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Taking dogs on summer outings requires careful planning


Last updated 7/12/2007 at Noon

Before you take Fido off-leash to either a dog park or dog beach, you might want to consider listening to the advice of two prominent Fallbrook dog trainers. The expertise of David Greene (co-owner of Bow Wow Services) and Rick Williams could very well make your next jaunt a more pleasurable one for both you and your dog.

A couple of years ago, Greene had the opportunity to chat with renowned dog trainer Cesar Millan. Greene discovered that their dog behavior philosophies were in sync. With that mentioned, Greene believes that dog parks and dog beaches are places to socialize your animal, not places for exercising him.

“People should take their dogs to these places after they exercise their animal,” Greene said. “Even a long walk would be good.” In his experience, dogs that are full of energy and wired could be a magnet for fights.

At first, when a dog owner has a pup on a leash walking to these (off-leash) sites, people have the tendency to hold on to a tight leash. Greene opines that this is a big mistake.

“A tight leash signals the dog that they are in a protective mode,” he said. “Don’t ever let a dog pull on you.” Instead of a tug-of-war with the leash, a quick “pop-like” leash correction will bring the dog back to a calm and obedient state.

Where humans might think Fido appears cute barking and whining at these places, a pack of dogs, especially where one is more dominant in nature, could view this canine behavior as weakness, said Greene. Before removing a leash, Greene strongly advises a dog be calm rather than in a “hyper” state of mind.

Additionally, before even attempting to bring Fido to the beach, Greene advises that dog owners must have good obedience control over their canines at dog beaches and/or dog parks. “There are going to be a lot of distractions there, so you have to make sure your dog listens to the recall command,” he explained.

Rick Williams believes in having obedience training in place before going to off-leash grounds. “The recall command is the most important command there is, not only at these places but everywhere,” he said. “If a dog does not have proper training at these off-leash sites, it could run off.”

Williams thinks dog parks and dog beaches are a great place to go and have fun, but both the owner and the dog have to have good obedience training. Before entering these places, Williams recommends doing a little obedience training in the parking lot. A few minutes of this training will serve as a connection between you and your dog and will be valuable when entering these off-leash playgrounds.

“Also, be aware whether or not other dogs’ owners have control over their dogs, because oftentimes they don’t,” said Williams. He also pointed out that there are some dogs that do not belong at these public off-leash places, including female dogs in heat or dogs that are aggressive and/or territorial. As a courtesy and safety to others, it is advisable to leave these types of dogs home.

When at these public pup play areas, learning dog body language is very important, said Williams. A tail positioned straight up in the air and hair rising on the neck/back could be a precursor to a potential problem.

“All I can say is to know your animal and know your surroundings,” Williams said.

With proper dog training in check, a successful and fun visit to a dog beach and/or dog park is only a short drive away. These off-leash destinations are a great place for both you and Fido to socialize and play.


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