Tuesday, April 24

Dog Park Discussion

Saturday morning I was reading my daily Dogster Blog and was so pleased to see the topic of Dog Parks.  The title was Dog Parks - Love 'Em or Hate 'Em?.  I have shared the blog below, I think all the major points are represented.  Take a look and I will weigh in with my opinions after.

Let's Talk: Dog Parks - Love 'Em or Hate 'Em?

When I started research for the first edition of my book, The Dog Lover’s Companion to California, there were just a handful of fenced-in dog parks in the entire Golden State. I raved about these parks and gave them a four-paw rating and lots of space in my book, because they were so dog-focused, so safe from cars, and mostly so unique.
Fast-forward a couple of decades to 2012 and the seventh edition. The world has gone to the dogs. At least the U.S. has. There are thousands of these dog parks across the country -- hundreds in California alone. I’ve had to rein in the descriptions to the point where some are as short as three sentences, and have removed dog-friendly events from the book because there just wasn’t enough room for everything. (The book is 1,006 pages. Big enough!)
Dog parks be great places for pooches to run around in leash-free bliss. But there's another side to dog parks that's not all wags and smiling snouts. Along the way, I’ve had mixed feelings about dog parks. Most people and dogs thrive in them, and they’re huge social outlets for both species. People can take their dog for a “talk” instead of a walk, and the dogs generally seem to enjoy sniffing each other’s tushies and chasing each other around with abandon.
But I’ve seen more than my share of problems at dog parks as well. It’s an occupational hazard when you visit hundreds of dog parks for your job. When a lot of dogs share a relatively small space where they can’t get out, and where people often aren’t paying attention, it can be a recipe for trouble.
There aren’t that many dog parks I’ll take Jake to by choice if lots of other dogs are around. As big and affable as he is, when he enters a park, he seems to attract every dog (not uncommon) and they tend to surround him and try to be dominant on and around him (not so common). It’s like he has a sign saying, “Hump me, guys! And come growl at me, too!” These days, if I’m going to check out a park that’s full of dogs, I don’t bring Jake.
During my visits to dog parks with and without my canine assistant, I’ve seen a lot of happiness and real joy. There’s nothing like watching a dog tearing around gleefully, with her tail high and a smile on her snout. And most of the people who use them are friendly and extremely responsible. They’re invested in their park try to make sure everyone is safe. If there’s a problem, they deal with it.
I’ve also seen my share of the not-so-good side of dog parks: Aggression, smaller dogs being trampled (shaken, not badly injured, thankfully; dog parks with a section just for little dogs helps this problem), and owners who ignore any bad behavior or anything their dog does at all - including pooping.
It can get downright ugly sometimes. Dogs have died in dog parks. Last month, a Siberian husky allegedly killed a Chihuahua at a fenced dog park in Ohio. Dogs and people have been bitten in dog parks. People have even become physically aggressive with other people if they felt their dog was getting a bad rap about something.
Dog parks are unfortunately no strangers to aggressive dog.

A writing colleague and I have plans to meet tomorrow, and when she found out I have a dog, she suggested we meet at a fenced dog park halfway between our houses. Our meeting is to be in the morning, but that’s doggy rush hour -- not a great time for an dog magnet like Jake. So she and I are leaving the dogs behind and grabbing breakfast instead.
But it got me to wondering what you guys think about dog parks. Do you use them? Do you avoid them? Have you had great experiences, terrible ones, or both? Please share your stories. Let’s talk!
 I have not been a dog park supporter for quite some time, but mainly that has to do with the dog parks that are around me in the Los Angeles area.  There are a few scattered around between the valley, west side and Pasadena area that are okay.  But my rule is to stay away from them.

My feelings are not without warrant.  These parks are too crowded most of the time, not all the dogs are safe to be there, meaning they are not properly socialized or out right aggressive and my biggest issue is that the majority of people going do not stay engaged with their dog.

I like that this article points out the three biggest problems that have made dog parks unsafe, owners not paying attention to their dogs, over crowding and aggressive dogs being present.

Look, I have a soft spot for aggressive dogs, especially having a general understanding of how they got that way.  These are not "bad" dogs that should be hidden away from society, but you do have to be responsible so they do not hurt other dogs or themselves.  Which is why an aggressive dog has no business being at the dog park, their interactions with other dogs should be much more regulated than that.  Not just for the safety of the other dogs and people but to help them.

As I said, my number one complaint is that people turn their dog loose and then check out.  To allow your dog to be free and then disengage with them is a recipe for disaster on a lot of levels.  Even if they make all the right choices as far as interacting with other dogs, what if they eat something bad or go home with someone else.  YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION.

But that is just the fenced in dog parks, there is another matter I want to bring up, especially to all of you living Downtown.  Just down the street on 2nd street and Spring Street there is a lawn behind the police station (ironic) and it has turned into an off leash dog park.  Here is my first problem, THERE IS NO FENCE!  I watch dogs run into the street, at least once a day as I walk past this lawn multiple times a day.  I have even had a dog run right in front of my car as I drove by, thankfully I was going extremely slow or I may not have been able to stop in time.

There have been multiple dogs hit and injured and there was talk that one has even died.  Now there are Lost Dog signs up all around the park, I have to wonder if the dog ran off from there. I know people just unleash there dog not knowing if the dog has a proper recall or not.  I have literally watched someone, with me and my dog's help, trap their dog to get them back or the dog would not have come back.

Then there is the issue of dog fights that break out and a majority of the people in the park are not handling it correctly.  If your dog is aggressive, why take him to this park?  Doing an alpha roll and scolding them are not going to stop them from being aggressive again, so when the dog is released they go right back into fight mode.

The last point I will make about this park specifically is the bullying factor.  I do not tell people what to do with their dogs, I will help when it looks like a dog's safety is in danger and if asked I will give my thoughts and opinions, but for the most part I feel that your dog is your dog and you have every right to make the choices you want to so long as you are not hurting your dog.  So when I walk my dog or a dog I am looking after through or by this park during the more down times on leash I do not expect to be told that this is for off leash dogs.  In fact, it is not an off leash zone and to tell me that a public space is off limits to me and my dog just because I don't want to take my dog off leash in an unsafe area is absurd to me.  I have literally been yelled out of the park because I would not take my dog off leash and the one or two dogs that were there wouldn't leave my dog alone as he found his potty spot on the edges of the park. 

My belief is that you do not need to go to the dog park, you can go to a regular park and take a long line for your dog.  If you are trying to get more dog on dog interaction, then invite a friend or two for your dog.  I do this all the time and have a great time and my dog is in heaven.  I know the dogs he is interacting with and I know the people are like minded.  If there are problems of any sort, we are on the same page and take care of it immediately.

So, what about you?  What do you think about dog parks?  If you are a Downtowner, what do you think of the 2nd street park?

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