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20: the park

Dear Friend,


I hope that the last 168 hours have added up to a happy week for you. This is the time of year that people often pile more activities on to their schedules. The sun is up longer, with all of this extra daylight, it seems that there is so much more time to do more things. Please rest well when you can.  


Have you noticed your calendar filling up with events like graduations and weddings, or rummage sales to benefit goat sanctuaries?  Read about: Goatlandia in Santa Rosa California and New Moon Farm Sanctuary in Arlington Washington.


When is the last time you went to a park and slid down the slide? Or climbed a play structure to the very top? Have you sat on a swing recently? When you were a kid, what was your favorite playground equipment? If you go to a local park today, has your favorite thing been removed, maybe for safety reasons?


Do you remember teeter-totters? Or what about those merry-go-round things? I haven’t seen many of either recently.


I used to love the merry-go-round-thing. And there was always some kid with super-strength that would just show up out of nowhere and start pushing us faster and faster around and around and we’d want to yell, “Stop!” but we were spinning so fast our mouths were stuck shut.    


Everyone knows at least one person that’s been flung from or has fallen off playground equipment…  And even though your friend’s mom saw it happen, she is the first person to run to your side and yell, “What happened?” then exclaim, “Oh, you got the wind knocked out of you!” and just when you think you’ll be OK, she gasps, “You’re bleeding!” 


Those were the good old days.


It seems that safety concerns have really created a whole new playground experience for children in 2024. If you haven’t been to a playground park lately, it might be an interesting outing for you. First of all, as you get out of your car and are heading toward the playground, how excited are you? Check yourself, are you running? Then, when you get there, notice, are parents watching their kids? Are they engaging with them, talking to or playing with them? Think back to when you were a little kid… did your parents engage with you at the park? Besides different playground equipment, has anything really changed about ‘the park?’ If so, how is it different? Does it seem better, or worse, now?


What about parks for dogs? Do you have an opinion about whether people should or shouldn’t take their dogs to a dog park?


I’d like to weigh in on this because I, too, care about dogs and their people.


So, before you take your dog to a dog park:

Make certain that your dog has excellent recall. (No, not the kind where he’ll be able to tell you the details of the movie you just watched together). I mean, if you call him, he will drop whatever he’s doing and run to your side.


If your dog has great recall, and if you supervise his playtime, you can help him avoid becoming overtired.


You can help him steer clear of rough play in groups of dogs that often escalates into fights – it’s pretty much just like human children on a playground and why we teach kids to come when called – control for safety sake.


Though, in most dog parks, there are rules and signs posted that all dogs need to have all of their vaccinations and ya-da-ya-da – dogs probably don’t read the signs and can show up with contagious illnesses. Just be aware that most people don’t read signs, either.


Dog parks usually have ‘communal’ water bowls; you can bring your dog’s own water dish. But keep in mind that dogs will almost always greet each other and there is often shared saliva involved in their sort of handshakes.

Before you enter a dog park with your dog, take some time to check out the behavior of the people inside the park. If the humans seem to be huddled around socializing with each other, they aren’t watching their dog. You may know your own dog but you don’t know their dog’s behavior(s), you don’t automatically know whether the other dogs have been trained or have any recall at all.


And you can’t be 100% positive of how your dog might react to these other dogs.

So, before you commit to going through the gate, take the time to scope out the situation. If you hear someone calling their dog’s name over and over and their dog doesn’t come, you know that that dog does whatever it wants to do.

(Dogs don't always quit when they are tired. Fuji has the ball, is faster than the other dogs and has excellent recall. At this point in his run with the ball, we called Fuji over for a respite, giving the other dogs a rest and a chance to disperse before any of them became agitated).

I won’t go in to training tips and such but I will paraphrase my favorite trainer, Judy Granberg, “Approach every dog knowing that they have a mouth full of steak knives. We all have the capability to bite – and we can all be trained to choose other behaviors, but some people and dogs choose to bite, anyway. So, pay attention. People are easier to anticipate because you can hear the escalation, name calling gets louder and someone starts crying. But since a dog doesn’t start a fight by verbally insulting someone’s mother, you have to watch their behavior, learn to anticipate, and you have to know when to deescalate. Whenever anyone brings a dog into a situation like a dog park, there needs to be supervision, anticipation, and control.”

Bottom line, if the people at the dog park aren’t engaging with their own dog or dogs, try a different park.


And if there are so many dogs that you can’t easily count them, take a raincheck.


Numbers matter, a dog park is an enclosure from which there is no escape, make sure it’s a safe and happy place for your dog to be.

There are benefits to taking your kid or your dog to a park. They have fun, socialize, run free and tire out (not just so that they sleep really well), exercise is healthy.


And there are consequences as well, like germ-exchange and fights.  


Oddly enough, it really depends on YOU and how you decide to advocate for your loved one.


We are grateful that you are here to read Tracks by the Post. Please write to us, we’d love to hear your playground and / or dog park stories and opinions!


Wishing you a wonderful, happy week ahead!


Gently Be,

Leslie and Frank


(Many thanks to our friend, Fuji, for portraying his crazy-fast Vizsla-self at a dog park and for allowing Frank to photograph him).  


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