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25 HUMAN MISTAKES IN DOG PARK Dog parks are supposed to be fun, but often they're not. Here's what dog owners can do to fix that problem. They are a play heaven for our furry friends, right? Well, not really. Dog parks are one of those places that seem like a brilliant idea and would be, if we all knew how to behave. But we don't. As many a trainer has told me, you can potentially ruin your dog by taking her to dog parks. A single situation gone wrong can escalate into an attack or fight, which can cause life-long reactivity or fear aggression in your dog. I have even talked to people whose dogs have had serious injuries, because what seemed like play escalated into an attack: something that probably could have been avoided if everyone involved had been reading the body language of the dog and paying attention to some simple rules of behavior. The bummer reality is that dog parks are not the playground most people think they are. But they can be. Here are the most common things people do wrong - so you can avoid these mistakes, and five ways you can make dog parks a safe and fun environment for all involved.
1. Not picking up after a dog. Let's start with something simple like sanitation. First, it's simply good manners to scoop up after your dog does her business. It's gross to walk into a park that has poo everywhere and worse, it's really bad for your dog. There are a lot of diseases and parasites living in dog waste that other dogs can contract when they touch, roll in, or eat it. Unpleasant on all counts. So let's avoid the spread of disease and follow this simple rule of etiquette. You also earn bonus points for bringing extra poop bags for other owners.
2. Not exercising a dog before taking her into a park. This might sound counterintuitive - We go to dog parks to exercise our dogs, right? Wrong. Dog parks are a supplement to a dog's daily activity, not the soul source of exercise or socialization. A dog that has been inside or alone for hours has pent-up energy, and bringing her into an extremely stimulating environment such as a park with other dogs is like holding a match really close to a stick of dynamite and hoping the fuse doesn't catch fire. Your dog might mean well but be overly exuberant with a dog that doesn't appreciate it, result - in a fight! Or, your dog might mean well but be so excited about running around that other dogs start to chase her and she suddenly turns into the prey object for other dogs, resulting in a fight. Well-behaved dogs are exercised dogs. So get those zoomies out of your dog before you bring her into a park situation.
3. Bringing dogs with rude greeting skills. We've all experienced it: meeting a person who stands way too close when we don't even know them. Meeting someone who is really loud and tells obnoxious jokes within the first 30 seconds of an introduction. Meeting someone who shakes your hand for too long until it's kind of creepy and awkward. We glare at them, chalk them up to being rude, and count the seconds until we can escape.
It's like this for dogs too. Introductions are important and make a difference in how dogs will get along. Allowing your dog to go charging up to a dog that has just entered the park is rude. The new dog is possibly on edge, examining its environment and level of safety, so your dog running full speed to that new dog could be asking for an instant fight. Allowing your dog to mount another dog in a dominance display is also rude. Allowing your dog to continue sniffing another dog that is clearly uncomfortable with being sniffed is, again, rude. It's up to us humans to help dogs make polite introductions to each other. Knowing what's polite in the dog world and what isn't, and knowing how to help your dog be a polite pooch is essential to having positive experiences at a dog park.
4. Leaving prong collars and harnesses on dogs while playing. Though it may seem logical to leave a prong collar, choke chain, gentle leader or harness on a dog. After all, that's where you attach the leash, right? It's a bad idea. The neck and shoulders are where most dogs aim their nips and nibbles during play. Having metal contraptions where another dog is roughly shoving its mouth is inviting broken teeth, broken jaws, broken paws and legs, and potentially a huge dog fight if another panicked dog can't detach itself from your dog's neck. Never leave on special training devices while in dog parks. A simple nylon or leather collar that can be quickly removed is safe.
5. Keeping dogs on leashes inside an off-leash area. Dogs on any sort of leash in an off-leash dog park is a bad idea. New owners often feel more secure keeping their dog on a leash, thinking that it'll be easier to control a dog whose quirks and reactions they haven't quite learned yet. However, a dog on leash is essentially a tripping hazard, especially if the leashed dog begins to play. A firm tug on a wrapped up lead could mean, if not a broken leg, a panicked dog whose first experience of a dog park is one of fear and anxiety. In addition, dogs on leash can feel more insecure because they know they can't escape if they need to, so they can actually trigger fights that might not otherwise have happened. Second, people who use retractable leashes in dog parks are really asking for it. If extended, other dogs running loose can run straight into that thin cord and get injured. Or the dog attached might decide to take off after another dog, thinking she has all the freedom in the world, until she hits the end of the cord and is snapped back by the neck. Retractable leads are a terrible idea in the first place, but in a dog park they're downright dangerous.
6. Bringing a female in heat or pregnant female. I don't think I need to go into detail on this one. It happens, even though it never, ever should. If you want to see all hell break loose among a group of dogs, then watch when a dog in heat is brought into the mix.
7. Bringing puppies less than 12 weeks old or dogs with incomplete vaccinations. There are so many diseases and parasites in a dog park to begin with, it just makes you shudder. Older puppies and adult dogs who have been immunized can mostly handle the grossness, and will maybe only pick up Giardia or worms which, as an adult with a strong immune system, they can easily survive with treatment. However for puppies that haven't completed their vaccinations, not only are they liable to pick up anything from parvo to distemper, they could pick up something like Giardia or worms that their tiny bodies have a hard time handling. Puppies under 12 weeks or that haven't been fully immunized against common diseases need to be kept well away from dog parks.
8. Small dogs in same play area as large dogs. Some dog parks don't have separate play areas, and if that's the case where you are, be careful about bringing your small dog to such a park. Small dogs can often be viewed as prey by large dogs. It is not unreasonable for a Rottweiler to look at a Yorkshire terrier like it's a squirrel. The squeaking barks and speedy movements of a panicked small dog can also be enough to switch on the prey drive in a large dog and disaster happens.
I've watched it happen on multiple occasions, it never ends well, and it sometimes ends with serious damage done to the small dog, and with the large dog being called vicious for simply being a normal dog that was overly stimulated. If you bring a small dog to a park where large dogs are playing, it's on you if something happens to that tiny pooch. Is it worth the risk? Probably not.
9. Picking up and carrying a small dog. This brings us to another common mistake owners of small dogs make. It is extremely understandable to want to pick up your small dog if a situation starts to escalate. It's so innate in us, it's nearly impossible to fight that instinct. We pick stuff up to protect it. But from a dog's point of view, when things go upwards quickly it's because that thing is fleeing, which means "chase!" The act of small dogs being lifted up triggers a treeing instinct in many dogs, moving them right into prey drive and exciting them into jumping on you to get at the small dog. In a dog park, where all dogs are extra stimulated and excited, picking up a small, panicked dog could be enough to get you knocked over or possibly even bitten.
10. Bringing in a dog that lacks recall skills. Recall is about more than having your dog come when called. It's also about having a dog that is constantly attuned to you and ready to obey no matter what, even in the midst of a game of chase. Recall is about being able to disengage your dog from an activity that is escalating and having her return to you until tempers calm down. Recall skills are important not just for your dog's safety, but for the safety of every dog she is interacting with. No recall skills, no dog park.
