Tag Archives: Out & About

Adventuring With Dogs

Last weekend I bravely embarked on an adventure with Oscar and Cooper that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time – a canoe trip.  It’s something I was pretty sure the dogs would enjoy, but I’d been putting it off for a long time because frankly, I didn’t know exactly “how” to do it.  I was nervous I wasn’t prepared for taking the dogs on such a journey, and I was worried because I had no idea how they would handle it. However, on this particular weekend, my adventurous spirit got the better of me and I thought, “I’m just going to do it.” So I rented a canoe, strapped it to the ol’ Honda, and off we went.

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Foster dad was otherwise engaged so I grabbed two of my girlfriends, one of whom is a total outdoor nut and is on the river often, so I at least had her to rely on as the expert of the canoe part of the trip. The dog part would be up to me. I resigned myself to the fact that the first 45 minutes or so of the trip would probably be pretty horrible, until the boys and I got our rhythm down.

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I was right. The first 45 minutes totally sucked.

Oscar almost drowned. Well maybe not actually nearly drowned, but he sure freaked me out.  The canoe probably freaked him a bit at first, because one of the first things he did as we pushed off was jump right out in the middle of the river.  Now, Oscar has been swimming plenty of times, and is very at home in the water. But, at this particular point in our journey, there was nowhere in sight easy to pull off to the shore and hoist him back into the canoe. So, poor Oscar had no choice but to swim along side the canoe until we could find somewhere to pull over. It was definitely the farthest he’d ever swam, and I thanked my good sense that I had put him in a life jacket with a handle on the top. Picture me carrying an Oscar suitcase over the side of the canoe as he paddled along. He did not jump out again.

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We nearly lost Cooper over the side as he tried to eat the splashing water. Cooper has a thing for splashing water, remember? However I think he learned from Oscar because we managed to keep him in the boat.

We nearly lost both the boys on a stop, after they swam to the other side of the river and scrambled up a steep bank. This was easily the scariest moment of the day. After Oscar abandoned ship and we nearly lost Cooper over the side as well, we decided we needed to pull off and regroup. We found a nice little pebbly area and pulled the boats up onto the rocks. It looked like a great secluded spot where there was “nowhere for the dogs to disappear off to,” and they could splash around and release some energy.  Well that was a foolish thought. Almost immediately both Oscar and Cooper bounded into the water, swam to the opposite side of the river and climbed out onto some slippery rocks. Too nervous to jump back into the water off of said slippery rocks, Oscar just froze and Cooper scrambled up the steepest river bank I had ever seen – I would have thought there was no way he could have gotten up there, but he proved me wrong!  Thankfully he was responsive to my calls and came back down (who knows what was at the top??), but he still didn’t want to swim back across the river. So, I did what any momma would do, and went to the rescue of my boys in need. I waded across to collect them.

Once I got out into the river I realized it was traveling faster than I thought, so even if the boys had jumped in to swim back across, they would have ended up way down stream. Thankfully the water only came up to my waist so I was able to keep two feet on the river bottom, and coaxed Oscar and Cooper off of the rocks into the water. I held onto their life jacket handles as they swam along beside me back safely to shore, where they stayed safely clipped to their long leashes for the rest of the trip.

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Cooper peed in the boat.  Yep, nothing else really to say about that.

So what did I learn?  Lots. First of all, no matter how good of swimmers I think they are, life jackets are super important for the dogs. No, not important – necessary. Oscar and Cooper are both great swimmers, but I can’t shake the feeling that something horrible could have happened if they hadn’t been wearing them. Shoot, if for no other reason than ease of picking them up, they are the best money I’ve ever spent on dog stuff. Both Oscar’s and Cooper’s vests were from Outward Hound, and they worked perfectly.

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Second, they boys have to stay leashed. As much fun as it is to let the dogs run around on their own and let them swim and play at will, the fact is that they don’t have enough off leash training for me to trust them to stay close, even in what I think might be a safe atmosphere. Even after we returned safely from the other side of the river, Oscar tried to swim over again. This time, since he was on a leash, I could gently spin him around and bring him back to our side.

