Breed-Specific Dog Meetups Offer Dogs and Owners Fun and Camaraderie
When Jeffrey Reed of Kansas City, Kan., rescued his Great Dane, Cooper, he knew his new dog needed to socialize with other dogs, preferably some his own size. He wondered where he’d find a group of Dane-size pups to hang out with, but it turns out, it wasn’t too difficult.
Reed was thrilled to learn about the Kansas City Area Great Dane Meetup, a local "Meetup" where more than 150 Great Dane owners get together to share their passion for their pooches' pedigree and let their dogs play with their canine pals.
The Kansas City group is just one of nearly 50,000 Meetups worldwide. Meetup is an online platform that facilitates live events where people with similar interests can, well, meet up in their area. There are groups for nearly every kind of passion, from knitting to hiking to foreign language — and, of course, dogs.
And with more than 700 dog-oriented Meetups in 414 cities and 17 countries, dog owners are certain to find a group near them. Many groups are centered on a specific breed.
After registering at Meetup.com, anyone can create a group or join an existing Meetup. Organizers pay a $12 monthly fee to maintain the group’s page on the Meetup website, where members keep a schedule of events, post photos and participate in discussions.
Social Interaction for Dogs and Humans
While the groups are managed online, there’s nothing virtual about the Meetup events themselves.
Heather Lehrman, who owns the North Shore Gold Coast franchise of In Home Pet Services, started her own Meetup group on Long Island as a way to meet people in her area and give her Boston Terrier, Herbie, more opportunities to socialize with other dogs of a similar size.
Lehrman’s Long Island Smushed Face Dog Meetup Group includes more than 90 Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, and Shih Tzus and their humans. The group gets together at a local park or other venue every four to six weeks.
Lehrman says it’s helpful to have breed-specific Meetups because it’s easier when your group consists of dogs of similar sizes. “We take over the small-dog section of our park!” she says.
Likewise, the Great Dane Meetups work well because all of the participants are the same size. “Since Danes are bigger and playing with a Dane is rougher at times, smaller dogs don’t really ‘get it’ when Danes are just playing,” Reed explains.
Fellow Great Dane Meetup member Shan Leatherman agrees. “It’s great when they can be active and run with dogs their own size. Plus, like any other dogs, they all need exercise — and who better to hang with than other Great Danes!”
Meetups provide a good outlet for humans to interact as well and meet like-minded people in their community. Although, as Reed points out, “Most of the Dane owners know the names of other dogs before they know the names of the other dog owners!”
Not Just Fun and Games
While the social aspect of the Meetups is a big draw for many participants, there are also educational and philanthropic benefits of belonging to the group.
“The nice thing about the Meetup platform and group is that any member can suggest, initiate or start a meeting,” Reed says. “We provide a discussion section where members can post questions, concerns and tips and respond to those questions.”
Lehrman adds that members in her group often talk about and share information relating to issues specific to the smushed face breeds.
Because animal welfare is a concern for many pet owners, some groups also make it a point to give back to the community.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the dogs and their humans from Lehrman’s group converged upon a local Petco to cheer their teams to victory and raise money for local rescues. Nancy Hassel, founder and president of Long Island Pet Professionals, attends Lehrman’s events. “At many of them, the group takes donations, so they are little fundraising events,” she says.
In May, the Smushed Face Dog Meetup will get together for “May Day for Mutts,” where they will collect supplies and money for area shelters.
No matter what their reason for joining, participants say it's always a good time. “It’s fun to watch your own dog having a blast with other dogs,” Leatherman says. “There’s a certain amount of joy inside that says, ‘We had a good day!’”