Why should you consider going to a dog park?


There are so many benefits that dog parks give dogs. Primarily, dog parks provide an opportunity for dogs to socialize with other humans. Studies show that dogs accustomed to meeting humans are less likely to have a fear response toward strangers.

Dog parks give dogs an opportunity to socialize with other dogs. With socialization, dogs will not feel the need to display dominance if they are comfortable meeting other dogs.

Dog parks allow dogs to get strenuous exercise, something that is not easy to do in an on-leash situation. I know with my six-month-old Labrador puppy, there is no amount of walking that is equivalent to 45 minutes of running and playing fetch at the dog park.

Studies show an exercised dog is healthier and less prone to anxiety behaviors like repetitive barking and destroying property.

Dog parks have a positive effect on their owners as well. Dogs are a great ice breaker. A dog park promotes friendships and a feeling of belonging to a community.  I know in our dog park it is not unusual for groups of people to get together for cook-outs or holiday parties.

A growing number of dog owners take their pets with them when traveling.  Offering a safe, off leash area for visitors enhances the travel experience. We recently vacationed in the mountains for a week and rented a cabin that specifically would allow us to bring our dogs. We found a local community dog park and took our dogs to it several times during our stay. It was wonderful and the dogs really enjoyed it as well.

According to a recent survey, nearly all pet owners say companionship, love, company and affection are the number one benefits to owning a pet. Fifty-nine percent say pets are good for their health and the health of their family and they help them to relax. Forty percent say that owning a dog motivates them to exercise on a regular basis.

Recent figures just released from American Pet Products Manufacturers Association show tha pet ownership is currently at its highest level, with 63 percent of all U.S. households owning at least one pet, which equates to more than 69 million households.

Almost three-quarters of dog owners consider their dog like a child or family member.

Spending time with one’s pet is considered an extremely important leisure activity.

Why do dogs need open space? The benefits of allowing dogs access to public open space may not always be self evident and warrant closer examination.  It is extremely important  to understand that they apply not only to dogs and their owners but also to the wider community as well as to those responsible for urban animal management (Animal Friends Of The Valley).

The most obvious reason why dogs need access to public open space is because of their popularity. Dog owners are a substantial group of park users (remember, 69 million households). A study by the American Veterinary Medical Association shows that 36 percent of American households have at least one dog. Many have more than one.

Other groups, skateboarders, softball teams and  bike tracks for example, have been given special consideration in view of their unique park needs. The overwhelming numbers of dogs and dog owners would seem to warrant specific consideration for them as well.

The second reason has to do with the link between open space for dogs and promoting acceptable behavior from dogs. Dogs need to be properly socialized in appropriate behavior. They also need regular outings to reduce boredom and pent up energy at home.  Access to a park that is close to home is the safest and most effective way to ensure that owners socialize their dogs and provide them with on-going experiences in the outside world. This not only benefits the dog and its owner, but also neighbors who are affected by unacceptable behavior at home, other park and street users and authorities responsible for animal management (Animal Friends Of The Valley).

The final (and most surprising to me) is that a balanced approach to accommodating dog owners in public open space may achieve higher level of compliance by dog owners with relevant laws. If a dog owner perceives laws to be unfair, it may elicit a defiant rather than a compliant response from dog owners. They may protest or flat out ignore the laws.  If, on the other hand, laws are perceived to be fair, people will be more likely to voluntarily comply. However, the impact of these  programs can only be limited without an access policy that is perceived to be fair by dog owners.

So we as a community need to see dog owners as legitimate as any other special interest group, and that their needs should be taken as an integral part of the city’s and POA’s decision making process.

We need to integrate dog activities with other park users, which allows for a more efficient and equitable distribution of resources, whereas separation and restriction concentrate potential conflicts into isolated areas, increasing the likelihood of overuse.

Dogs allowed to exercise off leash, running with other dogs, catching a ball, chasing a frisbee, or working at obedience training, are generally happier and healthier dogs.

We need to remember that an exercised dog makes better next door neighbors than under-exercised dogs. Puppies and dogs that get enough exercise through vigorous play are less likely to create a nuisance, bark excessively, destroy property, or learn anti-social behavior.  I personally like the old saying, “A tired dog is a good dog”.

In a time when people are often reluctant or even afraid to approach or converse with someone they don’t know, off-leash exercise areas bring together and create a greater sense of community. You can see this every time you go to our dog park.

I think I have established the wonderful benefits of a dog park to a community.  I have met lots of great people while at our local dog park.

There are rules and standard expected behavior of both dogs and owners, which I will cover dog park behavior and etiquette in an upcoming article.

If you have not had the opportunity to go to the Canyon Lake dog park, I urge you to do so. The installation on the new shade structures is expected to be completed today, Aug. 11. The busiest times at the Canyon Lake dog park are after 4 p.m. If you are just wanting to test it out, I would suggest going in the morning or early afternoon when it is not as busy.  This will give you and your dog the chance to ease into a new park environment.