Dog Parks Are Not A Solution

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Dogs at large is in the news again in Park City and it’s making me sooo angry. The shortsightedness of all involved is nauseating. Another dog park- but, hey, this one will be larger- is not the solution. Obviously the haters will continue to hate and make off-leash life irritating for pet lovers. Adding yet another space for poorly behaved dogs to run amuck while irresponsible owners turn a blind eye is NOT the answer.

The Park City Council in response to whiners complaining about the “state” of the Round Valley area is to take a huge swatch of land and put a giant fence around it. Can NO ONE see that the reason the dog parks are underutilized and there are a constant parade of pooches on our trails is because we actually want to BE with our dogs?? BE as in run, bike, snowshoe, hike, ski with them. Not stand around or sit on a bench while dogs chase other dogs or tennis balls for 15 minutes.

Photo by Whitney Lewis Photography

I’m quite satisfied with Millcreek Canyon offering off and on leash days. This gives those who cringe around dogs the confidence to venture forth on ‘even’ days knowing they won’t be molested by a happy, tongue-lolling lab and those of us who need the exercise, the ability to schedule days when we know animal control won’t harsh our outdoor buzz.

The current Summit County leash laws maintain that dogs must be on-leash at all times unless in a dog park or the new Run Amok gated trail. There goes biking or skiing with your dog. Does your dog like to paddle around in ponds or chase bubbles in a stream? Can’t legally do that in Park City without dragging you around by the leash. I feel fortunate that my dog is highly trained and responds to commands off leash. There’s a little known clause in our leash laws that allow eCollars. These are considered a leash so long as you carry a hard tether with you at all times. I have one on Takoda whenever we’re at play.

But don’t just run out to grab one of these babies and call it good. You need to know how to use a shock collar (the high-end ones have a ‘pager’ button that vibrates if you are uncomfortable with the short zaps) and you need a dog that is responsive to it. I work with an amazing trainer at Live Oak Dog Obedience that whole-heartedly believes in the usefulness of a “shock collar” when outdoors and in public. There’s no better way to get your pet’s attention. You can yank on a collar all you want but once your dog zeroes in on another dog or critter you’re more likely to strangle him than steer him away. An eCollar is a wondrous tool if used correctly.

Top Reasons To Hate Dog Parks

Aggressive dogs, ill-behaved children chasing dogs, poop piles, diseases, lame people, boring landscape.

I suppose a dog park serves a purpose if you own an unruly dog that has no manners in public and you still need them to run because you don’t have a backyard or time to train him. Actually, it gives dog owners an excuse not to train their animals. There has not been a single time I’ve been in a dog park that there wasn’t some fight that broke out. Oh, and I love it when owners say, “That’s just dogs being dogs, they’re just positioning-determining dominance.” Oh, hell no. My dog will fight back if he’s attacked and it’s not ok. I don’t want him torn to shreds nor do I want to pay your vet bills if my dog wins. On trail, he’s rarely met by an aggressive dog because owners who hike offleash usually (can’t say always because there’s always that ‘one’ who makes the rest of us look bad) trust their dogs to behave; and so we can trust them too. I personally have learned my dog’s cues and know when to step in and snap on the leash.

Keep in mind that there are laws in place that go above anything animal control does. An owner is 100 percent responsible for problems their dog may cause. If you don’t want your dog executed or slapped with a giant medical bill you’re going to make sure she behaves. Why do we have to grant Big Brother license to interfere further? There is no reason to station police and animal control at trail heads, on trails themselves and at parks just to accost pet owners. I was tossing a Frisbee for Takoda on a snow-covered field at a local (empty) park when no sooner had he brought back the second throw when a control van rolled up, an officer jumped out with ticket clipboard in hand, and brandishing an accusatory demeanor. Takoda trotted lovingly over to him as I displayed the eCollar remote around my neck. He still reached down and felt for the actual collar just to be sure. Really? There wasn’t a single soul in sight. It was 9 a.m. on a snowy Tuesday morning when kids are in school and everyone else is at work with their heaters roaring. Don’t you have someplace better to be? Wouldn’t a driveby suffice in this instance? This is the current (hostile) state of affairs in Park City.

At one point in this three-year battle, pet owners proposed a type of licensing where we would run our dog through a series of obedience tests (or maybe they use the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen certification process) to prove how great we already know they are and the city would grant off-leash rights to dogs who pass; revoking a license if an issue arises with that dog. What a killer idea!! Where did that one go? There are enough dog parks for the dogs who can’t pass. And there are plenty of local trainers who can help them pass if they really cared. It’s time to stop penalizing good dogs and forcing them into quarantines decorated to look like freedom.

Off Leash Solutions-

Ruffwear Quick Draw– Let him carry his own leash. The Quick Draw is the ideal solution to hands-free leashing. He carries his own! The short leash attaches and wraps around your dog’s collar. Pull the tab for quick release from the Velcro and voile. It also has reflective striping for added attention in the dark. $19.95.

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7 comments

  • Park City better not fence in Round Valley! I go there to xc ski with my dog, and he loves it! We also love Millcreek – it’s the only place you can hike with your dog off leash (odd days only, of course). The only “dog park” that is worth going to where the dogs are friendly is Tanner Dog Park, but again, that is an area you can still have a nice walk, off leash. I’m not sure if I really even consider it a dog park because it doesn’t feel like one.

    I agree with you on getting more dogs to pass the Good Canine Citizen test. Seems like if you want to eat with your dog on a patio somewhere, they now require it, plus having their Rabies tags. There are plenty of dogs who won’t pass, and we should be rewarding the dogs who do pass it.

    I am glad we have the FIDOS group in SLC to help fight against some of these leash laws. They were also the group that was able to make Millcreek dog friendly on odd days.

