Dog park etiquette that all dog parents should know
By Dr. Jordan Carlton Schaul
Playa Vista may leave you with the impression that Silicon Beach is a utopia for dog park patrons. It is. More importantly, it’s also a utopia for dogs.
There is a lot of barking and play-fighting fun to be had at Playa Vista’s three outdoor dog play venues: Bluff Creek Dog Park and Oberrieder Dog Park, both on Bluff Creek Drive, and Longwood Dog Park at 13077 Villosa Place.
But keep in mind that not all dog parks are created equal, nor are they necessarily created to optimize dog socialization, play and rigorous exercise. Most dog parks cater to the needs of owners and pet care providers.
All three PV dog parks permit segregating large and small dog populations. But choose carefully, because we often forget to consider high energy vs. low energy, young vs. old, and socialized vs. ‘asocial’ when introducing naive dogs and more seasoned, off-leash ‘socialized’ dog visitors.
For example, the Bluff Creek dog park is great for a quick trip and includes a “drinking water stream” for dogs to play in. But playing an intense game of fetch on diverse and elevated terrain can challenge the physical well-being of a dog in great shape, not to mention one with joint conditions.
When I play fetch with my own dog, quite the agile Doberman, I’m careful to also “exercise” him at one of the two other parks, which use wood chips as a substrate and are comprised of flat and wide-open spaces.
There is a ton of information about dog park safety and etiquette online, but my perspective may be a little different than your typical canine behaviorist or dog trainer. Dog behavior at a dog park is dictated by many things beyond simply basic social dynamics, breed temperament, individual disposition and rearing history.
While at any dog park, here are a few things to keep in mind:
• Not all dogs thrive in the same social environments. Pay attention to quality and quantity of space and environmental parameters that may be relevant to your dog.
• Be preemptive and err on the side of caution. If you see a reactive dog, perhaps leave and come back later. Don’t wait for a potential engagement to go awry or escalate. And never assume another dog owner has the experience to respond to a challenging situation.
• Pay attention to your dog and keep cell phone use to a minimum. You can’t de-escalate altercations if you don’t see them coming.
• Gated entranceways and exits are highly congested on busy days and can be stress-inducing for your dog. Don’t remove the leash until you have managed to open and close gates securely with a latch. Navigating these hotspots can make all the difference.
The ultimate goal is for all our local dog residents to have a stimulating, fun and safe experience while playing with their furry friends.
A Playa Vista resident, Schaul is a veterinary scientist and exotic animal trainer who works with celebrity dog owners and trains celebrity dogs. Contact him at dogtrainerdude.com.