Monday, April 19, 2010

Dog Park Etiquette

Dog Park Etiquette
April 16, 2010, By Brandi Jaques, ARTICLE, LIFESTYLE

For most urban dog owners, a trip to the dog park is a regular outing. The walk is lovely and then: freedom! Your dog can frolic and play while you meet and greet other dog owners. Exercise, stimulation and socialization for all! But, beware: the park is only as safe and friendly as the people and dogs who frequent it. Follow the rules of petiquette and lead by example.

Healthy as a hound
Before you head for the park, be sure your dog is vaccinated, and free from injury, illness and parasites. A dog with diarrhea or a cough may be contagious. Injured dogs need carefully managed exercise, not ‘ruff-housing’ Besides, infirm dogs may be bullied by the other dogs and may act aggressively to protect themselves. Wait until your dog has recuperated before visiting the park. Avoid the dog park with puppies who are not fully vaccinated and bitches in season.

Play nice
The dog park should be the scene of carefree frolicking and rollicking play. Occasionally, two dogs will disagree, but usually well-socialized dogs work out their differences quickly and easily on their own. Unfortunately, reports of dog attacks at the park are all too common. The park is not the place for aggressive, fearful or reactive dogs. (If your dog exhibits these tendencies, seek help from a qualified behaviourist immediately.) Incidentally, the humans should play nice, too. Find a pleasant way to voice any concerns you may have.

Be aware
Enjoy every minute with your canine companion, but remain alert. Do an onleash loop around the park to check it out.
Is the area safe? Are the dogs playing nicely? If you are satisfied, enter the park and let your dog offleash.
Enjoy chatting with the other dog owners, but keep your dog’s safety foremost in your mind. Be aware of everything around you. If you have any concerns about other dogs, or if your dog is avoiding interaction, hiding behind you, or acting aggressively, leave.

Training day
A well-trained dog is a joy to handle at the dog park. Basic obedience skills (like an instant Down, a solid Stay and a reliable recall) are potential life-savers. But don’t be surprised if your dog forgets everything he knows once you arrive at the dog park. This happens because dogs are context-dependant learners, which means that dogs perform best in the same environment in which they were taught. So, the fabulous sit-stay that your dog performs every night in the kitchen flies right out the window at the uber-exciting dog-park.

Don’t despair, there are two things you can do to help your dog recover his lost memory. First, work your dog’s skills in multiple locations, starting with easy ones and gradually making the environment more challenging. Reward correct behaviour generously. Second, use your time at the park to review the skills you’ve trained. Call him when there’s a lag in the play session. If you’ve been working on recalls, chances are he’ll come running. Reward like there’s no tomorrow! If your dog ignores you, do not keep calling. Work on recalls for another week before you try it in the park again.

Pick up
It goes without saying: pick up after your dog, no matter where you are. And if possible, go green! Biodegradable poop bags are readily available for purchase at pet stores or online. Dispose of the bags appropriately. This keeps the park clean and nice for everyone.
The dog park can be a joyful part of life with your canine companion, but it can also be a dangerous place. Practice proper park petiquette and keep your furry friend safe, happy and healthy.

In addition to national agility titles and honours, Dr. Brandi Jacques and her dogs have many television appearances to their credit. When she’s not working with her Shiba Inu or Belgian Malinois, Brandi is busy as a concert pianist, music teacher, agility instructor and freelance writer.
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Friday, April 9, 2010

So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten...