As a fairly recent development in the world of dogs, dog parks can be great places to exercise and socialize your dog. Secured fenced areas give city dogs a place they can run and burn off excess energy and the lessons learned from interacting with other dogs are important for adequate socialization.
Dog parks range from the very basic fenced in area with no amenities to resort facilities that any of us would be happy to visit. Swimming pools, canoe rides, lakes, hiking trails, training sessions and organized activities are seen at state-of-the-art dog parks.
FROM CITIZEN CANINE:
Dog parks can be great places to provide opportunities for your dog to socialize with other canines. There are a few things you should watch out for if you decide to take your dog to a dog park. One of the main concerns is that unfortunately, some dog owners use the dog park as a break for themselves. Oblivious to what is going on, they sit at the picnic tables and laugh and chat with other dog owners or, they bury their noses in a book.
Getting to know other dog owners who frequent a dog park is fine, as long as you supervise your own dog. To make sure your dog is safe, keep an eye on the activity in the dog park. If you see a dog being overly rowdy with other dogs, ask the owners if they can get their dog under control. Your Shih-Tzu has not learned a good lesson about socializing with other dogs if she spent her time at the dog park being intimidated by a larger dog.
Two Model Dog Parks
Dog Wood Park (Florida)
Dog Wood Park, with locations in Jacksonville and Gainesville, Florida, is everything a dog could dream of. These dog parks are clearly in the “top of the line” category. The Gainesville location is a 15-acre, private facility. Owners pay a membership fee so their dogs can have access to a place to run and socialize with other dogs in a safe, controlled environment. The park has 15 fenced acres. There are two large swimming pools (much appreciated in the Florida summer!), numerous large shade trees, a dog shower for muddy paws, shaded walking and jogging trails, dry areas for those days when you don’t want your dog to get wet, benches, swings, and hammocks, picnic tables, a “dog mountain” sand pile for digging and climbing, tunnels and other obstacles, and of course, plenty of tennis balls.
In addition to all of these fabulous activities for owners and their dogs, one of the greatest things about Dog Wood is the emphasis and commitment to educating owners. AKC Canine Good Citizen training and testing is done on-site and after CGC, owners can advance to obedience, rally, and agility training.
Misty Pines Dog Park (Sewickley, PA)
Misty Pines Dog Park is another outstanding dog park. Dogs can enjoy the fenced playgrounds, hiking on trails, agility courses and water activities that include swimming and dock diving. Misty Pines has separate areas for small dogs and puppies. As with most dog parks, to keep everyone safe, aggressive dogs are not allowed. However, there are occasionaly “dog bullies” who sometimes come to dog parks. Dog bullies don’t bite and they don’t physically harm people and other animals, but they are pushy and overbearing. This might be the bigger dog who keeps a little Shih-Tzu cornered under a bench during the little dog’s entire visit to the park unless someone intervenes. Misty Pines staff work with the owners of the bully to teach them how to handle their dog (beginning with using a leash) so that everyone, including the problem dog, benefits.
The AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test is a goal for many owners who are members at Misty Pines. Judith Fox, an AKC CGC Evaluator who conducts CGC tests at the dog park said, “For everyone to fully enjoy a dog park, both dogs and their people need to have good manners. The CGC program provides a really great format for talking about what it means to be responsible and for teaching dogs the basic skills they need to be around other people and dogs.”