Dog Parks – Unleashed Freedom To Romp and Play
By: Janet Winter
Dogs love to be outdoors, but their energy and playfulness are significantly hampered when ‘connected’ to their owner by a leash. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a place to take your pooch where they can run free and enjoy playing with other fun-loving dogs?
Enter the Dog Park!
This idea was born because many parks don’t allow dogs at all – even on a leash – so finding a safe place for exercise and play was something of a challenge. There may be wilderness trails close by, but is your dog safe to run off leash, assuming the regulations allow this? If your dog doesn’t respond 100% to your voice command there’s always the possibility that he will get lost or tangle with aggressive animals. Of course you will also encounter people, particularly those with young children, who are afraid of dogs and are frightened by a dog that’s running loose.
Okay – sounds like a dog park may be the perfect solution. But what exactly is it? Actually, this isn’t a ‘dumb question’ since it can have different meanings depending on the community’s definition.
Sometimes it’s simply a park where dogs are allowed, so the users designate it as a ‘dog park.’ A more sophisticated example is an area within a city or even a neighborhood that has been specifically designed with amenities that make it obvious that dogs are not just allowed, but encouraged to romp and play off leash. Dogs – especially those that were socialized as puppies – will quickly develop new friendships and enjoy having a variety of playmates.
The parks can be any size and may or may not be fenced. If they are privately owned, there may be a fee charged either on a per use or annual basis. Some states have a ‘recreational use immunity’ ordinance which protects the landowners from liability only if no fee is charged. Check out the regulations posted at your local dog park to see what is applicable.
At least one question has no doubt come to mind – what’s the likelihood of dog fights, and how can they be avoided? The reality is that it’s just about impossible to prevent an occasional fight. However, if your local dog park has an active user group this risk is significantly reduced. Someone will always be in the park to encourage or demand, if necessary, that an aggressive dog be kept on a leash or removed from the park. Another consideration to minimize the risk is to locate a park where large and small dogs have separate play areas.
It’s important to keep an eye on your pooch and recognize when his movements indicate an impending confrontation. Redirecting his attention at exactly the right moment, while staying calm and using trained voice commands, can save the day. Keep a favorite toy or treat handy and call your dog over immediately to distract him with something he enjoys. Caution – don’t throw the toy because both dogs may run for it with unpredictable consequences.
One important issue is the proper disposal of feces. Obviously, the concern is the spread of disease. Typically, the dog park’s user group will supply pickup bags, trash containers and regular disposal service. Since there is an expense involved and the park is usually manned by volunteers, expect to make a donation or participate in a fundraiser for this purpose.
All visitors to the park should share the responsibility to help keep the park clean, but unfortunately some people may think that someone else is paid to take care of this. Look for signs explaining the proper use of the park, and contact the park owner if none are present. Also, don’t be afraid to politely speak up when someone neglects to clean up after their dog. They may have just missed the ‘event’ or they’re new at this and simply don’t know how to properly use the bags. Tactful education and peer pressure works in almost all situations.
Most user groups have special event days devoted to sprucing up the park and generating a community spirit among the users. This is a great opportunity to show your support and to thank the owners and volunteers with your participation.
So – are dog parks just for dogs? The reality is that they’re more a social and recreational outlet for their owners. It gives people pleasure to watch their pooch at play while giving them the opportunity to exercise with their dog without the constraints of a leash. Since the dogs are the common denominator, no one is left out from enjoying the activities, even if just watching the dogs play together gives them pleasure. It’s a terrific opportunity to meet and socialize with others who are true dog lovers. Who knows – you may find just the companion you’ve been seeking. And we’re not talking dogs!
Janet Winter has a deep love for animals and enjoys writing informative articles about caring for your dog’s comfort, safety and fun. You can learn how to provide a loving, pampered life for your dog by visiting APamperedDog.com.