Just as regular exercise is vital to our health, it is extremely important to the well being of our canine companions. With sprawl becoming more and more of an issue, there are fewer places to safely exercise our dogs off leash. Walking your dog on a leash is beneficial, but many dog breeds require greater exertion to work off energy. Dogs that are not adequately exercised are more prone to medical and behavioral problems.
Running your dog off leash may be exhilarating and refreshing for both you and your pooch, but poses many potential hazards if not done in the proper setting. Most parks require dogs to be on a leash at all times and for very good reason. The risk of being hit by a car is the greatest danger. Inadequately trained or socialized dogs may also pose threats of aggression towards not only other dogs, but humans as well. As a frequent biker on the C & O Canal, I have had numerous close calls with over zealous canines.
The safest way to go may be to utilize one of the local dog parks that have recently opened. These fenced areas allow dogs the opportunity to exercise freely and socialize with other dogs and their owners in what is usually a safe environment. Owners should be prepared to clean up after their dogs, so bring a pooper scooper along.
Dog runs, however, are not free of risk. Owners need to observe other dogs as well as their own. Multiple well socialized dogs may play well in a confined area, but one aggressive dog may present a serious risk to others. If you are concerned that another dog may be aggressive, I suggest you remove your dog from the park and try again later. Fights do occur, though they are often over as quickly as they start. Though it may be our first instinct, breaking up a dog fight poses considerable risk to humans. We lack the fur and loose skin that serve to protect dogs in a fight.
The key to hopefully preventing these problems is good obedience training starting at a young age. Puppies should be started in a “puppy kindergarten” to begin positive social interaction with other dogs, as well as their owners. This should be followed up with at least a basic obedience class. If you feel your dog is not trained well enough in basic obedience or may be aggressive towards other dogs, you may want to hold off on visiting a dog park. However, it is never too late to start obedience training, even for older canines. I strongly disagree with the axiom, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” With proper training, most dogs, old and young, and their owners can enjoy the benefits of a dog park.
As mentioned in last month’s Lakelands Leader, it has been “rumored” that a dog park may be in the development’s future. If you are interested in obedience training for your dog, please feel free to call us at Maple Springs Veterinary Hospital at (301)424-0373 or call our professional dog trainer, George Cockrell, at (301)493-9542.