11. Allowing dogs to bully other dogs. You might think it's cute when your dog is bouncing all over another dog, but it's not. Learn when play gestures are cute and engaging, and socially appropriate to dogs and when they're just flat out obnoxious and rude. A play bow from a little distance away is cute. A "tag and run" request for play is cute. But constantly nipping at another dog's neck and pouncing him to try to get a game of wrestle going is obnoxious. Especially when the dog on the receiving end isn't comfortable with it. If your dog is getting too rough or rude with a dog that is not liking it, it's time to call your dog over and have her leave that dog alone. If you don't, you are asking for a fight between the dogs, or getting yelled at by the owner of the poor dog being bullied.
12. Letting the dogs to work it out. Yeah, that just doesn't work. So many people at dog parks think that if they leave the dogs alone, they will get through whatever social drama is happening. Dogs can be good at working things out, but dogs meeting for the first time in a stimulating environment are not on the best path to being able to work out differences. If a dog is being picked on, or there are signs of dislike between two dogs, it's up to the humans to intervene and keep everyone mellow and happy.
A perfect example of this is when a dog tries to mount another dog in a dominance display and it is passed off as "they're figuring out the chain of command." Nope, that dog is just being plain old rude by both human and dog standards. If your dog needs to mount other dogs to figure out where he sits on the totem pole, then dog parks are not the best place for your dog and some training is in order. If there's another dog at the park doing this to your dog, separate the dogs and leave the park. Being around a dog like that is not worth the potential trouble. Being around owners who think dogs should be left alone to "work it out" is also not worth it.
13. Bringing dogs that have resource-guarding problems. Dogs who don't like to share toys, or who like to steal toys and hoard them, are not going to have fun in a dog park. Not only that, but that kind of dog is also a potential danger to other dogs that want to play with toys and don't take her cues to back off. This goes beyond toys, too. Dog treats are common in dog parks and a resource guarding dog who picks up the scent will guard that food resource against other dogs with varying levels of aggressiveness,even if the treats are still in the human's pocket! Some dogs take resource guarding to a new level by guarding the dog they're playing with, or even their own human. If your dog has any issues with resource guarding, the dog park is not a safe place to play.
14. Chatting with other humans rather than supervising the dogs. A person's number one priority at a dog park is a dog, not conversation with other humans. Think of it like taking children to a playground, putting them on the jungle gym with other kids, and then turning your back on them to chat with other parents. That's frowned upon, right? You have no idea if arguing is breaking out, if someone is throwing sand, or if a kid is about to take a 10-foot plunge from the monkey bars. Same with dogs. Too many people feel they can let loose their dog in a fenced park and then just have a nice chat with other dog owners. But if you're busy chatting, you're not watching. Dog parks are for dogs; coffee shops are for chit chat.
15. Spending more time looking at a smartphone screen than at the dogs. In the same way that chatting with other humans should not take priority over supervising dogs, a smartphone should not become a distraction either. Sadly, I've seen people enter the dog park and stare at their phones the whole time while their dog is wreaking havoc in the park or, even more sad, the dog just stands there staring at the cellphone absorbed human, wondering if they're ever going to play. Dogs know when you're mentally disengaged and they can often take advantage of that, breaking rules because they know they can. Don't make other dog owners have to manage your dog for you because you're texting or tweeting or posting a picture of your cute dog to Instagram. Think of it like texting and driving: it can wait.
16. Not supervising kids. First, seriously think about if you really ought to bring kids. For so many reasons, it's a bad idea. Squeals and quick movements of kids can switch on a dog's prey drive. Kids can grab strange dogs' ears, tails or pet them in ways the dog doesn't like, which readily invites a bite. Unless your small child is well-versed in how to act around dogs, including leaving them alone, standing still around running dogs, and dropping to the ground and covering their necks if a dog attacks, then they don't belong in a dog park.
Second, if you do bring kids with you, they need to be supervised as closely as the dogs. Running, throwing things and touching strange dogs should be minimized. It only takes one overly excited dog to make things unpleasant really quick. That said, with enough supervision and in the right atmosphere, dog parks can be a great learning opportunity for children to be taught dog body language and appropriate behavior around animals.
17. Putting strollers, lawn chairs, and other items in the middle of the fields. Dogs don't watch where they're going a lot of the time. Consider a dog in a game of chase, running full blast while looking behind to see where her chaser is, only to careen into a stroller, lawn chair, backpack or whatever. Major ouch. It's scary and painful for the dog, and probably damaging to the property. Oh, and it will probably also get peed on in about 10 seconds. The only thing that should be set out in a dog park is the dog.
18. Bringing in human food. If you want to go to a dog park and see a bunch of dogs sitting and standing around staring at a human, by all means, bring human food. Or, if you want your lunch stolen by a slobbery thief, bring it to a dog park. Besides being a total distraction for the dogs and also a rather unsanitary place to eat, human food can also be bad for a dog that does manage to steal it or pick up the crumbs. From onions to chocolate to grapes, what you bring to the dog park could be toxic to the pooch that hoovers it up.
19. Feeding someone else's dog. Big, big NO-NO! The dog owners who bring a baggie of biscuits to share certainly mean well, but feeding someone else's dog without permission is rude behavior. I've come across dogs that have allergies to certain ingredients, are on an elimination diet for medical reasons, are simply on a diet because they're tubby, are bad beggars whose owners don't want the behavior encouraged, are on certain medications so have very specific diets. Owners of these dogs really don't want others feeding their dog something strange that could throw their system out of whack. Though you truly are a sweetheart, don't feed another person's dog without asking permission. Just as you wouldn't give food to a strange child in a playground, don't give food to a strange dog at a dog park.
20. Bringing dog-aggressive dogs to the dog park to socialize them. Dog parks are often viewed as a place where dogs socialize. It makes sense, right? It's like a big old doggie cafe!
Well, only within reason. For dogs who are already practiced at socialization, yes, a dog park is a place to meet and greet. But for dogs that need socialization, the dog park is not the place to do it. Especially with dog-aggressive dogs. For dogs that have issues with other dogs, they need a calm, quiet, and controlled atmosphere to meet and learn proper interactions with other dogs. This is not the atmosphere at dog parks, where everyone is running, playing, overly stimulated and on edge. In fact, an owner can make her dog's aggression far worse by putting the animal in the middle of such an environment. Not a good mix for that dog, nor for every other dog forced to interact with her.
21. Bringing fearful dogs to the dog park to socialize them. Again, like dog-aggressive dogs, fearful dogs need calm, quiet, controlled environments with low stimulation levels to learn how to get over their fears. Fearful dogs could be afraid of too much noise, other dogs, sudden movements, other humans, trash cans or any number of things. If you have a dog that tends to be easily scared or nervous, a dog park is a nightmare. Think of it like this: if you were really afraid of spiders, what if someone dumped a bucket of spiders on your head and said, "See! It doesn't hurt!" It may not hurt, but it would completely freak you out! Same thing with bringing a dog that is scared or insecure to a place with too many new stimuli. It could lead them to become even more afraid, or worse, start lashing out to protect themselves from what scares them so much. To socialize a fearful dog, work with a trainer or take small-group classes. But avoid the dog park until your dog has gotten over her fears.
22. Giving out training advice. Everyone is an expert, right? Well, not so much. But people at dog parks can sometimes think that because they have a dog, they are an expert. Again, they totally mean well and their heart is in the right place, even if their opinions are wrong. But let's face it, it's a bit obnoxious and could be potentially dangerous. Think of dog training like tattooing. Sure, anyone can do it, but the results, which are usually permanent, will depend on education and experience. With dog training, the technique and approach can make all the difference in how a dog responds and whether or not they improve or get worse or, as can sometimes happen with bad training advice, get worse and have other problems pop up as a result. So, unless you are a professional trainer, it's a good idea to not hand out advice at the dog park. On the flip side, take any training advice you're given with a grain of salt and verify it with a professional trainer before trying it out.
