Dog Park Can Be Enjoyable For Dogs, Owners

FOCUS ON PETS

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The Payson Off-Leash Dog Park is celebrating its first anniversary. Improvements and amenities are constantly being added. For the growing number of "regulars," dogs and their people look forward to gathering with their friends.

According to the dogpark.com website, "A dog park provides owners with a space in their day to relax, and their dogs with the space to have fun." People are meeting people at dog parks. It has become a social event, the place to go with your dog. Ask you dog if he wants to go to the dog park and he will head for the door.

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Remember, dogs, no matter what their temperament, are pack animals. It may take time to get your pet socialized, but it is worth it for the joy of seeing your pet play with pals in the dog park.

Dog parks have common sense rules. Bags are provided for you to pick up after your dog. Keep your eyes on your dog as you are liable for his behavior. You must stay in the park with him. Dogs must be four months old, have all their shots and be licensed before entering the dog park. Females in heat are not allowed.

Many cringe at the thought of picking up after their dog. It is an activity that builds humility. It is also essential for all dog owners. Responsible owners welcome having others tell them of a missed pile.

Leashes are not allowed in the dog park. Dogs behave differently when they are connected to a leash and person. They want to protect the territory occupied by their person, themselves and the space in between.

When first visiting the dog park, walk your dog around outside the fence and let him see the dogs playing inside. Bring him inside and stay close to him. See how he reacts. Be on the lookout for aggressive dogs. Be relaxed. Your dog will know if you are worried. You want this first experience to be a good one.

Again quoting from dogpark.com, "It is the responsibility of each dog owner to insure that his dog is properly trained, under voice command and fully capable of passive interaction with other dogs." It continues, "A dog's behavior is a direct reflection of his owner's training and ability to control. Poorly trained dogs are not received well in dog parks."

Not all dogs do well at a dog park. Like young children, dogs who grow up alone tend to be either shy or aggressive when brought in contact with another dog. Puppies like to play and that is the best time to socialize them.

Levels of training, grooming, concern for health and nutrition and people's relationship with their dogs vary greatly among dog owners and you see the whole range at the dog park. The ugliest dog or one in dire need of grooming and nail clipping will be the pride and joy of his owner. The dogs do not notice any of this. They just play together and have a wonderful time.

We hear about aggressive breeds and the trouble they cause. At the dog park you will see pit bulls and other such breeds running and playing with their buddies. And you might see some gentler breed terrorizing the group. Dogs must be socialized in order to get along with other dogs no matter the breed. An older dog can be socialized but it takes time and patience. If a dog appears aggressive, determine if he is acting out of fear or dominance. Fear requires confidence. Dominance demands discipline. Immediately stop any signs of aggression.

The dog park is for the enjoyment of dogs and their people. People must follow the rules and the dogs must behave and interact well with other dogs. When this happens, the dog park experience is wonderful for everyone. If you have not been to the dog park, which is located in Rumsey Park, and you think your dog is a good candidate for this experience, give it a try. Watching dogs freely run and play together is a beautiful sight.

Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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