Monday, August 27, 2012

Thoughts on Joining a Dog Walking Group

Lately we have been thinking about the pros and cons to joining a dog walking group.  We know that we want to be a part of a group at some point in the future, but we're just not sure when it would be the right time for Athena.
We've never been a part of a dog walking group before, nor have we seen one in action, so we are a bit apprehensive about bringing Athena to a meeting and having it be a total disaster!  B and I have multiple reasons for why we would like to be a part of a dog walking group.  For one, we want Athena to have the opportunity to socialize with other dogs.  We have also heard that it can be a great way for pooches to build their confidence, especially if they lack confidence in being around other dogs (which Athena definitely does).  The bloggers over at Two Pitties in the City shared a post with us about managing a leash reactive dog in the city-- one of the suggestions happened to be joining a dog walking group as a way to work on leash reactivity!

Leash reactivity is actually one of our concerns for joining a dog walking group at this time.  Athena REALLY wants to meet every dog that she passes.  She has had successful meetings with other dogs where it has been very uneventful.  However, she has also had some dog meetings that made her EXTREMELY excited where she jumps up and whines and wants to play with the other dog so badly.  When we see other dogs while out on a walk, Athena will pull so hard on the leash to get to the dog as quickly as possible.  We don't reward this pulling behavior and so we turn in the opposite direction.
Emily from Our Waldo Bungie helped to found the KC Pittie Pack in Kansas City, MO.  She writes about how "the best way to socialize your dog is to be social with your dog" and discusses how a dog walking group provides dogs and their owners an opportunity to practice their social skills.  B and I don't think that Athena had much socialization in her first year of life before we adopted her.  We are now trying to slowly provide her with positive socialization with other dogs-- but, it's hard to find other dogs and owners that we trust to practice with!  Maybe a dog walking group is a good way to start?

We want to give Athena the opportunity to have successful meetings with other dogs so that we can approach another dog calmly.  I just don't want Athena to be the only dog in a dog walking group that can't handle herself and interrupts all of the good behavior from the other dogs!  Another great blogger from Notes From A Dog Walker wrote a similar post to this one about dog walking social groups and how they can provide great socialization for dogs outside of the dreaded dog park.  I'm starting to think that we need to get in a dog walking social group ASAP!

Whether or not we are ready to join a dog walking group right away, we know that in the future we would like to join the Portland Pit Bull Parade.  This local dog walking group meets once a month in different locations around the city to show off the good nature of bully type breeds.  The next walk is being held on September 9th....so, 14 days from now.

B and I are also interested in attending Strut Your Mutt with the shelter that we adopted Athena from.  This dog walking event is being held on September 29th...24 days from now.  I think that this might be wishful thinking.  This event will most likely be HUGE and way too overstimulating for Athena.  But, it's definitely a goal that we would like to strive to achieve in the coming years!

Some great bully breed walking groups that we have read about include:

Chicago, IL- Chicago Sociabulls
Kansas City, MO- KC Pittie Pack and Friends
NYC, NY- Big Apple Pittie Pack
South Bay area, CA- HikeABull
Cleveland, OH- Pit Bull Zen
Phoenix, AZ- ExploraBull
Seattle, WA- WalkaBulls
Hoboken, NJ- Positive Pittie Pack
Washington DC- Pittie Trails
Toledo, OH- Lucas County Pit Crew

We would love your advice and knowledge about joining a dog walking group!  When did you know that your pooch was ready to join a dog walking group?

-A & B

14 comments:

  1. My favorite thing about being a part of a dog walking group is that you are able to work on your dogs' less-than-stellar behaviors in a safe environment, where you won't be judged by your fellow walkers. Case in point - we walked Polly for the first time with the KC Pittie Pack on Saturday and she did her gremlin growl and flopped around like a fish when we were too far away from the group. While her behavior was embarrassing, the group members were super understanding and gave us lots of space to work on correcting her behavior. By the end of the walk, she was much better behaved. I highly recommend you join a group - it is awesome!

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    1. Emily- Polly did gremlin growls and fish flops?! Oh man! This week we are changing training classes so that we can be in one with other dogs. Once we see Athena's behavior in the group we will decide if we want to join the September Portland Pit Bull Parade. I think that joining a group would be great for Athena! Thanks for your input!

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  2. I've wanted to bring Sadie to the Portland Pit Bull Parade but she shares Athena's issues and I have hesitated only because I'm concerned that once monthly is not often enough to have a lasting impact on her pack walking behavior. But Sadie has also never gone to a training class - I bet that'll get Athena used to working around other dogs without reacting and will have a huge improvement on her reactivity!

    Hurley and I are doing the Strut Your Mutt walk later this month.

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    1. Hmmm...you're right about the once monthly walk. I know that many of the more well known dog walking groups meet more frequently, so I am curious now if a once monthly walk would have an impact. I guess it would be good as part of a whole "socializing plan" including group walks, training, neighborhood walks, etc.

      I will have to think more about the Strut Your Mutt walk. Have you done it before? I haven't, so I'm not sure how busy it gets.

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    2. I believe this is the first year that Strut Your Mutt's been in Portland so I have NO idea what to expect.

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    3. Ohhh, you're right! I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that this is the first year for Strut Your Mutt in Portland. Have fun!!

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  3. Our group has been so successful for so many different types of dogs (a lot of members have shared their stories under the SociaBulls tab on our site). When we get new member applications, everyone thinks that their dog will be awful and ruin the group for everyone. But what usually happens...their dog might bark a bit, but it's no where near what they thought would happen. The fact that it is a safe place, and they are walking in a rhythm makes it a positive experience for all of the pooches. If you do decide to join a group, do doublecheck that they have a 'no greeting' rule. Some people have told us they've been in groups where dogs have been allowed to greet and it wasn't comfortable for them. Good luck!

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    1. We have been reading through all of the stories on your blog from Sociabulls members and so many of the dogs sound just like Athena! I think that we have been swayed tin the direction of testing out the Portland walking group on September 9th. I will check to make sure that they have the 'no greeting' rule though because I can see how that would make for a more pleasant experience for everyone! Thanks for your help!

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