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Be sure pooch is ready for park play
by Sarah Cooper
Apr 06, 2010 | 1148 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Debra Reid - Dogs and other distractions at the Sparks Marina present training challenges for Frieda and her owner Bill McCrea. McCrea and his young boxer are attending a dog behavior training class before visiting a dog park.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Dogs and other distractions at the Sparks Marina present training challenges for Frieda and her owner Bill McCrea. McCrea and his young boxer are attending a dog behavior training class before visiting a dog park.
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SPARKS — Lisa Raye and her “small” dog spotted the Sparks Marina Dog Park from the freeway and thought they would pull over for a play break.

“I drive through (Sparks) all the time with my three big dogs on our way to visit family in California,” said Raye, a resident of Utah. “I was excited to try this place so my dogs could run off some energy.”

Raye said her smallest dog is 100 pounds and all three have attended some kind of training class.

According to 42-year veteran dog trainer, Guy Yeaman, her dogs might be some of the lucky few that are trained well enough to really enjoy a dog park.

“The number one thing you need to know is to read the rules,” Yeaman said. “That puts about one-third of the dogs out.”

In order for a dog, and its owner, to truly enjoy the area’s dog parks, the canine companion must respond immediately to its owner’s recall, the trainer said. This is a hard task for many dogs when something new and exciting is always happening.

“The dynamics of dog parks change every three to four minutes depending on the weather, the time of day, etc.,” Yeaman said. “I have noticed that at some parks the environment is changing by 20 dogs every 10 minutes. Twenty come in and 20 go out.”

To combat a dog’s natural sense of curiosity, Yeaman suggests some heavy training before venturing into the wild of a dog park.

“It is pretty much the hardest thing to teach a dog,” he said of making Fido respond immediately to its owners recall. “For new dogs, practice 40 to 50 times per day and reward them.”

Yeaman also offers a class, which is free to first-time owners of rescue dogs, teaching the basics of pet recall.

The second behavioral trait a dog must have in order to really enjoy a dog park is an ability to play nice with others.

“I try to teach using this visual,” Yeaman said. “If it would be OK to happen in your office, it would be OK at a dog park. Any behavior that would make for a hostile work environment in the office is not OK at the dog park.

“You wouldn’t want someone tackling you at work, would you?” Yeaman added.

Teaching these good behaviors takes time and reinforcement. Yeaman said that every day of the week, he is at a dog park with his own canine companion. However, he added that the dog park should not be a training ground for a learning pet.

“If you don’t feel safe, don’t subject your dog to it,” he said.

When will you know if your dog is ready? Yeaman said that if it comes immediately when called, it can follow the posted park rules and you can ward off another dog easily, it is play time.

However, one piece of advice trumps all for those who are already enjoying the local dog park.

“Pick up after your pet,” he said. “No one likes to step in that.”
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