Our weather is starting to get nice, finally! On those nice days we want to get out and about with our dogs. Many dog owners take their dogs to dog parks, some find success playing with their dogs in a safe, fenced environment, and others don’t. When I got Geo, I carefully chose the dog parks we visited and the dog friends we met there. Quickly, I saw Geo acting in a way I didn’t want. I stopped taking him to dog parks, promising my friends we would return when I had a reliable recall and Geo was a little more mature.
I consulted with an expert in the field of dog behavior and dog parks. Sue Sternberg has researched dog parks and the effect on dogs who visit them. She believes with a well-designed dog park and knowledgeable owners the potential for behavioral problems and injury to dogs is greatly reduced. She would like to all dog owners be “Triple A” Owners—Alert, Attentive, Active—Alert to the conditions of the dog park, behaviors of other dog and owners, paying attention to their own dog; Attentive to their own dog, noticing when their dog or other dogs are getting out of control; Active and engaged with their own dog while at the dog park. Sternberg developed an iphone app, Dog Park Assistant, unfortunately there isn’t one for androids. Her store, www.greatdogproductions.com has an offering of literature and dvds on dog parks.
Trainers have known for years that there are risks with dog parks. Trish King, CPDT, CDBC reported in a seminar I attended in 2004 that she was seeing a lot of dogs with behavioral problems with the commonality that they attended dog parks. She and Sue Sternberg suggest a minimum of looking for parks that provide separate areas for small and large dogs, double gate entryways, multiple obstacles i.e. trees so dog’s views are blocked and fearful dogs can go for safety, minimum of benches for humans, and a surface that discourages dogs from building running speed.
I wasn’t happy seeing Geo quickly learn that he could run amok and not come to me when I called him. For now, we have a wonderful time going to training class, hiking in the woods, and taking leashed walks in town. I hope Geo can meet with his dog friends at our favorite dog parks someday. Some dogs can keep their cool at the dog park and that is the only time they have to romp off leash. I’m glad for them. As Trish King said, “A dog park is like a cocktail party, where you don’t know anyone and everyone is drunk. You could have fun, but it could be a disaster.”
If you are interested in showing off your dog’s good manners at the dog park, call me for private and group lessons. I am offering puppy and adult group classes at Rock Nest Training and Pet Care in Creswell, 541-895-3162 or www.rocknestpetcare.com.