR
Postitive Pittie Pack Hoboken, NJ
San Antonio Nature Hounds San Antonio,TX
SCRRAP Sonoma County, CA (check Facebook for upcoming Bully Walks)
SociaBull Monterey, CA area
StubbyDog Trekkers Saratoga, CA
Sussex County Dog Walking Group Branchville NJ
Pack Walk Zurich in Switzerland (dogs are off leash – not recommended for DINOS)
Social Walks der Hundephilosophin in Germany
And if you know of a group not mentioned here, please email me!
StubbyDog Trekkers in California
Want to start a new group?
Take a look at some of the blog posts, listed below, for helpful tips and photos. It’s also worth visiting each one of the groups listed above, because almost all of them detail their rules right on their homepage. Each group is a little different, but you’ll see a lot of overlapping ideas and guidelines to incorporate in your new group.
To sum it up, here are the highlights:
- Dogs don’t interact with each other.
- Flat, standard issue leashes required. No flexis.
- One dog per person.
- Dogs with reactivity, aggression, or in some cases, new dogs, wear red bandanas, so that the group members know to give those dogs extra space.
- There are two people present without dogs. One at the front of the group and the other at the back. They are able to support the dog walking pairs with training, watch out for loose dogs, and provide an extra set of hands (personally, I’ve held a lot of dog leashes while people tie their shoes!).
- The two group leaders use walkie talkies to communicate, if the group is large and spread out (like on a hike).
- The group leaders carry tools such as Direct Stop, for safety.
- In densely populated areas, the number of dogs is limited and must sign up in advance.
- Groups use Meetup.com or Facebook pages as a way for member to communicate with each other about upcoming events.
- And may I suggest handing out some sort of educational cards to people you pass?
More on starting a group – a guest post from Hikeabull
Tips for city groups from Two Pitties in the City
Tools to use: Hikeabull’s walkie talkies and Two Pitties on leashes and collars and StubbyPuddin tips on equipment
If you’re looking for people to join your new group, I highly recommend contacting a trainer to see if they have clients that might benefit from this kind of outing. Even better, join or contact a dog reactivity class and then, after the course is over, have the group continue meeting. They’ll have similar skills, an understanding of each other’s needs, and a motivation to keep on coming, so they can practice. Feel free to post about your new group on the DINOS Facebook page too.
How many of you belong to a group or are planning on starting one? Let me know in the comments and on Facebook!
Happy trails everyone!
SIDE NOTE: I’ve heard from a few of you who would like permission to use “DINOS” in your new dog walking group’s name. I think that’s super cool! You’re welcome to use “DINOS” and/or “Dogs in Need of Space” in your tag line or description section of your group’s website, so the public knows that DINOS are welcome. DINOS is trademarked (which means it cannot be used for commercial purposes), so using it this way, instead of in your group’s name, would allow you to create a group logo or merchandise without any issues. If you have any questions, please contact me directly at: email@example.com for more information. Thanks!