23. Letting a dog walker take your dog to a dog park without spying on them to make sure they know what they're doing. Yes, you should totally spy on your dog walker in this instance. I've received this sage advice from both trainers and responsible dog walkers. Not every dog walker knows what they're doing. Despite a lack of training or experience, some dog walkers feel it's a good idea to collect their pack of dogs from various homes and head to the park.
They may or may not know the behavior quirks of each dog. They may or may not know the obedience level of each dog. And without a doubt, their ability to control each dog is limited. If your dog walker is taking your dog to a dog park, spy on them. Seriously. On the flip side, if a dog walker shows up with a group of dogs at the park where your dog is playing, it would be a wise idea to leave immediately.
24. Blaming the breed for bad behavior. This is something that goes well beyond dog parks, since many of us are guilty of blaming the breed rather than the individual dog for certain behaviors. We humans are amazingly good at stereotyping, and then taking those stereotypes at face value. This is to our detriment, even when it comes to dogs at dog parks. Just because your dog has certain breed characteristics, doesn't mean those characteristics can justify bad behavior. Let's look at some examples. Herding dogs herding other dogs: rude. Bulldog breeds playing really rough or not picking up the other dog's cue to stop: rude. Chihuahuas and terriers acting like a little general, barking at and chasing off any dog that comes near: so totally rude. Never say, "Oh it's because he's a _____ that he does that."
Nope!! That's exactly like discrimination of people by the race. It's because your dog is how he is, and you need to train him to act appropriately and with courtesy to other dogs. It might be in their breeding to act a certain way but that's no excuse to allow that to surface to the point that it causes problems for other dogs. It may be something you have to work with them on for their entire life, but if you're going to a dog park, polite behavior regardless of breed is a must.
25. Forcing your dog to play. I've watched dogs who have no interest in playing, and are trying so hard to tell their owner that they just want to sit there or leave, be repeatedly encouraged to go play. I've even seen an owner literally pick up and toss her dog into the mix, trying to get it to play with other dogs. Your dog loves you, and you love her. And in a loving relationship, you listen to and respect with the partner has to say. If your dog is telling you she doesn't want to play, by continually going to the gate, sitting or standing by you just to watch the action but not participate, ignoring or warning off other dogs who try to initiate play, then listen to your pooch and leave. Forcing your dog to engage erodes the trust in your relationship, and turns the dog park into a place of dread rather than an interesting environment. This can spark behavior problems not only at the dog park but possibly in other areas as the trust and cooperation breaks down.
5 ways to make your experience at dog parks so much more enjoyable.
Do dog parks sound like a total nightmare yet? Well they sure have that potential. But they don't have to be. In fact, you can be part of making a dog park a safe and fun place to be. Here's how:
Think about why you're going there in the first place: Really take a look at why you're going to the dog park. If it is to exercise or socialize your dog, then don't go. Dog parks should be a supplement to a dog's daily activity and socialization, not the primary source of it. Making a dog park the primary source is, as we've seen above, inviting trouble. I totally get it — some days we just feel lazy and we'd rather take our dog somewhere they can run and play with minimal effort on our part. I've been there. But dog parks aren't the solution because they actually require quite a bit of focus, effort and input from us to keep things safe. Likewise, look at how you're feeling about the dog park. If you're only going to do your own socializing, don't go. I can't stress this enough: your dog needs your attention and supervision while in a park. If you're going to compromise that, then think of another activity for you two to do together.
Exercise your dog's brain and body before arriving: This may seem counterintuitive, since so many of us think a dog park is where dogs should exercise. But I promise, this simple step will dramatically reduce the potential for problems. Before you head to a dog park, run your dog and get out all that pent-up zoomy energy that can be the source of so much doggy drama. Don't take a wired-up dog into a stimulating environment like a dog park. That's the physical exercise part, but you also need to mentally exercise your dog before you walk through that gate. Practice recall, lying down on command, leave it, drop it, stay, and other essential commands. Reward your dog with awesome treats to get them happy about listening to you. Your dog needs to respond to these commands in an instant, no matter what else is going on around her, in order to make sure you both stay safe in a dog park. Knowing that she'll get high value treats when she responds will help in getting her to pay attention to you more than the excitement around her. So exercise your dog's brain and body before entering a park.
Leave at the first sign of trouble: Okay, you've done everything right so far. You're at the dog park for the right reasons, you've exercised your dog to get the zoomies out, she's paying attention to you when you call to her, things are looking great. But in comes someone who hasn't done things right with their dog. It doesn't matter if you just got there, or if you have to stop mid-throw during fetch. The second you see an overly excited dog coming in, or your dog is starting to get tense, or someone's dog isn't listening their owner or worse, not listening to other dogs' social cues, just go. Get out of the situation before it becomes a situation. It's better to be safe to go to the vet's office.
Learn your dog's personality when it comes to group situations: What is your dog like in social situations? (And be honest. You are among friends here.) Are there personality types she clashes with? Does she tend to be an instigator, a moderator or the target? Is she fearful around certain types of dogs or in certain situations? Does she pay attention to social cues from other dogs even when she's excited? Does she tend to panic, or freeze, or lash out when things get tense? Know your dog's every quirk and know how to recognize both the signs that your dog is building up to a certain reaction as well as the triggers that cause it. Then know how to stop that reaction before your dog even gets there. It may end up that once you take a serious look at how your dog is in social situations, you'll discover that the dog park is not the place for her at all. And that's okay! Your dog is wonderful even if social play with strangers isn't a good activity for her.
Study up on dog body language: This is the most important thing you can do for your dog. Hands down. Learn what it looks like when dogs are being dominant, nervous, unsure, overly excited. Study what the height of a tail and frequency of wag is signaling - indeed, tails are as important to dog communication as tongues and lips are to human communication) and how dogs' eyes convey messages, from relaxed to stimulated to angry. What does it look like when a dog is asking to play versus being a bully. Learn the signs for when excitement switches to aggression. Learn what your dog is telling you and other dogs by the slightest twitch of the ear, pause of the body, or dilation of the pupils. Yes, dilation of the pupil. Seriously, that tells you a lot. Learn what proper and rude dog behavior is according to dogs, so you can determine which dogs in the park may become a problem, or if your dog is actually the problem. When you've studied dog body language, you'll be able to look at a dog park in a whole new light and in an instant, assess the mood of the group of dogs present and thus the safety level. You'll be able to see and stop problems before they escalate. And most importantly, your bond with your dog will grow and strengthen as you better understand what she's telling you in her own canine way.
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If you decide to visit a dog park, it is important to be able to read the body language of your dog and the other dogs present. The ideal body language is playful, but dogs will exhibit a variety of behaviors as they contact new dogs and spend more time at the park. Overall you are looking for balanced play between dogsm, sometimes one is on top and next time he's on the bottom. Sometimes he's the chaser, and next he will be the chased.
It's always wise to leave the park if your pet shows signs of tiredness, stress or fear or if there are dogs present who seem threatening.
