Tuesday, October 03, 2006
I've been lax in posting lately because I've been busy with lots of agility training and flyball. But a trip to my mom's this past weekend reminded me of a topic that I've been meaning to discuss: the dog park, specifically good dog park etiquette.
My mom lives in Myrtle Beach, SC, which is home to the best dog park I've ever seen (see photo above). Normally I don't like dog parks because they often function more as fight pits--they are way too small and the dogs get crowded together, and because a lot of owners have no idea how to properly supervise dog play things can get dangerous and out-of-hand rather quickly. But the Myrtle Beach dog park is huge (11 acres!), with two areas, each with its own entrance. it's got plenty of room for the dogs not to feel crowded, which helps keep down the level of nervousness or grouchiness some dogs feel. There's also a large pond in the middle for dogs who like to splash about or swim (my own dogs love that part!, and there is a wooded area with a few intrepid squirrels to be chased. I look forward to to this dog park every time I visit Myrtle Beach.
But even in a wonderful, huge dog park, owners need to supervise their dogs' play, not just for safety but out of consideration for others. What gets me every time are the people who congrate and chat, drinking coffee while completely ignoring their dogs. Of course, these are usually the same dogs who end up rushing the entrances when new dogs show up--making it difficult for some dogs to get into the park safely because they immediately feel defensive. I always run interference as I'm opening the gate, backing off the dogs who have gathered so my own dogs can feel comfortable entering the park. Allowing your dog to crowd and intimidate new arrivals is just downright inconsiderate, as is allowing your dogs to gang up on or bully another dog ... even though its just play to the bully it can be terrifying and traumatizing for the bullied, who may feel defensive enough to bite back.
Because a lot of people don't know how to recognize the difference between normal play and unsafe play, Val Olszyk, owner and training director of Pet Behavior Help (where I train and teach), has written a guide to using a dog park. Her advice can help dog owners not only protect their own dogs, but also avoid being the ones everyone else tries to avoid! I think the next time I go to the Myrtle Beach dog park I may print and laminate a few copies of here guide and attach them to the fence.
If you're going to Myrtle Beach and you'd like to visit the dog park, it's located on the former air force base at the south end of Myrtle Beach. To get there turn into the former AFB from Kings Highway and take a left at "Mallard Lake Drive." The park is the fenced in area on your left about 200 yards after you turn. (Here's the location marked on Yahoo maps ... anyone who knows how I can add an interactice Yahoo or Google map to this entry let me know. I know there's got to be a way, but I'm not geeky enough to try figuring it out.)