I love dog parks. I love taking my dog to them. My dogs love to run around and play with other friendly socialized dogs. Unfortunately, where I live, they are not always safe. The fences are sound. The benches are sturdy. But there are frequently people there with dogs that are aggressive, out of control, and un-nuetered and un-spayed. A few people ruin it for everybody else. So, my dogs will not be going to the dog park. In a large fenced in park, dogs can cover a great deal of distance in very short periods of time. A fight can break out too quickly to avoid. After being lucky for several years with my pets, the risks are just too great. Yesterday, at our local dog park, a large un-neutered dog was brought into the park. The owner went to the nearest bench and lied down. They were not watching their out-of-control dog. They were asked to leave by other dog owners but they refused to leave. Un-neutered dogs are not allowed into the dog park by law where I live. Signs are posted at every single gate. The area in question is marked for small timid dogs. The large dog started to attack a toy breed dog. The small dog's owner tried to break up the fight. Both the owner and their small dog were both bitten and injured. Police were called and nothing was done even though there were witnesses. The large dog's owner never even got off of the bench. Apparently this dog has done this before. I was not there. So, there may be more to the story. I am so glad I was not there though.
Several months ago at the same park, there was a dog there with an eye infection. The eye was oozing and the dog was frightened by any other dog that was on the infected eye side. That dog should not have been out playing with other dogs. It was very defensive and was lunging toward any dog that came near it. We left when I saw it.
If people refuse to follow the rules and the police are not able to do anything about it, I will not be risking my dog's life or good health by taking a chance at our dog park. I love the idea of them. I have enjoyed them in the past too so I completely understand the appeal. My favorite parks were in Arkansas and Texas. The Arkansas park that we used to enjoy was smaller and the crowd was more responsible. The park that we enjoyed in Texas was also much smaller. It was a fenced off area at the apartment where we lived. We knew our neighbors and it was small enough to be able to keep a good eye on our dogs. Unfortunately, the park near my home now is very large and very crowded with a new set of people that don't know each other and are irresponsible with their dogs. So, at my current location, unfortunately, they just are not safe. So, what can you do?
Sniffing the bushes and grass for dogs is like their social media. Dogs have approximately 125 million to 300 million scent glands depending on the breed. Compared to our 5 million scent glands as humans, the difference is enormous. Dogs can smell separately through each nostril. Their moist spongy nose helps capture any scent that a breeze carries in each breath of fresh air. The olfactory system in the brain of a dog is many times larger in dogs than in humans too. When dogs take a breath, most of the air goes into their lungs but a portion goes into a space that humans do not have known as the olfactory recess. There, the air can collect and swirl through an intricate maze of passages. When they exhale, they exhale air through little slits on the sides of their nose so each breath gives them a fresh whiff of scents.
Dogs can tell where we have been and who we have been with as soon as we enter the room. The dogs that I walk regularly can always tell when I have been with a new client. They give me a knowing longer sniff. They check my shoes and pant legs. They always know. It is remarkable. Dogs can smell hormones produced by emotions like sadness, anger, fear, and happiness. For this reason, many think that dogs can actually tell if a person is "bad" because they can smell the anger, fear, and distress hormones. Smelling fear doesn't make them aggressive though, it makes them afraid too and increases their level of stress. Smelling happy hormones makes dogs happier too.
This is why dogs are generally so happy to explore new surroundings. They smell so much more than we do! Sniffing around the neighborhood is how dogs catch up on all the local news. They can tell who has been in the yard and even if the other dogs are sick. Dogs can tell if we are sick too. Dogs can be trained to detect, diabetes and cancer.
Reviewing all this information is mentally tiring to dogs and is just as important as the physical aspect of a good walk for dogs. This is especially helpful with puppies that are still learning about their world and need to be tired out. The smarter the dog, the more important it is to mentally stimulate them. This is important to remember the next time you take your dog for a walk and get frustrated because they want to smell every bush and tree trunk.
If you have an athletic dog and want to make sure they’re tired, be sure to include some slower sniffing time for their brain. Smell (and nose work) is a wonderful way to do that. There are lots of games you can play with your dog with simple things like muffin tins, toys, and treats hidden under the toys in a muffin tin. This is a fun rainy day game for dogs and puppies. A dog that gets mental and physical exercise is calmer and happier. You’re couch and shoes will thank you.
I have searched for a well-stocked first aid kit for pets and the choices out there are either full of bandages and tape or very expensive. I chose to build my own because it is actually much less expensive and you can load up on things your specific pet needs.
Pet First Aid/CPR courses are highly recommended before trying pet first aid or CPR at home. Have emergency vet information in your phone and take photo copies of your pet’s vet record. Keeping this info handy on your phone will save you time in the event of an emergency.
Always call a veterinarian or poison control hotline before inducing vomiting. Know your pet’s accurate weight so you can give correct dosages of medication. Being prepared to administer emergency first aid while on the way to the vet may save your dog’s life.
Here is a shopping list to build your own first aid kit for your pet:
Always follow up first aid or CPR with a trip to your vet to follow up and rule out any other issues.
I moved back to California with my dog Betty last year after living in other states for the the last fifteen years or so. I wanted to familiarize myself with the local laws as a responsible pet owner. Many laws have changed since I lived here before. I want to share some of what I have learned with you to keep all of our pets safer. I will be sharing them over the next few weeks.
First up -Leash law. This is such a source of debate among dog owners. Most owners know that it is a good idea for most dogs - other people's dogs in particular. Nobody wants a strange dog running up to them or their pets. The news is full of sad stories depicting tragic accidents and horrific injuries because an unleashed pet got loose and the result is often devastating. Many people think it is ok to allow THEIR pet to roam free because they believe that it is justified if the area is remote, uncrowded, or their dog is just too good to worry about. I have heard the reasons. We were the only ones around (until they weren't). My dog is friendly (until they are attacked). My dog has a solid recall. My dog is too old for a leash. My dog is too young for a leash. I do it all the time - it is fine. I have even had dog walking clients expect me to walk their dogs off-leash in Los Angeles because they do it all the time.
Here is the problem. The law is clear:
"No person owning or having possession, charge, custody, or control of any animal, except cats which are not in heat or season, shall cause, permit, or allow the animal to stray, run, or in any manner to be at large in or upon any public street, sidewalk or park, except as otherwise expressly provided in section 63.44 of this Code, or in the bed of the Los Angeles River or upon any unenclosed lot or land."
Enclosed private property or public dog parks (if you dare) are the ONLY legal places to let your dog off leash. Having an Emotional Support Animal is not an exception. There are some exceptions made for true service dogs that MUST be off leash to perform their tasks such as police K9 animals. There is a lot of confusion over the difference between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Dog. This will be covered in an upcoming article soon.
The entire code relating to pets can be found here. Be informed and be safe out there.
Would you like to understand your dog better? Love dogs and can't get enough of stories about how dogs make life special? There are many great books written to help you understand and train dogs better. This list is just a taste of what is out there. This is a short list of the top 5 titles that made the list of favorite books to read for dog lovers in a recent informal poll taken in a couple of my most active Facebook dog groups (30,000+ members).