Spring Time at the Dog Parks

Time to get those pooches outside to feel the wind in their ears and grass under their feet! (Or for the lazy ones, just a breath of fresh air and grass on their belly!)

For a lot of people, especially those living in apartments (Guinny & I) or small neighborhoods, this means dog parks. Which can really be great for socializing your dog, getting the freedom off the leash and running and playing and being, well a DOG!

I come from a town where our yards were parks... big enough to play in all day and never get bored, dogs & kids alike. This apartment living is new for me. Guinness is well trained - enough so that when I first come home from work he systematically greets me at the door, runs out to relieve himself on the bush and comes right back in. I don't get excited when I see him, I don't baby talk him, I let him do his business. Then I check the apartment - once in a GREAT while he'll get into something I forgot to put up the night before. He knows this. Once I've given it the once over and everything is satisfactory, we have a lil cuddle / pet / play / wrestle / fetch session! I've learned Guinness cares more for my praise then any 'ol treat. In fact that's how I've trained him in all his cute lil tricks! Positive reinforcement.

Back to the subject - spring time & dog parks!

The concept of a dog park is great! IF the people who bring their dogs are responsible and honest about knowing their own dogs behaviors. So, because you and your dog are potentially relying on someone else's concept of "good dog", be sure to be aware of your dogs emotions and actions - they will tell you a lot.

Here's 2 dog parks we've visited so far and some pros & cons I found at each!

Pennington Dog Park - They are also on Facebook - Small Dogs Page & Large Dogs Page

They have 2 fenced off areas field like areas for some un-leashed fun! One for 35 lbs and under and one of 35 & above. This is great I think, so our little guys don't have to worry about being run-over by the big guys. The slight downfall that I see though, is if a family comes to play with their dogs of multiple sizes. And I know some people may say, "Well my lil guy knows how to stay clear of big guys." This may be true, BUT some big dogs don't know their size and will try to play with your lil guy, not knowing his strength. So don't attempt to mix the 2 at this dog park. Pet parent's of big dogs may prefer this fence situation because THEY KNOW THEIR DOG, and they know mixing him/her with lil dogs, isn't good.

In each of the fenced in areas there's a sitting area for pet-parents to talk about their furbabies! This park has the water fountains for the dogs - I just don't like them. Personal preference. In the walking section of this park, there are a TON of picture opportunities! There's a bridge, wide steps leading to a huge gazebo that over looks the park, ton's of greenery, benches along the walkway - very picturesque. There is always a nice flow of people. I've never seen it over crowded.

The second dog park we've visited since moving to the area is Timber Creek Dog Park - They have a couple Facebook Pages connected to them - Timber Creek dog parkTimber Creek Pooch Park, and a group page for "members only" - which I am now proudly a member!

 

I LOVE this park! Love Love Love!

Granted we've only been to 2 parks and I'm no dog park expert - but we both LOVE this park! Ok, now I'll tell you why!

I wanted to be more active WITH Guinness, not just throw a ball and watch him run off all the winter weight! WELL! Timber Creek has 9 acres (NINE!) of fenced in wooded area to walk your dog off leash. Now THIS park is definitely for the pet-parent's with some experience. (Otherwise, you're chasing your dog through the woods!) There's about 10 foot (or more, I'm not a good eye measurer) of a walking path all along the fence, and a couple trails through the woods. A couple spots where there's an incline and decline (I felt it afterwards!).  We haven't ventured through other parts of the park, but we will DEFINITELY be back and update you!

 

Any dog parks you suggest us trying out?

Dog Park Etiquette

To follow up with mine & Guinny's dog park experience, I thought I'd give some insight to those thinking about trying out an off leash dog park!

Want to know what parks we've visited so far? Check them out here!

