Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dog parks and service dogs

Do not take your service dog to a dog park, trainers will tell you. Service dogs cost thousands of dollars to train and maintain, and are way too valuable to risk even in an apparently well run dog park.

Grief can come in the form of just one aggressive animal who will fight if he thinks he's being challenged. Some owners do not watch their animals' behavior and even think it’s funny for Brutus to beat up on smaller dogs.

Trooper is a 17-pound miniature schnauzer mix and wouldn't stand a chance against, say, a German shepherd with an attitude.

Many dog parks also are full of feces incivil dog owners can’t be bothered to clean up. These parks can be Petri dishes of disease.

Unexpected things can happen there. In Maryland last December, an off-duty Washington cop shot a hearing service dog inside a dog park when she thought the dog was endangering her. (Is this further evidence of trouble in police culture? Draw your own conclusions.)

Too bad. Dog parks, when well run by responsible management that requires proof of vaccination for rabies and other diseases, and are policed by owners who keep a careful eye on their dogs, can be excellent vehicles for socialization and burning off excess energy. 

Evanston not only has one of those but also a popular dog beach on Lake Michigan. Many’s the time I’ve watched dogs of all sizes frolic in the water with their masters close by. It all looks like great fun.

All else being equal, Trooper very likely would thrive in Evanston’s park and on its beach.

But I’m not taking the risk. In public he is always at my side and on leash, under careful control.

Trooper does enjoy socialization in obedience class and with a weekly visit to Ginny, my younger son’s vizsla/Plott hound. They dash about my son’s back yard in wild abandon and are good buddies.

If only portions of dog parks could specifically be set aside for service animals, areas where highly trained dogs could play among themselves with little or no risk of injury.

In Canada, Simcoe County in southern Ontario is considering fencing off part of its popular dog park solely for service animals and making it accessible to owners in wheelchairs.

I hope that Evanston will do that someday for its dog park and dog beach.

1 comment:

  1. There are always those that fail to understand the danger in their dogs' behavior and can't imagine their dogs would hurt another dog. Because of this, we agree dog parks can be dangerous places.