How to Form a Dog Walking Group
Some dogs benefit tremendously from the structured socialization that can come from group dog walks.
However, not all dogs are appropriate for group activities. If you think your dog would thrive in a dog-walking club, here are a few simple steps to arrange one in your area.
Pick a Time and Location
Start by scouting out your town, nearby parks, and hiking trails. Pick a spot that has plenty of space for dogs to spread out or step to the side to let other walkers or hikers pass. Also, obviously, make sure it’s a dog-friendly trail or park. Then, find the right day of the week and time of day; for example, if you’re picking a city walking trail, the day the farmers’ market sets up stalls along the walk isn’t your best bet. Hint: For ease of scheduling if you intend this to be an ongoing event, pick a recurring day and time, like the first Sunday of the month at noon, to avoid scheduling hassles.
Create Ground Rules
Many dog walking clubs have a series of rules that all members must follow. Some may seem obvious to you as a responsible dog owner, but it can’t hurt to spell them out. For instance: All dogs must be on a leash no longer than six feet. All owners must bring their own poop bags and pick up after their dogs. Some may seem less obvious but provide extra precautions: Do not allow dogs to greet face-to-face, and ask the other owner if an introduction is okay prior to any interactions. Dogs who are working on reactivity or who need space should indicate this by tying a yellow ribbon or bandanna around their dog.
Advertise or Invite Members
After you have the time and location determined, and the ground rules set, invite members. You can choose to keep it closed—perhaps send an email to friends whose dogs you already know—or you can post it as an event on Facebook or Craigslist to attract a wider audience. If you attend training classes, ask the facility to post a flyer and invite your classmates to join. Regardless of your invitation method, be sure to post the date, time, and location (making it clear that it’s set, rather than up for discussion) and the pre-determined rules.
Once the big day arrives, enjoy the moment! You and your dog will have a great time in a structured walk environment. Consider bringing non-dog-walkers to step in, if needed, to enforce the rules. You’ll be paying attention to your dog, so it’s helpful to have an extra set of hands and eyes to keep the group together and on track. If you choose to keep the walk as an ongoing thing, aim to keep it simple by keeping the day, time, and location set so that you don’t have to do regular management or scheduling, and be ready to step in to ask non-compliant dog walkers to please follow the rules. Otherwise, enjoy the fun and socialization that comes from walking with a big group of dog lovers!