Dog parks: naughty or nice?

Susan Richards

I remember the good old days when children and the family dog(s) left after breakfast on good weather days and didn’t return until it was suppertime. Now, however, dogs are limited to their leash, their yard or inside their home. The dog park concept, giving dogs an off-leash experience, originated in California in 1979 but continues to be a controversial idea. Hard data on the issue of dog park pros and cons are difficult to find. However in 2007, Laurel Allen wrote a Master’s Thesis for her degree at the University of Pennsylvania entitled, Dog Parks: Benefits and Liabilities. Her scholarly paper runs one hundred and twenty five pages so it’s not exactly light reading.

Ms. Allen compared five East Coast dog parks on the following criteria: posted rules, good fencing, a divided space for small and large dogs, sturdy gates, comfortable seating, appropriate surface and landscaping, availability of water, proper waste disposal techniques and ongoing maintenance. None of the parks she studied received an A rating.

The major problems with dog parks are sanitation and aggressive interaction between dogs. Both of these issues can be eliminated with some easily learned techniques. The first problem can be eradicated with proper landscaping and simple hygiene practices.

Aggressive dogs have no place in a dog park. Aggressive dogs are a danger to both you and your dog so should not be allowed in the dog park. If for some reason an aggressive dog enters the park and bites you then you may want to contact someone like the Stewart Law Offices to see if they can help you get compensation for your injuries. This problem shouldn’t even be happening in the first place. The first way to prevent problems is to know both your dog and your dog park. If your dog does not play well with others, then the dog park is not going to be a pleasant experience for either of you. Dogs will use the freeze position as a signal to other dogs. Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D., certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and author of the book For the Love of a Dog Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend suggests clapping your hands in order to redirect the dog’s focus if he appears aggressive.

Dogs need to socialize as they are pack animals. They also need lots of exercise. A dog without sufficient exercise will drive an owner crazy with their bad behavior. The local dog park is the perfect place for dogs to run off their excess energy as most yards are too small for dogs to expend many calories. Some dogs can occasionally try to run away as they have so much energy, which may call for something like an invisible dog fence being installed so that you can contain your dog to a certain area.

Other benefits for dog park dogs include: a stronger circulatory and respiratory system, obesity and boredom prevention, better flexibility, improved digestion, cultivation of an alert mind and creating quality time with the pet parent and other canines.

A good dog park provides numerous benefits coupled with minimal problems. Our local dog park at SaddleBrooke incorporates all the important criteria and then some. The park would surely get an A for ongoing maintenance, emphasis on regular vaccinations (which none of the parks studied by Ms. Allen mandated) and fostering a culture that supports excellent sanitation and wholesome dog park behavior.

So join the SaddleBrooke Dog Park Association and bring your dog to Dexter’s Place, SaddleBrooke’s privately owned and managed dog park.

See you soon at Dexter’s Place.