BEFORE YOU GET TO THE DOG PARK 

  • BE CALM  Your dog mimics your emotions. Don't get him hyped up by talking in a squeaky voice or showing him his toy you're taking for the car ride. The calmer he is, the better he'll go through the experience, especially the first couple times. 
  • TOYS  Don't take them. He may not mind you wrestling with him for his favorite rope, but another dog may bring out a side to Fido you never saw before. Tennis balls - I would take a new one. Not one that smells like home, once he's become familiar and comfortable with the other dogs, then toss it a couple times and see how they get along with it. 
  • TAKE HIM FOR A WALK  Once you get there, get out some of the excess energy he has. The current dog park Guinness & I enjoy has a nice walk from the parking lot to the fenced in area, so that's perfect! 
  • CONSIDER FIDO'S SIZE  Small dog, big open space - sometimes these are not the best of combination. Yea, your dog can handle themselves, but some bigger dogs don't know their own strength and can lead to injury or worse. Play it smart. 
  • NO PLACE FOR TRAINING  Too many sights, sounds & smells 
  • NO SMALL CHILDREN  I'm not a parent myself, but I cringe at the thought of small kids (up to about the 8-10 years old range) being at an off leash dog park. Use good judgement as a parent of both furry and non-furballs alike
  • ALTERNATE DOG PARK IDEA: Don't set yourself or your dog up for failure. Know your dog. Don't force the dog park concept on him. Maybe look through your friends on social media who have a pooch of similar size & set up a play date and go from there. 

 

WHAT TO BRING TO THE DOG PARK

  • POOP BAGS  Plural. More than one. All that running around can really "bring out" a lot in a dog! 
  • WATER  For you & Fido! I have been to dog parks where they have those fountains at the top & one at the bottom for your pooch. Personally, I don't use them. I'm not a germ freak, but a water fountain, outside in the middle of nowhere basically, coming in contact with hundreds of people and animals a day, I just can't do it. 
  • CHANGE OF SHOES  The whole responsible pet parenting thing, yea, some people don't follow the rules! 
  • BLANKET OR TOWEL  Something to lay in your car, he was clean before you got there, but dogs will be dogs! 
  • A LEASH  Always. You never know what situation you could run into. Example: heaven forbid something happen to you and someone else has to watch your pooch. You just never know. 
  • DOG TAG  (On your dog) with address, phone number, dog's name. Again, you never know. 

 

AT THE DOG PARK

  • THE ENTRANCE  From experience - all dog parks are different. A new one Guinny & I went to, had 3 gates around the perimeter - only one leads to the parking lot - take the wrong one and start walking, at dusk, alone, in an unfamiliar park - is scary to say the least! So depending on the lay-out this may or may not be something you need to look at. 
  • OTHER DOGS  The best dogs to bring to an off-leash dog park are dogs that are committed to you, that know you are the "pack leader" as Cesar would say. Basically a well-trained dog. The hope is that every dog coming in to the park is a well mannered pooch just looking to run off a little steam, but we all know once in a great while, that's not the case. So just be aware and know how to read your dog, if he's playing and romping around - great! If he's seeming like he's being bullied, get him away from the other dogs for a one on one play with you. Build his confidence and reward him for good behavior. Don't just assume "He'll get over it" & leave him be with the bullying dogs. If it's consistent with one dog, you simply may have to just avoid the park when that one dog is there. 
  • KNOW DOG BEHAVIOR  Period. Don't assume an open mouth means a vet visit. Some dog play comes with open mouth and snarling noises. But know the signs or aggression vs. play. 

From my experience in learning about Guinny's aggression vs. play mode: He makes this noise that makes you think the other dog is being mean, this crying/moaning sound, but that's just how he plays, when he would play with his big brother in the living room while we'd be making dinner we would always yell at the big dog. Til one day we witnessed the play and realized the dogs weren't even near each other! It's just Guinness' playful noise. So when another dog is playing with him and the other pet-parent's go to reprimand their dog, I reassure the other pet-parent that that's how he plays.

  • DON'T GIVE TREATS TO OTHER DOGS  I know from experience they may jump on you and sniff and be more inclined to follow you vs. their handler, but don't give in. 

Two reasons: 1. I know I wouldn't want anyone giving Guinness a treat. 2. You're not helping in the training concept of begging or not listening to their handler.

  • DON'T DISCIPLINE SOMEONE ELSE'S DOG  Simply take your dog out of the situation. 

 

PLEASE NOTE: ONLY YOU KNOW YOUR DOG BEST 

When out with fellow pet parent's, you have be alert and calm at the same time. I'm not a professional by any means, but I am a responsible pet parent who has a well behaved dog and these are things that I've learned along the way!

 

What tips and tricks have you learned along the way?