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Third, seating arrangements: at first, I thought it would be better if my friend sat in front of the canoe, and for me to sit in the back so I could keep an eye on the boys. As it turns out, the person in back is pretty dang important to things like steering, and you know, going. I was so distracted by the dogs most the time that we ended up hitting trees, rocks, and even spinning completely around backwards. After our regroup, my friend and I switched positions and I sat in the front but faced backwards. That way, if I had to stop paddling to keep a dog from jumping out or something, it wouldn’t matter as much as if I had been in the back.

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The last thing I learned is that there’s always going to be a “first time” you do something new with your dogs. You can live in fear and worry and wait until you magically know that everything will go perfectly, or you could realize that some things are impossible to predict, prepare as best you can, and just jump in. I would absolutely take the boys canoeing again. Next time, it still won’t go perfectly, but it will go a little better. And a little better still the time after that.  Hey, even by the end of this first trip, I had two dogs laying down in the canoe. And that’s pretty darn good.

Plus, then they came home and did this…

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….can’t beat that!

So, now I ask you guys…what kind of adventures to do you go on with your dogs, and how did your first time go? How did you prepare, practice and get better?  Or, what’s something you’ve wanted to do with your dog, but have put off because you’re nervous about how it will go?  Please share your canine adventurings below!

~

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Cooper’s Christmas Vacation: Two Pitties in the City

I can’t think of a better title of this post than to pay homage to one of our favorite dog blogs.

Not only do bloggers and pit bull owners E and A navigate the streets of Chicago every day with their two amazing ambassadogs (and the occasional foster pooch), they share their pearls of wisdom with the rest of us to show us that owning big dogs in a city apartment isn’t impossible. Let me just tell you, after five days of daily walks with the pooches in an urban jungle, I have a whole new appreciate for our friends at Two Pitties in the City.

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Columbus, Ohio on the Scioto River

While we were traveling over holidays, we stayed in a hotel in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Now Columbus ain’t Chicago, but that it’s a city just the same. Walking a dog in a city environment is totally different from walking in our neighborhood, or in parks around Nashville. There were lots of new sounds and smells to navigate, which brought a whole new set of challenges. For example, please add “city busses” and “men wearing big puffy hooded coats” to the list of things that terrify Cooper. Oh, and when Foster Mom goes inside to get some coffee and leaves him with Foster Dad – he’s not a fan of that, either.

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“Mom? Where’d ya go?”

The best part about introducing our dogs to “city living” was that it was the week of Christmas – which meant downtown Columbus was pretty much a ghost town. This was really great because we could focus the majority of our energy on the boys and making sure they were comfortable and behaving appropriately without too much fear of bothering other pedestrians. Even though there were lots of new things to get used to, we quickly found our rhythm and the pups really enjoyed sightseeing.

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We even tried to get a family photo, like we’ve seen our city dog walking heroes do so well….we have much to learn.

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When we were getting the boys used to the hotel room, we tried to keep things consistent to the way we do things at home. We did the same on our walks in the city, keeping things as similar to our neighborhood walks at home as we could. A big one was asking the boys to sit and wait politely before crossing the street.

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We also used our new surroundings for opportunities for “fun,” like letting Cooper practice his agility.

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Of course there are some aspects of walking the pooches that never change, no matter the scenery…

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Overall, Cooper and Oscar both did great. With more time and practice, not to mention patience and consistency from his People, we think that Cooper could easily be a city dog. Thank you, Columbus, for your hospitality!

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If you’d like to add Cooper to your family (for zero dollars, by the way!), please fill out an adoption application with Agape Animal Rescue.

~

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Cooper’s Christmas Vacation: SNOW!

Cooper is a Southern dog. He was picked up as a stray in Nashville, Tennessee and thrown in the slammer. Foster Dad and I busted him out, and he’s been living with us in our home for the past year. Cooper has never left the state, and has certainly never seen snow.

"I dunno 'bout da snow, but I know I like da sunshine!"

“I dunno ’bout da snow, but I know I like da sunshine!”