Playful actions to watch for: Back and forth play - dogs change position - role reversals Bouncy, exaggerated gestures Wiggly bodies Open relaxed mouth Play bows Twisted leaps or jumps Pawing the air
Signs of Anxiety/Stress to Monitor: Fast wagging low tail Whining or whimpering Ears may be back Hiding behind objects or people
Signs of Fear: Dog will try to look small Tail tucked Hunched over, head down Tense May urinate submissively
Red Flags that Require Intervention: Excessive mounting Pinning (holding another dog down and standing stiffly over them) Shadowing another dog (following) incessantly Bullying: repeatedly bothering another dog that does not want to interact Fast non-stop running with a group - high arousal situation Full-speed body slams Putting head repeatedly onto another dog's neck or back Staring with a fixed gaze directly at another dog Snarling or raised lips Showing teeth Hackles up at the shoulders
Signs of Potential Illness While not necessarily related to behavior, you will want to remove your dog from a park where dogs are showing the following symptoms:
Coughing or gagging Vomiting Sneezing Diarrhea
In theory, dog parks are a wonderful way for dogs to socialize with other friendly dogs. It is important that owners who frequent dog parks know the limitations of their pets and act accordingly to keep playgroups interacting in a safe and responsible manner.
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Hot Weather:Unless plenty of shade and water are available, dog parks can be brutal for active canines in hot weather. "Symptoms of heatstroke include restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, dark tongue, vomiting, and lack of coordination." Dehydration, canine sunburn, and overheating can result in serious health problems. On stiflingly hot days dogs must have easy access to water and should not be permitted to run and play for too long. It is best to take pets to the dog park early in the morning before temperatures rise.
Cold Weather: Except for puppies and old dogs, and hairless or short-haired dogs, most dogs don't notice the cold in winter. They may take up to a month to acclimate to cold weather, however, and it is advisable to keep them inside if the temperatures dip too far below freezing. Water might not be readily available at dog parks in winter, so owners should make sure that fresh unfrozen water is available. Barker Field in Richmond, Virginia notifies owners that the water tap is turned off during the cold months. After exercising their dogs in cold weather, owners should check tender paws and provide their dogs with warmth as soon as play time is over.
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BEFORE YOU GO TO THE PARK This information is proudly presented by WWW.ASPCA.COM
Go Alone and Observe. It's important to visit the dog park a few times without your dog, just to check it out in advance.
Note the park features. Are you comfortable with them? Do they meet your needs? Also read any posted rules and make sure you agree with them. Can you bring treats and toys with you? Does your dog need a special license? Do you need to pay a fee to use the dog park?
Go to the park at different times, on different days. Note the best days and times of day to visit. If the park's always packed on weekend mornings or weekdays after work, for example, you can take your dog at off-peak hours instead.
Observe the park goers. Are people actively supervising their dogs or are they letting them run amok while they chat and sip lattees? Does anyone in particular seem to have trouble effectively controlling his or her dog? Are there specific dogs who consistently play too roughly or fight with other dogs? If you identify people or dogs who seem to cause problems, you can avoid visiting the park when they're around.
Think about what you will need to bring. Find some comfortable clothes and shoes to wear. Put together a dog park kit that includes essentials, like a leash, water for you and your dog, bags for cleanup, toys and treats.
Teaching your dog a few key skills helps keep her safe and contributes to a more enjoyable dog park experience for all park users. One essential skill is a reliable recall.
Enough space for normal interaction The area should be big enough for dogs to run around and space themselves out. If there's not enough square footage available, a park can easily get crowded. Crowding can lead to tension among dogs and, as a result, fights can erupt.
Secure fencing and gates Even if your dog reliably comes when called, it's safest to take her to a securely enclosed area to play off leash. Before you let your dog run free at a dog park, make sure that fencing is sturdy and free of holes. It's also best if the park enclosure incorporates double gates or an interior "holding pen" at the entrance, so people and their dogs can enter and exit without accidentally letting other dogs slip out of the park.
Cleanup stations A dog park should have trash cans and bags available for people to clean up after their dogs.
Water and shelter Especially in warmer climates, exercising dogs should have access to both drinking water and shade.
A separate area for small dogs Small dogs need exercise and play time too, but they can sometimes get injured or frightened by larger dogs. Many dog parks designate separate areas for smaller or younger dogs so that they can play safely.
Dog parks can be a wonderful place to allow your dog to play and explore off-leash in a safe environment. Once you have established the few important things below, you will be ready to begin socializing your dog to the environment at the dog park.
Your dog has all the appropriate immunizations. Check with your veterinarian.
Your dog is usually friendly around other animals. If your dog is shy, reactive or has not been around other dogs you should consider a less overwhelming environment like a training class before checking out the dog park.
You are prepared to supervise and interact with your dog at all times while at the park. The dog park is the place to be focused on your dog, not on your cell phone.
Your dog has a good recall - come when called, not just at home, so practice this before heading out anywhere your dog will be off-leash.
The important part is to keep the introductions slow and ensure the dog is enjoying the experience. If the dog begins to show signs of stress, anxiety, fear or reactivity slow down, pull back and return to an earlier point in the introduction. The dog park is not just one thing. It is a new environment filled with new dogs, people, objects, smells, sounds and experiences. The best you can do for your dog is to scope out any dog parks in your area before bringing your dog along. Check the park out at times you are most likely to go.
BEFORE YOU GO TO THE PARK (Tips by Matthew Thompson)
Our furry canine friends are experts at hanging out with us and being awesome. Unfortunately, they are not always as friendly or outgoing around other humans or pets. This can be a real problem if you want your pup to enjoy their time at the dog park.
Get Them Out There Young - The most important step in learning how to socialize a dog is starting early. After all, some children are learning between three and five languages in the first years of their lives. If they can do it, then our canine kids can learn to get along with others early in their development at the very least. In fact, you can start socializing your pup at three weeks of age. The ideal age is between three and twelve weeks. Getting an early start is essential. The old adage might technically be false, but socializing a dog undoubtedly gets more difficult as time goes by.
Change Dog Walks - Change Up Your Dog's Walks So They Get Used To New Things. Most of us need to get a bit more exercise, and even if you were only wondering how to socialize your dog for the park, rest assured you will also become more active. This is because taking your pup out for daily walks is essential for socialization. Dog parks can be a scary place for those who do not get out much. Going on daily walks with your pup will allow them to encounter everything the world has to offer. This could include large buses driving by, other dogs and even the often feared mailman. Keep your canine companion on a short leash, and take them on different routes. Take the time to introduce them to different types of people as well.
Bribe Your Dog - Everyone responds well to positive reinforcement. Sure, it is essentially bribery, but this is not a heist film and no one is getting hurt. And if it works, who really cares? There is the potential for doing more harm than good - if your pup is not enjoying himself while you learn how to socialize a dog. Of course, this is not the easiest thing in the world. The whole point of socialization is introducing your dog to interactions they may otherwise not enjoy. By bringing along their favorite treat, however, you are making every interaction a positive one. Whenever your pup behaves when meeting new people or other dogs, make sure to reward your dog.
The Right Dog Park - Not Just The First One - While scouting out dog parks without your pup won't socialize them, it will help you choose the best spot to get the job done. Check out dog parks at varying times over several days. Are areas separated by size, and is this something your furry friend might need? Is there containment fencing if your confidence in the little fella's training is lacking? You will also want to consider when the park is the busiest. If your pup is new to the environment, it is probably best to visit when there are not many others around. Do not aim for a time when no one is visiting, but fewer dogs will be less overwhelming for your friend.
