Off-leash areas aren’t just walk in the park
One of the more cherished and enjoyed American pastimes is a walk in he park with man's best friend. As our society became more urbanized, the need for parks that had sufficient space for what we now refer to as "off-lease dog parks."
In our area, these spacious natural settings have become so popular that even some rules have been created to accommodate safe passage and assure a peaceful experience for canines and their human companions.
Recently, I was browsing through the newest edition of the "Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association" and happened upon some guidelines for dog parks. I thought dog owners should share them here.
At a seminar at the recent AVMA convention, veterinarian Melissa Bain of the University of California-Davis, spoke of the benefits and concerns of dog parks.
Bain states dog parks are not for everyone or every dog. She advised against taking aggressive or fearful dogs to parks. She also said puppies should not be taken to parks without a full set of vaccinations and immunity treatments. Furthermore, the parks are not the place for dogs to learn how to socialize. I agree they are not to be puppy playgrounds.
But, dogs can benefit from visits to dog parks. Some positive effects include exercise, a release of pent-up energy, social contact with normal non-aggressive dogs and mental stimulation. Dog owners, too, could benefit through socialization and exercise.
An example of a large off-leash dog park in our area is the one in Shawnee Mission Park. This is a very beautiful, natural expanse of rolling hills, woods and open fields. There is even a beach where pooches can take a dip and fetch floating retrievables. But there is trouble in paradise at times.
From time to time, we are presented with patients who find themselves the victims of attacks by aggressive dogs. The injuries range from a few bite punctures to massive lacerations requiring extensive surgical closure and medicinal care.
Certainly, we caution dog owners to keep a tight rein on their dogs and if they visit a dog park make sure they can command their dogs to return willingly to their sides. So, an obedient, well-trained, controlled canine is essential to ensuring a trouble-free experience.
It is essential to know the body language of dogs before visiting such an environment. It is important pet owners do their homework on body posture, appropriated dog play and basic canine interactions so they can spot trouble before it happens. A vet, dog trainer or book from the library can be the source of that information.
It's important to know your dog. Understand how it acts on a leash when you walk and in public. Know that happy-play dogs have to stop when growls turn serious.
In a study of California parks, it was found aggression was not a major problem. The study did reveal concerns about jumping up and pushing behaviors, as well as problems with fearful dogs. Another issue was dog walkers were not able to watch or clean up after multiple dogs. Noise and sanitation were not major problems.
It's this veterinarians opinion dog parks are a very good thing. We all enjoy the solitude and stress release of walk in the park. What better way than to enjoy the experience with a beloved pet? But take care to know you dog(s), enforce commands. have a leash ready, and above all respect other dog owners and their pets.