All that changed on our Christmas trip to Ohio.  Ohio got hit with a crazy snow storm the day after Christmas, and we could not wait to get the dogs out into the snow to see how they’d like it. Oscar has seen snow before, but not to this extent. This was that miserable nice heavy, wet, big-flake snow that accumulates in inches with a quickness and sticks to every surface it touches.  Miserable to drive through, but beautiful to look at and wicked fun to play in.

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Luckily for the boys, Ohioans are used to this sort of weather event and were not impressed. Most people did what any sane normal person would do, and hunkered down inside with a bottle of bourbon. But not us, oh no sir – we had very important business to conduct. We had to introduce a Southern dog to SNOW!

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We found a deserted tennis court, and after doing a perimeter check to make sure all the gates were secure, we unclipped leashes and let ’em at it.

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They. Had. A. BLAST!

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The boys already think that Foster Dad hung the moon, but after that day their admiration for him reached new heights when he came up with a new Most Fun Game in the World Ever – catching snow balls.

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Foster Dad and I haven’t had this much fun watching the dogs play since the Mud Bowl.

The boys could have been out there all day, but remember how I mentioned that the snow was super wet and heavy? Yeaaaaaaah that means it melted as soon as it hit me and Foster Dad, leaving us soaking wet and freezing. So after about 30 minutes we called it a day, but it was plenty enough time to wear the fur-kids out substantially.

That is one tired Oscar-man.

That is one tired Oscar-man.

And what’s the best part about getting completely tuckered out in the freezing cold? Snuggling up on a cozy warm hotel bed for a nap.

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So in summary, according to the boys…SNOW = FUN!

If you’d like to add Cooper to your family, his adoption fee will be waived thanks to a generous donor! Please fill out an adoption application with Agape Animal Rescue.

~

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Cooper’s Christmas Vacation: Hotel Dog

Foster Dad and I are both originally from the great state of Ohio. Though we don’t make it every year, we love being able to go back up there around the holidays to visit family and friends, and possibly get to see some of that horrible wonderful winter weather that we moved down here to avoid.

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This year, for a variety of reasons, we thought it would be easiest for all parties involved if we stayed in a dog-friendly hotel during our trip. And thanks to a friend who works there, we got a great room for only a couple bucks more per night than it would have cost us to board Oscar. Shout out to the Capitol Square Holiday Inn, you guys rock!

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It was never in the original plan for us to bring Cooper with us on this trip. Since Coop is a foster dog, Agape Animal Rescue makes arrangements for him whenever we go out-of-town. However, the best laid plans of mice and dog owners…. anyway, there were several things that contributed to our decision to travel with Cooper. First of all, it was the holidays, and of course all the boarding places were pretty booked up. Though they would have pulled it off, it would have been tougher than usual for Agape to find somewhere for Cooper.

Oscar investigates the Christmas decorations in the hotel lobby.

Oscar investigates the Christmas decorations in the hotel lobby.

Secondly, Cooper had his tooth pulled just a couple of days before we planned to leave.  He was going to be on a slew of medications and have his food softened while he recovered. We would have felt horrible dumping that situation on someone else, plus, we’re parents! We worry about our fur-kids. So, since we had the hotel room booked anyway, we thought heck – bring him along!

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Just like with human kids, they key to keeping travel with pets stress-free less stressful is preparation. We pre-measured out enough food for each meal, packed up all of Cooper’s medications as well as a doggie first aid kit, we even brought strategic cleaning supplies and towels just in case there were any, uh…”accidents.” We made sure each of the boys got brand new toys to keep them occupied in the room.  They each got new stuffies, and Oscar got an antler too.

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Unfortunately, Cooper was on a strict “no antler” regimen while his mouth healed, but he didn’t seem to mind. He loved his new stuffed fox so much that he slept with it.

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We also made sure to bring some familiar pieces of “home” with us. That meant they got to snuggle up in their own blankets.

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Finally, we kept the rules consistent to when we were at home. They eat their meals in separate rooms at home, and thankfully we had a suite so we were able to feed them in different rooms at the hotel as well. At home, they have to sit and wait politely before they are allowed to eat – ditto for the hotel. We allow the pups on the furniture at our house, so we let them have the run of the hotel room too (sorry if that’s not cool, Holiday Inn).

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At home, the pups sleep in our bed with us. So, naturally….