Organize Smaller Dog Playdates For Practice - Your doggy dates should be more geared towards how to socialize your dog rather than finding their significant other. Make sure you set up a playdate with a well-behaved pup. This will ensure the best chance of your dog not being overwhelmed while learning to be around other pets. While doggy dates won't simulate the full experience of visiting a dog park, they will certainly get the ball rolling in the right direction. Once your pup does well in this situation, it would not hurt to set up a puppy party. Research published in Veterinary Medicine found that dogs who participated in these social gatherings were less likely to display undesirable behavior throughout their lives.
Start Slow When You Arrive At The Dog Park - All of these steps are essential when learning how to socialize your dog, and following them will likely get your pup prepared for his first outing. All the preparation in the world, however, does not excuse metaphorically throwing them into the deep end. You will want to start slowly by first introducing your pal to one or two other dogs at the park. Start by walking along the perimeter of the area so your dog can become acquainted with the park. They may even meet a few new friends along the fence line. During this time, you should scope out other pets that appear to have a friendly demeanorcalm demeanor. Explain to their owners that you are trying to socialize your dog and see if they'd be willing to let the two spend some time together. This will have your furry friend palling around in no time.
Have Patience And Keep Things Simple - Knowing how to socialize a dog does not come naturally for most people. This means that if you have any concerns that you are doing something wrong, rest assured that almost everyone has been in your shoes. By following these simple tips, though, you can snatch yourself out of that category. While your pup might currently only want to hang around the house with you, he will be dragging you along to the park in no time.
Park Facilities and Management
Does the park have posted safety and conduct rules? Make note of these and whether those using the park are actually following the rules.
Does the park have separate areas for small dogs and larger dogs? While this does not ensure safe dog-dog interactions it is definitely a good start.
Is the park well kept? It is a dog park so there will be some dirt but the grass and other areas should be maintained, the fence should be secure, there should be waste stations and secure trash receptacles.
Does the park have any equipment or obstacles for agility or play? These should be well-maintained, low to the ground and easy to ensure the safety of all the dogs. Dogs not trained for these things can be injured.
Who manages the park? It could be the city, a private group or even volunteers. Check out any resources they have online.
People and Dogs Are the pet parents supervising and interacting with their pets? If they are spending more time chatting with each other and texting they are not going to be able to control their dog if play gets too rambunctious. They should be monitoring their dog at all times.
Do all the dogs rush the gate when a new dog is entering? The pet parents should be encouraging their dogs to stay clear so others can enter safely.
Does the dog play look friendly? Dogs who are playing are loose, wiggly and bouncy.
Once you have found a good dog park, plan a short first trip. You may not even go inside the park the first time. Pick a time when the park is not too busy. Early mornings are usually good. Evenings and after 9 am on the weekends are usually swamped. Start by walking your dog on-leash outside the park and letting him check out all the sights, sounds and smells. If he approaches the fence calmly and looks happy to be there, feed him some treats.
Careful with the treats, as it is safest not to take a bunch of treats into the park or some dogs may mob you or display guarding around the treats. Practice a few behaviors like sit or down. Practice approaching the gate calmly. If it is going well, take your dog in for quick off-leash lap around the inside of the park. Walk around with your dog. Talk to him, play and have fun. The dog park should always be fun for you and more importantly your dog. If at any time your dog seems, uncomfortable in the park or with any of the dogs or people you should leave. Even if it is going well, keep this first visit short, no more than 20 minutes. Next time you can plan to stay a little longer if your dog is enjoying himself.
As your dog interacts with the other dogs at the park pay close attention to the dogs he enjoys playing with and which ones he ignores, or runs away from. Just like we do not like everyone we meet, your dog won't like every dog he meets. Introduce yourself to the pet parents of the dogs your dog likes to engage with and find out when they visit the park. It is a great way to ensure your dog has a good time and make some new friends. The best dog parks have a community of pet parents who are regulars and help watch out for each other's dogs.
Every time you visit the dog park, do a quick check before you go in the gate. Note any dogs, people, objects and sounds that may be new to your dog. Each trip will have a different set of variables and may present a socialization opportunity. Keep each interaction positive for your dog. Be prepared to leave or play away from some dogs if the situation is uncomfortable for your dog. With proper socialization, your dog should become happy to play at the park with other well socialized dogs. That does not mean he will get along with every dog, especially if the other dog does not have the best doggie manners. Not every dog enjoys the dog park and that is OK. There are plenty of other options like agility, tricks, hiking, etc. that you can do with your dog.
How to Fix Poor Greeting Skills Luckily problems with poor greeting can also be fixed early on if your puppy class is structured well. A good puppy class lets the puppies play but has interruptions every few minutes where the owners have their puppies come when called to get a treat reward.
Then the owner keeps the pup focused on them for 5 seconds to a minute by playing focus games such as repeat sits or targeting so that the pup doesn't just get the treat for coming and then blow the owner off. Once the puppy is clearly focused on the owner for at least 5 seconds, the owners can let the pups play again as a reward.
This game teaches puppies that interruptions are good. They come with treats and a pat on the head - for pups that like being petted in this high distraction situation and are followed by more play. Consistent follow-up practice at the park, meaning 5-20 times per session right before play gets too rowdy, before Fido runs up too quickly to a shy dog accidentally instigating a fear-induced fight, and whenever you think Fido's going to rudely jump on people muddying their pants, and you'll be able to keep Fido out of all kinds of trouble.
What to Do for Fearful Puppies and Adult Dogs For the slightly fearful youngster or adult Fido, all is not lost. You can teach Fido that good things happen to him when he's around other dogs either by giving him treats continuously when other dogs are near or by having him perform alternate fun games where he focuses on and is rewarded by you when other dogs are near. Some fearful dogs will first have to practice just with calm, friendly dogs in a safe, quiet setting before they even get near a dog park. For others, the dog park is still okay, except when there are bullies, or dogs who keep coming uncomfortably close or too many dogs at play. Choose a time when only a few polite, respectful dogs are sharing the park. Then keep your dog's attention by interacting with him and rewarding with treats when these dogs even come near.
What about the Rest of the Dogs? Even if you think your dog is perfect, other dogs are not. Sometimes it just takes a scuffle between two dogs to cause all the dogs to join in on the excitement. Or it's one person training their dog with food to bring the worst mooching or jumping behavior in your pooch. In general, to help prevent problems be sure to avoid standing in a clump, which causes all the dogs to hang around looking for something better to do and to play in a small area which often leads to too many excited interactions. Instead, walk around the park randomly working on fun interaction games such as come when called for yummy rewards and a chance to go back and play or run after you and suddenly sit when you stop in order to earn a chance to fetch a toy. By moving around and engaging your pooch, your dog's learning that the park is a great place to bond and focus on you rather than a place to just blow you off and play with his more interesting friends.
When you notice potential problem dogs and situations move off to the side or walk faster to keep your dog's attention and move further away. If everyone takes all the precautions you'll keep your Fido from becoming overly aroused and rude. You'll also help keep him from being the object of exuberant but pushy pups. As a result, you'll see peaceful play and your friends will think you have a perfect playground pooch.
