27 January 2009

Dog parks, a necessary evil

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am not a fan of dog parks, mainly because of diseases and germs that are spread from feces and between strange dogs. And sometimes there are acts of aggression and fights between dogs. So initially I was very nervous taking my dogs to a leash-free park here in Glendale, AZ because they aren't used to this type of situation. And, they are valuable show, competition and breeding dogs. At home in Ontario Canada, they run off leash in wooded areas where we generally don't run into other people and dogs. It's dangerous to do that here in Arizona (cactus, rattlesnakes, broken glass everywhere).

Glendale AZ's leash-free park rules say no treats and no squeaky toys (gets dogs too excited the sign says and this may result in fights) & your dog can be banned if it's aggressive or picks fights. I don't take squeaky toys with me but, no treats? How am I going to reward my dogs for exhibiting good behaviour? I did break that rule at first.

Glendale Foothills park actually has 3 runs. The larger area has a small enclosure for small dogs & a much larger area for big dogs. It is closed on Wednesdays for maintainance. The third area is a little larger than the small run for small dogs & it's used by all dogs on Wednesdays and can get very crowded.

The first time we visited the park was a Wednesday; only the third (small) area was open. Fortunately Michael came with me so we could supervise our 4 dogs carefully. I think another rule is only 2 dogs / owner-handler. Miska is alpha dog/bitch in our household and she's used to bossing our dogs around. Tyro is an intact male. I was most concerned about these two. Miska did try to assert some dominance with a couple of dogs who ventured too close to her but I had to reward her when she showed proper behaviour so sneaked her some treats when she started ignoring the dogs that came close. With Tyro, it was more the case of watching to see how the other dogs behaved with him, especially males, both intact and neutered. Tyro is not an aggressive male. It's neutered males who are usually more of a problem with intact males. Anyway, I was relieved there were no issues or incidents that day. The only 'incident' was the Diva got an upset tummy. This happened twice, both times after visiting the leash-free parks. Coincidence? Who knows.

The next time, the larger park was open again & I went without Michael. I was very nervous and didn't know what to expect. Initially I took two girls out first, supervised them - they always wait to poop at the dog park - in case I had to clean up. When I was comfortable with things, I went back and brought out the other 2 dogs. Fortunately, there weren't many dogs or people there at that time. I guess I break the regulation since I have 4 dogs (1 owner) but my guys are usually better behaved and more responsive than most of the other dogs at the park. Generally, they want to be with me rather than interacting with other dogs.

Diva, however, is a social butterfly - like Nova, her grandma - & wants to visit other people and dogs. Being a puppy, she also really wants to play with other dogs. I don't usually worry about her except she did get grazed by a fat Dachshund who didn't want to play with her. (It was a day when the other 2 parks were closed for maintainance so all dogs were forced into the smaller area. Many of the leash-free parks here have a separate area for small dogs and a much larger park for the big dogs.) Diva was doing her play bow but he didn't want to play & eventually told her so. Her skin wasn't broken but she acted like it was. Tyro also loves to run and chase and so far, there have been no issues with other males.

Unlike some owners, I am constantly watching my dogs & walking around with them so they get exercise because Nova and Miska don't tend to play. They aren't into playing fetch or chasing other dogs. Thus I never sit on the benches or rarely stop & chat with people. It's not that I'm unfriendly but I don't want my dogs getting injured or doing something stupid. Watching 4 dogs is a lot more work than with only 1.

I've noticed some 'regulars' at the park & feel OK with their dogs. A number of people have specifically commented on how beautiful my dogs are - they haven't said 'well behaved too' but I think if they didn't feel positive, they probably wouldn't say anything at all or it would be a negative comment.

So while I still am not crazy about dog parks, I am impressed with the ones they have here as they are well provided for and well maintained. I may visit them once per week, mainly to give my knees a rest from all the walking I do with them on leash. Or when Michael & I have been busy during and I don't have 2 hours to spare to walk them. Then it's off to the leash free park for some fun with other dogs.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    I agree we also tend to try and avoid dog parks because of the aggression issues and you can never be to sure of strange dogs etc. We are very lucky here as we don’t have cactus or rattlesnakes! We also have some very nice parks nearby which are big enough for dogs to be off lead and to avoid any other dogs.