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…again, sorry Holiday Inn.  They don’t shed! (much)

Oscar has stayed in a hotel with us before, but this was a “first” for Cooper. We honestly had no idea what to prepare for, or how he would act.  Fortunately, overall I’d say we did pretty well. Cooper had a great time with all the new experiences of the week (check back later to see how Cooper did city-walking, and how he feels about snow!) Let’s be honest, as long as he’s with His Pack, Cooper is happy and having a great time. So would we do it again?  Well, hopefully Cooper will be adopted before we get the chance!  

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If you’d like to add Cooper to your family, please fill out an adoption application with Agape Animal Rescue.

~

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Cooper Takes the Parthenon

Here in Nashville, we have our very own Parthenon.  No, really, we do. It’s a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Greece, originally built as a temporary structure for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition. 

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Photo Courtesy of the Metro Parks Board

It was so popular with the citizens of Nashville that the city decided to have it rebuilt as permanent building in 1921.  It was completed in 1931 after about 10 years of construction – which is about the same amount of time it took the ancient Greeks to build the Parthenon in Athens.

Located in what is now Centennial Park, the Parthenon is a popular photo backdrop for tourists as well as native Nashvillians.  Oscar visited the Parthenon the weekend we sprung him from the shelter, and  Molly Tamale did some sightseeing as a special outing with Foster Mom & Foster Dad, the morning of the day she went to live with her Furever Family

And last week, I was telling Cooper all about the Parthenon and he was all, “What the what? Why have you not taken me there yet, woman? I gotta check this out for myself…”

“Momma can we take a closer look? Pleeeeze?”

The intricate carvings above the columns on the East and West ends of the building are scenes depicting a story in the life of Athena. Fun fact, they are covered with netting to deter birds from building nests and dropping little “gifts” on the tourists below.

Cooper thinks it’s super-cool that just like the real deal, no two of the Parthenon’s 46 columns are the same diameter and aren’t evenly spaced apart.  They also all incline slightly inward, which gives the illusion that the Parthenon is even taller than it actual is (which is 65 feet, if you were wondering). 

While dogs are welcome to enjoy the surrounding park and views from the outside, Cooper wasn’t allowed to see the full-scale replica of Athena inside the Parthenon.  He was very disappointed.

Where would you take Cooper sightseeing if he was Yours?  If you’re interested in adding Cooper to your family, please fill out an adoption application with Agape Animal Rescue.

…and don’t forget to VOTE for COOPER!

~

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Glitter & Glam 2012 Wrap Up

Well it’s been three weeks since Glitter & Glam, and I’ve procrastinated sharing the highlights long enough that I may now officially be called a slacker.  It’s not like we didn’t have other things going on to preoccupy us a bit, but still  – apologies!  Now, on with the goods…

Adoptable Agape dog, Radar, lovin’ on Kirsten

You guys, just…wow!  This was the first year I’ve been able to attend Agape Animal Rescue’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Glitter & Glam, and the event certainly did not disappoint.  We had a total freakin’ blast!  Some highlights from the night include:

A guest appearance by Animal Rescue Corps founder Scotlund Haisley.  We were only about a week into Operation Freedom Dogs at that point, and what we didn’t know that night was that Operation Freedom Part 2 was already in the works.  Scotlund spoke to the crowd about the work that ARC was doing, and how important Agape’s role as a placement partner is to them.  Later, he graced the runway and showed everyone that along with a heart of gold and love for animals, he also has some serious modeling chops. 

An appearance from celebridog Smiley from Operation Sweethearts.  There’s no doubt that Smiley was one of the most well-known and popular of this past February’s Sweethearts.  He graced the cover of local pet-lovers rag Nashville Paw magazine, and that precious underbite won the hearts of every dog lover in the city.  Smiley’s lucky Furever people shared with us the story of how Smiley became a part of their family (believe me, not a dry eye in the house). Later, a framed cover of Smiley’s edition of Nashville Paw was auctioned off…pawtographed by Smiley himself.

Dogs, dogs, dogs!  You guys, sooo many dogs!  Dogs in bow ties, dogs in tuxedos, dogs in tutus…I was in heaven. 