ENTER DOG PARK SAFELY This information is proudly presented by WWW.ASPCA.COM
Keep the following recommendations in mind to minimize your risks and maximize your fun:
Before you enter the park, check out the crowd for a few minutes. Do the dogs seem to be romping happily? If so, let the fun begin! If, on the other hand, you notice canine troublemakers bullying or fighting with other dogs, or if you simply feel uneasy about letting your dog play with a particular group of dogs - plan to come back at a later time.
When a new dog arrives at a dog park, the other dogs often rush over to investigate. This sudden flood of attention can overwhelm newcomers. To avoid a canine mob scene, linger outside the park for a few minutes and let other dogs notice your dog's presence outside the park's enclosure. When their excitement about her arrival dissipates, you can enter the park together. After your dog has played a while and become part of the group inside the park, don't let her become a mob member. Instead, call her to you when you notice newcomers arriving.
Keep your attention on your dog and her playmates so that you are aware of what she's doing at all times. If you see signs that play's not going well, you can step in to stop interaction before things get out of hand. (Please see Interpreting Dog Play and Interaction, below, to learn about these signs.) Avoid canine clumping. When a pair or group of dogs plays nonstop for more than a few minutes, playmates can get overexcited and tension can arise. Instead of standing in one spot during your entire visit, move to a new area of the park every few minutes. Encourage your dog to follow you when you walk to a new spot. Praise and reward her for keeping track of where you are and for coming when you call.
If at any point you think your dog might not be having fun, take her home. If she's interacting with another dog, don't hesitate to ask that dog's pet parent to help you end the play session. It's better to call it quits early so your dog still has a good experience overall. You don't want her to decide that she doesn't enjoy playing with other dogs anymore.
In an ideal world, the dog park is a place of joy and relaxation where people and pups come together for some healthy running and romping in the great outdoors. However, all is not always wine and roses at the dog park as not all dogs like eachother and get along. If you have ever witnessed a dog fight at the dog park, you understand how scary and dangerous they can be.
Breaking up a dog fight is serious business and it can go bad in a heart beat. It is important to know your limitations and don't get into the middle of something you can't physically deal with.
A dog fight is one of the most frightening things a dog owner can witness. Learning how to keep a dog fight from happening in the first place is one of the best things you can do for you and your dog. In some cases, human intervention can fuel the fire and it is best to let it fizzle out. If a play session seems to be getting too rough, start by calling your dog in an upbeat, relaxed tone. A well trained dog should respond to you and heed your command. This is probably a good time to take a break. Note: a dog without a reliable recall should not be allowed to play off-leash with other dogs.
To prevent play sessions from escalating to fights, it is essential that your dog have a strong foundation of training and socialization before you allow him to play off-leash with other dogs. You should be able to call your dog away from other dogs and be sure he will listen.
Know that shouting, screaming, hitting and kicking dogs usually ignites their rage towards one another. If two dogs seem to be truly fighting for more than 30-60 seconds and it seems to be getting really serious, it may be time to physically intervene.
First things first: NEVER physically get in the middle of two dogs fighting!!!
If you put your hand or other body part, anywhere near the heads of these dogs you WILL be injured. This includes trying to grab their collars. Don't be foolish enough think a dog will not bite its beloved owner. In the heat of a dog fight, your dog does not see who is intervening. He will bite any and everything in his way. DO NOT underestimate your dog. It's not personal. Remember, if your dog is injured, he will need you to take care of him.
There are a few ways to try and break up a dog fight. No matter what method you use, be sure to remain as calm as possible. Avoid yelling at the dogs and other people.
SEVERAL WAYS TO BREAK UP A DOG FIGHT
1) Circle behind one dog and grab his back feet or legs, and raise them into the air. Without the use of his legs, he won't be able to continue fighting.
Pull the dogs apart and back slowly away, continuing to hold their legs. Move in a backward arc so that the dog can't reach around to bite you. He will be walking on his front legs only, so he won't be able to maneuver with much agility. When you've reached a safe distance, perhaps 20 feet, hold the dog safely until he calms down, which is easiest if you turn him so he can no longer see his opponent.
2) Hose them down. One of the simplest ways to break up the fight is to throw a bucket of water or hose down the dogs. It will break their attack instinct immediately, and each will forget about their aggression toward the other dog. No harm done, and in most cases the dogs will walk away, a little wet but not worse for wear.
3) Startle them with a loud sound. Bang two pieces of metal together near their heads, or use a tiny air horn to startle them. If you don't have any props on hand, clap loudly or give a shriek. Startling the dogs with sound will do the same thing startling them with water does. They'll forget why they were fighting and walk away from each other.
4) Hit a latched on dog in the face with a hose or a heavy stick.
5) Use a barrier to split them up. Look for something you can use to stick between the dog and separate them. A large piece of cardboard, plywood, a garbage can lid, a big stick - any of these can be used to separate the dogs without putting your hands in harm's way.
6) Throw a blanket over the dogs. Some dogs will stop fighting when they can't see each other anymore. If you have a large blanket, a tarp, or another piece of opaque material, try tossing it over the fighting dogs to calm them down.
7) Break them up with a partner. If none of the easier techniques are proving effective, you may need to separate them physically so they don't end up ripping each other to pieces. You and another adult should each approach one dog from behind - it's much safer to do this with a partner than all by yourself.
8) Grab the attacker's collar and twisting it to cut off dog's air. This will finish the fight immediately.
Dog parks and daycares can provide an excellent energy outlet for dogs. Off-leash play environments can help reduce a dog's stress and boredom, and give dogs a fun way to meet new people and other dogs. I'm a big fan of off-leash play when it's done for the right reasons with the right dogs. But there are three dogs that shouldn't be at the dog park or the dog daycare.
The adult dog that needs socialization. Socialization is vital for dogs. It's an important part of how puppies learn about their world. I talked about some misunderstandings with socialization in this post. But if an adult dog needs socialization, the dog park or local dog daycare is probably not the best environment. Normally owners are told their adult dog needs socialization because the dog is not getting along well with other dogs, often these dogs are fearful or showing some for of growling or snapping at other dogs. Some believe that exposure to more dogs will solve these problems. Exposure to more dogs is rarely the solution. The solution more likely involves very controlled exposure to a specific group of carefully selected dogs. This type of control and selection is not usually available in the average dog park or daycare. These dogs that dont do well with other dogs may need behavior modification, not just exposure to large numbers of random dogs in a dog park or dog daycare.
The dog that pins, rolls, or knocks over other dogs all the time. Part of the fun of off-leash play is watching the crazy antics of the dogs. Dogs have different playstyles and it's important to match them with appropriate playmates. However, any dog that consistently rams other dogs, forcefully slams other dogs onto the ground, or repeatedly pins dogs on the ground is being a bully. It might look like fun play to the average owner, but these dogs should not be allowed to practice this kind of bad behavior. Good dog play is fun for all the dogs interacting. Good play is loose and wiggly, and the dogs take turns chasing or rolling around on the ground. If this isn't happening, then there is a good chance at least one of the playmates isn't having fun.
The dog that hides. The dog that hides under a rock, under the bench, behind the owner's legs or under the playground equipment, is saying, "I don't really like it here." You might also see dogs jumping up on people or on the gate. This is often a sign that the dog is asking for help. If the dog isn't having fun, he shouldn't be at the dog park.
