By Scott Hunt
The Dog Grumbler
I WROTE about dog parks a couple of months ago and have received considerable feedback since.
I now have a copy of a very comprehensive study of dog off-lead areas, compiled by Tasmanian Bob Holderness-Roddam.
It’s a well-researched and comprehensive document which should be the first port of call for any council designing a dog park, as it’s full of useful insights and information.
I was delighted by the vision Bob offers of public places where people and dogs can hang out and interact with confidence.
A place where it’s good to be a dog; where it’s good to have a dog.
Where it’s good to have a human.
Certainly, there is an important place for this booklet. If you want a copy, give me a call.
As I pointed out in previous comments on the subject, dog parks are popping up all over the place and differ markedly in their design.
Obviously available sites differ, as well as budgets and priorities, but having frequented many I couldn’t help thinking that each included at least one great idea which would improve some of the others.
Bob Holderness-Roddam’s study pointed out a few important things missing form all of them, but each council deserves kudos for their efforts.
Bellerive’s South Street Dog Park has the best parking, great fence layout and they work hard to keep the grass lush.
Sorell is a close second for parking and offers double-gated entry, separated enclosures and comprehensive signage.
Bellerive also has trees for shade and well-spaced benches for humans.
Kingston Beach offers the best swimming facilities and has drawn dogs and humans to Kingston for, well, dog years.
New Town (recently reopened), is the newest and has space, interesting topography, an agility circuit, digging areas and double-gated access.
There are off-grid groups too – folks who congregate informally but regularly in public places and enjoy the joy of dogs being dogs.
If we dog owners don’t take advantage of these facilities we are remiss in our duty.
Dogs need time with other dogs — especially with dogs who are good at pleasing humans.
That’s how they learn best.
Your dog bridges two worlds; the human and the canine. It has developed a unique capacity to do so over millennia but still needs time and practice to make it work.
A fenced area that smells of happy dogs is an opportunity to let your dog interact with you and others of its kind (and yours) freely; to use scent, sound and body language as only it can without the imposition of leashes and territorial imperatives.
If you have access to such a place, at least take your dog and go and watch. It’s fun even from outside the fence.
You will see some owners standing in groups chatting about their dogs. As I’ve said before, this is fine but misses an important opportunity.
I advise owners to walk laps.
This allows their dog to identify with its crew by travelling with them, but still gives it scope to interact with the other dogs in the park.
I think it’s also important to stop and sit a while. Your dog may simply find you and touch base, or possibly set up a perimeter and challenge strangers who approach.
Here’s another tip: dog’s indicate submission and friendship by getting closer to the ground.
This varies from sitting, through a play bow to rolling on to their backs. Whenever another dog expresses an interest in me or a dog I’m with, I squat to tell everyone I’m friendly.
I also yawn a lot and never smell worried.
If I sense any potential aggression involving a dog in my company, we get straight to walking. The other dog has to fall behind or join the team.
Fenced off-lead areas are a great way to practice these things.
You may be surprised to learn that your dog loves having you for a human and enjoys the opportunity to show you off to other dogs.
Some dogs never get a chance to demonstrate their connection to their human, or to see other dogs behaving well.
Some never learn to play. Some never learn that it’s good to be a dog.
Let’s get behind dog parks and use them well. They are good for us.