From dog sports and skill classes to puppy play groups and cat shows, New Hampshire has all kinds of clubs and group activities where you can bond with your pet and connect with fellow pet owners in your area.
If your pooch has the “sit” and “stay” routine down pat, you can take it to the next level with a group class on a specialized skill such as agility, tricks or nose work, which some dog trainers and pet centers offer in addition to their standard training services.
One place with unique group classes for dogs is Good Mojo Dog Center in Milford, which just opened a new training center last month called Good Mojo University. The 7,200-square-foot facility features agility obstacles like tunnels, ramps and jumps, as well as Fitpaws dog fitness equipment and a canine treadmill. There are a variety of programs, including rally and agility classes, a Fitness for Fido dog fitness class, a Do More With Your Dog attention and tricks class, Wagit Games, special workshops and more.
“We wanted to offer more things for people to do with their dog that aren’t just in the competitive realm,” Good Mojo owner Deniece Johnson said. “There’s this intimidation factor when you go to a place where everyone’s dog is well-behaved and yours doesn’t have leash manners, so we want this to be a place that’s accepting of everyone and that’s geared more towards relationship building and having fun.”
If you’re looking for an activity without the commitment of a full class series, some pet centers offer drop-in classes and weekly play groups designed just for puppies or just for small dogs.
The play groups allow people to socialize their dogs with other dogs and people in a nonthreatening environment, and they provide an opportunity to connect with other dog owners who have the same kind of dog. Most drop-ins charge a $10 to $20 fee and are often supervised by a professional dog trainer who keeps things running smoothly and is available to answer people’s questions and offer guidance.
Good Mojo also offers a weekly drop-in night when people can come with their dog and have free use of the equipment, socialize with other dogs and dog owners and talk with trainers.
“Many people don’t even know they enjoy something — they don’t know that they would love agility or that the tricks would be so fun — until they try it on a drop-in night,” Johnson said. “That’s why I encourage people to get out there and try things. There are so many dog sports and different things people can do to interact with their dog.”
In the ring
Another way to engage more with your pet and the pet community is through shows and competitions.
New Hampshire is home to over a dozen American Kennel Club-affiliated dog clubs that organize and facilitate local AKC-sanctioned events. At a conformation show, purebred dogs are judged based on how well they adhere to their breed’s written standard. Companion events test the teamwork and coordination between the dog and the handler through physical challenges like agility and rally trials. Lastly, there are performance events, during which purebred dogs demonstrate certain skills that are unique to their breed.
Dogs aren’t the only pets in the show ring. New Hampshire also has two Cat Fanciers’ Association-affiliated cat clubs that each host an annual cat show.
While a big part of the cat shows revolves around pedigreed cats and how well they conform to their breed’s written standard, there are also opportunities for people with mixed-breed household cats to participate. Instead of being compared to a breed standard, household pets are judged for their unique qualities and appearance as well as their health and how they are groomed.
“It isn’t like if you have a pedigreed cat you’re better than the household cats. It isn’t a tiered thing,” Marilyn Conde, secretary for the Seacoast Cat Club, said. “We’re all just cat lovers. Whether you have a pedigreed Siamese cat or a household pet cat, they each have their own things which distinguish them.”
If you’re looking for something more active to do with you cat, you can take part in the agility portion of the show, where cats are led through weave poles, tunnels, hoops and other obstacles. Most cats can easily be trained to do this with some practice and the help of a lure.
While the focus of the cat clubs is on the shows, the clubs also provide a social network for New Hampshire cat owners to find and connect with each other.
“There are members who aren’t big-time breeders and just do the show for fun,” Conde said, “but what they enjoy most is being able to talk to other people with cats who share their same interests.”