If you have one of these 3 dogs types, then perhaps it would be more fun to find another energy outlet for your dog. These are many great dogs that just prefer a different environment. Take a hike alone, go to the park when no other dogs are around, do some training (agility, flyball, nosework, rally, etc) or just hang out at home with your best friend. There is no reason every dog needs to go to the dog park or dog daycare. Choose the best activity for your individual dog.
MYTH: My dog enjoys other dogs The dog park is the best place for him to play with his own kind. Different breeds and types of dogs play differently. Two Labrador Retrievers will play very differently than two Cocker Spaniels. Sometimes different breeds of dog play very well together and other times their play is incompatible. Bully breeds tend to enjoy body slamming; Poodles however, may take offense at that type of play. Some dogs enjoy back and forth chase games, others like to roughhouse. It can take only one bad experience to turn a social dog into a fearful dog. Conversely, rude behavior is quickly learned. Impolite dogs can be a bad influence on well-socialized dogs. You have no control over the "pack" that hangs out at the dog park, as they are not your dogs.
MYTH: The dog park will give my small dog confidence! Small dogs, generally considered to be less than 20lbs, are not appropriate for dog parks unless there is an enclosed section especially for them. Unfortunately, because of their size, they may be intimidated, bullied, trampled and possibly seen as prey. Sadly, there are cases where dogs have become aroused in their play and attacked smaller dogs. If you have a small dog, consider how scary it must feel to have to stand up to a group of dogs that are overwhelmingly larger and stronger. Jack Russell Terriers are an exception to the small dog rule. They tend to have enough tenacity to hold their own at the dog park!
MYTH: The dog park will teach my adult dog to enjoy playing with other dogs. Many adult dogs don't enjoy dog parks. In human terms, young children and adolescents tend to make friends quickly and easily. Mature adults are often more selective about who they spend time with and the activities they choose to take part in. For adult dogs, going to the dog park might be akin to a 45 year old person spending their free time at the elementary school playground!
MYTH: The dog park is a good place to work on my dog's behavioral issues. A dog with special behavioral needs will not benefit from visits to the dog park. In fact, dog parks potentially make a behavior problem worse. The dog park is not the place to make your fearful dog more outgoing, your aggressive dog more friendly, or your reactive dog less reactive. A controlled environment is the place to deal with behavior issues and a dog park is usually anything but controlled.
MYTH: My dog won't come back to me when I call him. A fenced in dog park is a safe place to let him frolic and play. Dogs who attend dog parks should have some basic manners training. A good recall is most important - to call your dog to you if unacceptable behavior breaks out and when it is time to leave the dog park. You should be able to gain control of your dog's behavior at any moment.
MYTH: The dog park is the best place to socialize my puppy. Socializing your puppy is important. However, for many of the reasons already stated, dog parks are not the place to fulfill this need. Additionally, there is no way to be sure that other owners have vaccinated their dog so you could be unintentionally exposing your pup to illnesses and diseases at a time in your dog's life when he is most vulnerable.
WALKING DOGS MISCONCEPTIONS This article is proudly presented by WWW.PETLVR.COM and WWW.BESTFRIENDS PETCARE.COM and Ryan Gwilliam
Don't let your dog's shoulders go past your leg when walking your dog, you need to be the leader of the pack; learn more tips on dog walking in this free pet obedience video. Dogs prefer to be outside rather than being cooped up in the house all day? - Not true! By nature, dogs are pack animals. They'd prefer to be with their pack. Since you are a part of that pack, that means that the'd rather be wherever you are. If you are outside, they will want to be outside. If you are inside, they will want to be inside. Of course, you can't have your dog with you all the time, such as when you are at work or at the grocery store. So why not have him outside while you are away?
In truth, most dogs behave better when they are inside. When outside and on their own, many dogs are prone to barking, whining and digging. Your home is your dog's den and, further, it smells like you. It's often comforting for him in a way that being left outside can't be. In fact, your dog may believe he is being banished from the den if forced to stay outside.
A dog needs its freedom on the walk? This might include taking them off the lead, or using a flexi lead. Although dogs probably enjoy running around and acting like the good balls we all know they are, they don't necessarily need this. A dog will be just as happy going for a long walk, all the while staying on a fairly short leash, trotting happily besides its owners. It is the walk itself that is important, not the lead or rather lack of one.
TOP 10 DOG PARKS (USA) This information is proudly presented by WWW.DOGSTER.COM
1. Pilgrim Bark Park, Provincetown, Massachusetts Not only is Provincetown extremely friendly to dogs, but each fall the Carrie A. Seaman Animal Shelter holds a fun, day-long event for people and their pooches. Pilgrim Bark Park was opened in 2008 by the Provincetown Dog Park Association, which is a non-profit group. Boasting a section for dogs under 25 pounds and a section for dogs in general, the artsy town's influence is seen in the structures, sculptures, and benches peppered throughout this acre of land.
2. Thornberry Off-Leash Dog Park, Iowa City, Iowa Featuring 12 acres, a pond for water warriors, a fenced-in area for smaller dogs, a Lucky Pawz Playground, running water, and eco-friendly disposable waste bags with pipes to underground "poop tanks" where the bags biodegrade when in contact with water, is it any wonder Thornberry made our top 10? Open from dawn to dusk, Iowa City requires a yearly access fee of $35 per resident ($40 for non-residents) with a discount for dogs who are spayed/neutered.
3. Millie Bush Dog Park, Houston, Texas "Paradise" is what visitors tend to say after visiting this west Houston wag fest. With 13 acres, the Millie Bush Bark Park takes fun to the next Fido level. It features three ponds for splashy spaniels (two for big dogs, one for guppy puppies), but there's no need to fret about having a stinky pet with the park's many washing stations for after fun cleanup. With plenty of shady areas, benches, scattered trees, and water fountains, the park is open seven days a week from dusk until dawn.
4. Freedom Bark Park, Lowell, Indiana A former farmland turned into 114 acres of developing park, five acres are devoted for Fido to run free. Four acres are allocated for larger dogs and nearly one acre for dogs weighing 25 pounds and under. From Halloween parades to a "sand bunker digging area," the park opened in 2008. Featuring a solar well for drinking, butterfly garden for snooping, prairie grass areas for exploring, and shelter for shade, this fenced-in piece of freedom is a "must see" on the list of dog parks for which we swoon.
5. Dog Wood Park, Jacksonville, Florida Dog Wood Park features 42 acres for people and pets to swim and play, with over 25 of them fenced. Self-serve dog bathing, raised warm water tubs, an agility course, and puppy kindergarten and obedience/agility training, think Chihuahua squared on this one. Single day visits are $11 per dog, but we've already got our charge card geared up.
6. Beneful Dream Dog Park, Alabaster, Alabama Splash pads, a miniature football field, a walking course, off-leash play areas for a variety of sizes, synthetic turf, all to the tune of $500,000 we're so there. This recently opened dog dream features freedom times infinity. We love the rubberized mulch path, shady areas, and senior dog hill for lounging and chilling.
7. Bea Arthur Dog Park in Norfolk, Virginia Don't go home! Really. Though just 5.75 acres, we put this on our "must see" list of dog parks because it is open 24/7, with double gated, water ramp access for dog paddling in the Elizabeth River. The park is located near downtown Norfolk and is free of charge to use.
