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Dog Parks

They take some time to get used to but are great for well-behaved, highly social dogs and their people

MetPet.com Staff Writer

A dog park is usually just a fenced-in area of land where dogs, trained or not, can legally go off leash.  For owners of hyperactive breeds, puppies and rescues they can be of tremendous benefit.  If your dog likes to meet and mingle with other dogs, chase a tennis ball or Frisbee, a dog park will give him a good outlet for all that energy. 

The best dog parks are large, have a large number of shade trees, a tap for fresh water, good drainage, tough ground cover, covered garbage cans, tools and/or bags for removing poop and a rigorous maintenance schedule.   Maintaining a dog park is difficult since the best ones are overused until the grass is dead.  Sometimes parks have to be closed for months to let the vegetation recover.  Other parks just give up and are happy to have very tough weeds stand in for lawn.  Still, other parks give up on vegetation altogether and use sandy soil instead. 

Make sure your dog is park-ready
One thing to remember is that dog parks are full of strange dogs interacting all in a jumble.  In order to avoid problems, you should not take puppies younger than 4-5 months (check with your vet) who do not have all their shots, any dog in heat, aggressive dogs, fearful dogs, sick dogs or dogs without sufficient protection against common diseases and parasites like heartworm. 

Be prepared for interesting behavior
There is some interesting behavior (mostly on the part of people) at dog parks.  At one park, a rather small and elderly man appeared with two huge wolves on leash.  The wolves didn't interact with the other dogs but stood in the center of the park coldly watching all of the activity around them.   Most of us were thinking that he couldn't possibly hold on to the wolves if they should choose to make a meal of domestic terrier.  Completely unconcerned, he proudly told us that his wolves were so smart they would open the zippers of pillows with their teeth before they ripped out the stuffing. 

Then there was the case of a yellow labrador that would be let out of the house by his owner, cross the field to the dog park and stand at the gate waiting to be let in.  An hour or so later, he would stand at the gate waiting to be let out.  He would then wander home.

 

Dog park, what dog park?
First, contact your city's Parks and Recreation Department.  They should be able to tell you where the dog parks are.  If there aren't any, it is fair to ask them why.  If there isn't a Dog Park on the agenda, then consider starting a petition to open one.  This would probably entail collecting signatures, attending a Parks and Recreation Department meeting and maybe going to a City Council meeting. 

These are not particularly enjoyable activities.  It may simply be easier to go to a dog park of a neighboring, and much more enlightened town.  It may simply be easier to move.

Starting out slowly
Second, provided you have found one close by, visit the Dog Park with your dog when you are sure it will not be crowded.  Dog Parks tend to be most crowded when the weather is nice.  They also tend to be crowded after work on weekdays when it is still light outside and in the afternoon on weekends.  If it is not crowded, take your dog in and let him run around and get used to the smells of the park.  You can take a Frisbee or tennis ball but you may end up losing one or both of them to other dogs, at least temporarily. 

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