 

 

The photo booth.  I still cannot believe I went the whole night without getting in the photo booth.  A rookie mistake I will not make again.

Agape founder & Executive Director, Tanya Willis with Harmony Designs photographer, April Hollingsworth

Adoptable Olive with her foster people, Jen & Jason

Adoptable dogs take the stage.  Probably my favorite part of the evening was when three of Agape’s eligible pooches got to take the runway and tell their story.  Among them: Olive, an adorable puppy who my neighbor Jen and I liberated from a chain in our neighborhood; Junior, who I am absolutely in love with and am dying to share more about; and Radar, who just might have the best ears on the plant.

Adoptable Olive

Adoptable Junior

Adoptable Radar

All in all, and at the risk of sounding cheesy, it was a magical evening.  There’s just something about being in a room filled with animal lovers, with like-minded people willing to shell out their hard-earned cash so that dogs who might otherwise have never had a chance can find their way to their happy ending. 

Tamasine Singer (Middle Tennessee Pet Resource Center) and Jana Mendes (Nashville PITTIE)

ARC crew – with the next generation of animal rescuers

I know I brag on them all the time, but Agape Animal Rescue really does do amazing work. There’s a reason that they’re one of the most well-loved animal rescue organizations in Middle Tennessee, winning tons of “local favorite” awards (including Nashville Paw Reader’s Choice for Best Overall Rescue, and Best Fundraiser).  Since their beginning eight years ago, they’ve saved and rehomed over 500 dogs!  I am truly lucky and honored to be a member of the Agape family.

I can’t wait until Glitter & Glam 2013!

For more pictures, check out the Glitter & Glam Facebook page.

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Dog Park Dos and Don’ts

As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, you’re bound to see an increase in traffic at your local dog park.  I know that there are mixed feelings out there on dog parks – some dog owners swear by them, and some would rather be caught on a busy street without a poo bag while your dog squats in front of everyone than go to a (gasp) dog park.

For us at Foster House, the dog park is a valuable tool (as evidenced by past posts, here, here and here).  We live in a neighborhood that isn’t very “walkable,” especially with three dogs.  Lack of sidewalks and street lights, combined with an abundance of lose dogs running around and streets that are used as busy cut-throughs make walking near Foster house frustrating at best and impossible at worst.  So if we’re going to put the dogs in the car to drive to somewhere more “walkable”  anyway, some days we decide to just hit one of Nashville’s three dog parks instead. 

Every single time we go, without fail, we’re bound to see some sort of behavior (human or canine) that makes us cringe.  As with any social situation, there’s a certain etiquette and common courtesy that should always be followed whenever bringing a dog out in public.  If you’re new to the dog park circuit, and not as lucky as Two Pitties in the City to have a secret dog park of your own, we’ve put together a few tips to help keep your dog park trips safe and fun for everybody. 

1.  DO bring your well behaved, socialized dog to the park.  While the dog park can be used as a tool to continue socialization for your dog, you should not use it to start socializing your dog.  Remember, the dog park is like canine Christmas. At Disney World.  On crack. With Justin Bieber.  For many dogs, this is the only time they’re allowed to run free off-leash.  Not to mention all the people, the other dogs, different sounds and smells – talk about sensory overload!  If your dog is fearful, nervous, toy possessive, or aggressive, you’ll want to take steps to socialize your dog before your bring him into a dog park situation.  Your dog should also have a darn near perfect recall – trust me on the importance of this one.  Example: more than once, we’ve seen dogs engage in play that was quickly escalating from fun-for-all to not-so-fun.  Oscar was not involved, but he was nearby.  A quick recall over to us, a little “sit-stay” practice, and Oscar was distracted from the action, safe out of harm’s way.

