It’s Saturday morning and you’re headed to the dog park. You’ve told yourself that it’s a bad idea but you go anyway. Why not just go for a walk with your dog? Why not drop off at dog day care? You convince yourself that 1 hour at the dog park is the easiest exercise.
You sit quietly on a bench and observe the chaos and dynamics around you. You see tangled retractable leashes, the popular girls clique, breed snobs, overprotective dog moms, the coffee drinkers club, the constant yellers, singles just looking for digits, the ball hogs, the mud diggers, the humpers, and the dog owners that never pick up their poop!
It’s not enjoyable and you second guess why you are there. There’s usually an argument at the dog park and a know it all that wants to tell the rest of us what to do. “Your dog is aggressive”, “my dog doesn’t like small dogs”, “your dog is mounting my dog”, “you shouldn’t let her have the toy”, and today I heard “take your dog off leash when you are at the park”. Everyone has an opinion and they want to make sure they share it with you.
It seems useless to educate a group of zombies that all have perfect dogs and won’t change the herd mentality. Right? Just because they own a dog doesn’t mean they have all the answers. Consider some of these suggestions as alternatives to the dog park.
- Get out of your element and go for a walk. The walk is the best way to bond with your dog and provide mental and physical exercise. With you at the end of the leash your dog starts to see you as a leader.
- Play a game of fetch or agility. Provide your dog with a mental task and reward him for following your cues.
- Go for a hike. Anywhere with nature that lets your dog enjoy his primal instincts.
- Practice basic obedience. Sit, down for 2 minutes, wait, and loose leash walking. You don’t need to be in a training session to practice these commands.
- Bring your dog to lunch with you. Meet up with friends at an outdoor food court or dog friendly restaurant. It’s a great way to practice social skills and manners. Bring dog food for your dog!
- Spend a few hours in dog day care. Pick a place that has good supervision where you know the dogs are in small play groups and all have vaccinations.
- Take the water dogs for a swim. If the sun is out find a lake or beach near by you. A pool is also a great idea and fun way to exercise using minimal amount of stress on the joints and bones.
Consider some new things to do with your dog. I recommend a sport based on your dog specific breed. Huskies have mushing clubs, Jack Russell Terriers go on barn hunts, Rottweilers have cart pulling contests, Bloodhounds learn to track at trailing trials, Shepherds enjoy herding, Coonhounds have hunting tests and sight hounds can enroll in lure coursing through AKC.
Not all dogs enjoy off-leash group play and one-on-one time may be a better option for your dog. Follow your heart, trust your instincts, and set aside quality time for your 4 legged companions to exercise in a way that provides your dog enrichment.