    What we need more of is open, off leash areas so our dogs have a chance to explore the outdoors with their fur-humans. It won’t be long before everything is fenced for dogs in Utah. I have lived in 7 states and Utah has been the worst state to live in with a dog. It’s a shame – we have such beautiful country here.

    Alicia @ http://www.girlonahike.com

  • I agree that dog parks are not the solution and that one of the draws of living in Utah for me is that I can have my dogs with me when I am in the mountains/canyons. I absolutely agree that a responsive trained dog could be a good solution.

    However, as an animal behavior consultant and private trainer, and the ONLY affiliate member of the American Veterinarian Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) in Utah, I very strongly disagree with the idea that a shock collar is a viable training tool for off leash solutions.

    As a consultant, most of my clients are genuinely caring people that have reactive, fearful and/or aggressive dogs and who have been given the terrible advice to use e-collars, prong collars or choke chains to control their dog. Science shows these ‘wonderful tools’ can exacerbate aggressive/reactive behavior, and the AVSAB has a position statement against their use.

    As a dog lover, owner, experienced behavior consultant and trainer, I am all for off leash dogs when and where appropriate. But the use and mostly misuse of e-collars will not keep the general public safe, and could result in a potential law suit for the owners and god forbid worse for their beloved pet.

    • I have owned my dog training business for 38 years and am a dog behavioral specialist. I have worked with all types and personalities of dogs and have had extremely good successes. So many trainers and owners are not training with using how the dog’s mind thinks. I have seen training methods come and go in my years of training and am seeing a lot of indulgence these days causing dogs to not respect their “leaders” or owners. I have to fix many dogs that have been treat trained and will only work for food. Dogs see indulgence as a weakness. Yes, there are some dogs that are not high on the pecking order that will fall in line, but many dogs will take advantage of the weaknesses of their owners, thus we are seeing many ill-mannered dogs, which is causing dogs to be shut out of so many areas. I not only train for obedience, but also for manners. I shudder at the behavior of so many dogs that I see in public these days.
      There is a terrible misconception on prong collars and e-collars. The dog understands a prong collar much better than any other training method. It simulates the way a mother dog corrects her puppies; she gives them a “correction” at the neck with her teeth. This is nature at work. A mother grabs the dog by the neck, a dog “disciplines” another dog with their teeth to the neck. They get it! As with all training equipment it can be used incorrectly, but if used correctly, it’s a swift and effective tool. It is totally humane. Funny word when you think about it. We are seeing dogs through human eyes rather than a dog’s. Think like a dog and you will begin to understand what it takes to train one.
      As for the e-collar- it can save your dog’s life. You use it only as an extended ‘leash’, with the least correction possible. Many times, the pulse (and not the shock) is all dogs need. My dogs get excited when they see the e-collar because it means they get to go out for a run rather than tethered at a walk with a hard leash. They are rarely ‘corrected’. This tool may save your dog’s life from running in front of a car, running after a wild animals, or preventing aggression. You instantly get their attention. How many dogs have you see straining for freedom at the end of a leash, an owner struggling for control, choking the dog into a hoarse cough, only to have him break free because he won’t calm down? People who don’t like these tools, do not understand them and how to use them correctly.
      As far as dog parks, they have their purpose, but are many times used incorrectly. People take their hyper, out of control dogs there to run, while they sit and visit or talk on the phone. Dogs that are out of control cause fights and make it impossible for responsible people to let their dogs go and follow them around in the park, sniffing and investigating or chasing balls.
      Use they correctly. Take your dogs out for a long walk first, to take the edge off of them. Then walk around the park as your dogs play so that they keep their eyes on you rather than the strange dogs that would try to dominate. Also, dogs become protective over their owners and when you stand still they ready to protect you. If you walk and move they feel that you are strong enough to take care of yourself. They relax and just be dogs. I never take my dogs into a dog park without first checking out the personality of the dogs in the park and how the owners are working with their dogs.
      Utah is a great place and we are so blessed to have so much open space; a wonderful place for us humans to bond with our best friends. Owners are ruining this themselves. We need to teach manners and be responsible owners and clean up after our dogs. We need to know our dogs’ personalities and work with this in mind. I think if this was the the case, areas would possibly open back up. Many states and countries allow dogs everywhere, we should be working toward this goal and be good ambassadors for our dog friends.

  • I truly believe that some people are wired wrong. They look at dogs as if they are rabid lions trying to kill them and that they must be immediately eliminated. These are the same socially awkward people we have been dealing with forever. Afraid of their own shadows, solving conflicts with legal threats, etc. you know the type. I personally know of one full fledged lie about a dog attack. They’re sad people and it’s a sad state of affairs for our town and our dogs.

    Shove your dog parks! Grow a pair of stones and stand up to these undesirables!

  • I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but…my dog is finally FULLY trained! “The Online Dog Trainer ” : ( dogtrainercommand.com ) is a WONDERFUL resource for learning how to effectively and quickly train your dog without ever leaving home. I learned great ways to teach my dog almost every single trick imaginable and how to correct the most common behavioral issues, such as barking. It is full of carefully compiled videos that allow you to watch and listen to their expert solving the exact problem you’re having with your dog, with another real dog and its owner. You can see the precise body language he uses, how the tone of his voice changes, and how the dogs respond, changing their behavior almost immediately. It’s remarkable to see how quickly my dog picked up on these methods. My dog behaves PERFECTLY now! From what I understand, the information on that website works for any age or breed of dog. I feel blessed to know my dog is trained properly and effectively.

    • Hi Bryan- Your comment sounds an awful lot like a paid ad but I posted it anyway as people should know what options there are out there and doing a quick internet search didn’t turn up any negative posts about Doggy Dan. If there are any other former clients of his out there that care to reply, feel free!

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