2.  DON’T leave land mines, even if no one’s looking.  Hey, nature calls, it happens.  Just – pick it up, for the love…

3.  DO watch your dog – all the time!  You may be tempted to find a nice shady spot, park yourself on a bench and check your e-mail, or pull out that novel you’ve been trying to finish.  But how can you make sure your dog is behaving himself if you have your head buried in a book?  How can you tell if it’s time to follow rule #2 if you’re engrossed in Facebook on your phone?  This is a safety precaution as well – just because you follow rule #1 and your dog is well behaved and properly socialized, not everyone at the park has read this very informative blog post.  You want to make sure your dog doesn’t find himself in an uncomfortable situation.  Most “incidents” that happen at dog parks can be avoided, if everyone is watching their own dog for signs of stress. Since your dog has a good recall (see rule #1), you can call him away from the stressful situation and give him a break.  You’ll also need to make sure he’s drinking enough water, especially as the weather heats up.  I don’t know about your dog, but some that have passed through our house get so caught up in playing that they forget to drink and take breaks.  Dogs can get dehydrated just like people can.  Watch for excessive panting and other signs of exhaustion.

4.  DON’T pick up your small dog.  This is a really great way to get a lot of dogs running over and jumping on you, which is bound to stress out you as well as your pooch.  If your dog is getting overwhelmed, he might be trying to tell you he’s had enough dog park for the day.  When it’s time to leave, simply call your dog and calmly walk him out. 

5.  DO use the double-gate entrance/exit properly.  A lot of dog parks have a double-gate system at the entrance, in which you a) walk your dog in through the first gate b) close it behind you c) unclip your dog’s leash d) enter the park with your dog through the second gate and e) close the second gate behind you.  Under no circumstances should both gates ever be open at the same time.  You risk not only your dog escaping, but other’s as well.   

I also like to encourage our dogs not to crowd the gate when another dog is coming in or going out.   Close quarters can cause stress, which can lead to defensive behaviors which can lead to an altercation – and no one wants that.

6.  DON’T kick my dog.  Yep, you read that right.  If my dog is jumping on you (which, he should not be doing, because I am following rule #1, but even the best trained dog can have a temporary lapse every once in awhile) leave it to me to discipline him.  Because of rule #3, I am watching him at all times, I can see him misbehaving, and I am nearby to call him away.  Do not, under any circumstances, raise your leg, bend your knee, and extend your foot at my dog, making contact with him in the chest.  Unless of course, you would like to continue this conversation in the parking lot. (**disclaimer: HBAMF does not condone violence. So just don’t kick my dog, ‘kay?)

7.  DO engage your dog.  The dog park is a great atmosphere for you and your dog to practice basic skills.  I mean, talk about distraction!  Recall, sit, down, stay – easy stuff that your well-trained dog already knows, becomes a gazillion times harder in this Disney-Christmas-Crack-Bieber environment.  Or, just pick up a ball and chuck it – hey, even if your dog isn’t into it at the moment, I promise someone’s dog will love you for throwing that ball.

8. DON’T bring in food, human or canine.  Whether it’s a bag of McDonald’s or a pocket of dog treats, food = resource = potential competition = opportunity for an altercation.  Avoid it. 

9. DO advertise your foster dog. You know who goes to dog parks?  DOG PEOPLE!  One of them just might be looking for another furry friend to add to their family.  Chat with other dog owners, talk up your rescue organization, hand out cards, mention that you happen to have an eligible bachelor (or bachelorette) with you today, if you’d like to meet him? Hey, you never know! (Tip: you may want to leave your beautifully embroidered ‘Adopt Me’ collar at home, though.)

10. DON’T bring a dog who is sick, in heat, or not up to date on all shots and vaccinations. This should be a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning.  Puppies should not go to the dog park until they have had all their shots.  If your dog is sick, you’re putting everyone else’s dog at risk of catching your pup’s ailment.  And while I am obviously a huge fan of no-babies precautions (for about a gazillion reasons, but that’s another post), if you haven’t spayed your female dog – do not bring her to the dog park if she is in heat.   

Well there you have it, my two ten cents on how to make sure your next trip to the dog park is fun & exhausting for your pups and incident-free for all.  OK, now will someone please give me a hand down off of this soap box?  Does anyone else take your pack to the dog park?  What tricks of the trade do you use to make sure everyone has a good time?  Do you have an additions to this list?  Anything you disagree with?  Please share!

If you’d like to make Cooper or Molly Tamale your dog park partner, please fill out an application with Agape Animal Rescue.

~

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