8. Point Isabel Regional Shoreline and Dog Park, Richmond, California It's one of the largest public off-leash dog parks in the United States, and approximately 500,000 dogs visit here per year. What's the fuss? Twenty three acres, free of charge, open until 10 p.m., and the waterfront landscape makes for the "paw-fect" park experience.
9. Jackass Acres K-9 Korral, New River, Arizona Though a members only park, we want in! Founded by Anthem Pets, this was the first green dog park in the state. Operating with a solar water pump, solar lighting, all metal artwork from recycled cars, and turf recycled from pro football fields, the park is open from 7 a.m. to dusk. Housed on 2.5 acres, the name tickles our Fido fancy, too.
10. Fort Woof, Fort Worth, Texas They say everything is bigger in the south, and with a Barktoberfest each October, how can we not put Fort Woof (love the name) on our list? Early Bowsers take heart in the 5 a.m. opening time, with closing time at 11:30 p.m. Five acres, extended hours, pooches who party, hydrants galore, and obstacles and agility equipment has us wagging and woofing for this Fido fort.
THE BENEFITS OF OFF-LEASH DOG PARKS This article proudly presented by WWW.DOGICA.COM
There are all kinds of dog parks. Some are situated in open areas, some include walking trails through the woods, and some are located at beaches or near lakes. Some are enclosed by fences and others aren't. Some parks are formal, recognized by a city or county, with rules created and enforced by a board or committee. Others are just areas where people gather informally to let their dogs play.
Exercise for people and their pets Prevents or reduces obesity Dogs can release excess energy Socialization for people and dogs Bonding between people and dogs Can reduce dog behavior problems Reduces dog boredom A tired dog is a good dog
A well-socialized dog is less likely to develop behavior problems such as aggression and excessive barking. An outdoor "club for canines" may help reduce associated neighborhood conflicts. Puppies and dogs that get enough exercise by playing are less likely to create a nuisance, bark excessively, destroy property, jump on passers-by, etc.
A valuable benefit of a dog park is what is does for the dogs themselves. It gives them the space and freedom to run off-leash with other members of their species, all while being safely supervised. In order for dogs to be healthy and well socialized, they need off-leash time to exercise and play with other dogs. "A well-exercised (a.k.a. tired) dog is a happy, healthy, quiet dog and a better neighbor".
For many people (particularly the elderly, singles and those with disabilities), the dogs really are their only companions. If they can go to a dog park, it gives them a reason to get dressed, go out, socialize, play with their dog, and strengthen that bond between them and their community. Dog parks provide the elderly and disabled owners with an accessible place to exercise their companions or get their animal fix.
Dog parks promote physical fitness and improve the mental state of owners.
A leash free space in a community may also make the local animal control's job a little easier.
A dog park would promote responsible pet ownership in our community because the park would require some form of licensing and proof of vaccinations before dogs would be allowed to use it. A dog park would help increase dog ownership registration in the Town.
A dog park would provide opportunities for people to socialize and share valuable, responsible pet ownership information because of the common bond shared by dog owners. Dog parks can bring people together and create a greater sense of community. Dogs help shy people "break the ice".
In increasing frequency, research has shown that more and more potential home-owners consider the availability of a dog park when considering moving to a community. A dog park increases the desirability of a community to potential newcomers.
Dog Parks: Benefits and Liabilities Laurel Allen / University of Pennsylvania laurela2@ pobox.upenn.edu DOWNLOAD PDF FILE
THE DOWNSIDES OF OFF-LEASH DOG PARKS This information is proudly presented by WWW.ASPCA.COM
Despite the many benefits dog parks provide, it's important to be aware of the risks before you decide to become a dog park devotee:
Health risks. Healthy vaccinated dogs are at low risk of becoming ill as a result of visiting the dog park. There are health risks any time your dog interacts with other dogs, just as there are for us when we interact with other people. Talk to your veterinarian about the risks and whether she recommends vaccinating for Bordatella ("kennel cough") if you become a regular park user. Fleas are everywhere, including on squirrels, rabbits and raccoons so the key to flea control is providing adequate protection on your pet. Your dog could get injured in a fight or during overly rambunctious play. It's highly unlikely, but small dogs could even be killed at a dog park because larger dogs sometimes perceive smaller dogs as prey.
Dog problems. For some dogs, especially those who are naturally shy or easily overwhelmed, a visit to the dog park can be stressful. If your dog has unpleasant experiences with other dogs if they bully or fight with her, intimidate her or just play too roughly she might decide she doesn't like them at all! She could start growling, barking, snarling, snapping and lunging to drive other dogs away, and even biting if they approach.
People problems. Everyone has a different perspective, and some people have strong opinions about dog behavior. Pet parents don't always agree about what's normal dog behavior, what's acceptable during play, what kind of behavior is truly aggressive, which dog behaviors are obnoxious, whether or not one dog is bullying another or who's at fault in an altercation. People might argue about how to respond when problems between dogs arise. Since there's rarely an authority figure to appeal to at a dog park, disagreements can get heated and result in human behavior problems!
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Start Walkin' and Talkin' The best way to start a dog park or run in your neighborhood is to go out and talk to people who have dogs in hand. If they are out walking their dogs, chances are they would enjoy the chance to discuss a dog run in the community with you. Don't be shy; ask if they would like to join a committee. Grab a few people (you don't need a lot, just 5 or 10 folks who are passionate) and set up a time to meet at someone's house to discuss the next step.
Next Step: Where Should It Be? You and your new group will need to ascertain a spot for the dog park. Most small dog parks are no bigger than an acre. Once you have nominated a site, it helps to let the community know of your plans. Just in case your newly picked spot interferes with a neighbor's rose garden. It also helps to get petitions signed. Try posting notices about the proposed dog park in pet stores, grooming shops, animal clinics and grocery stores. Write or email local newspapers to see if they could do a small story about the idea to gain more public awareness. After a while, you should have enough names to submit a letter and all of your signed petitions to your local parks and recreations department. You'll need to write a clear outline about the need for the dog park. It helps if you focus more on how the park will benefit the community as a whole instead of how it will benefit the dogs. The parks department will then be able to tell you if the area you have selected is available to you and your group, or they may suggest another area for you to consider.
Who Pays? Once the area is designated as a place to support a dog park, you'll need to seek funds to build and prepare it. Funds can either be acquired through your local government or by private contributions. Either way, your city will probably insist you have the following amenities to make the park safe and usable:
A fence with double-gated entry and exit Nearby parking Handicap accessible Water fountains for both dogs and owners Seating Shaded areas Poop bag dispensers Trash cans
Scooping the Poop You'll want to immediately organize a dog park council or group to help maintain and monitor the park. The city will also need to know who to call in the event there are issues or other concerns from neighbors or other members of the community. This council will also be responsible for developing the rules of the park, cleaning up after hours, mowing the grass, mending fences, etc. You will also be responsible for setting up meetings with your city officials to assess the park's success and what needs to be improved.
Is It Worth It? After reading all of this, you are probably asking yourself if all this effort is really worth it so that a bunch of mutts can run around for an hour everyday. The answer is "Of course!" Dogs need a lot of exercise and a dog park is the perfect place to let them roam free and find playmates. It's also a perfect place for you to relax, read a book and know that your dog isn't going anywhere. And, in case you need further convincing, a dog park is also a great place to meet new people and make new friends. So, go on out there and form a committee today. Your dog will thank you for it later!
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