Work That Brain: Dog Parks Need Enrichment

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In my Brooklyn neighborhood there are only two enclosed dog parks: Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge, and Dyker Beach Dog Run in Dyker Heights.

According to News 12, in 2013 Councilman Vincent Gentile and the Parks Department spent $600,000 to renovate both parks. This included a separate run for small dogs, new benches, drinking fountains for both humans and canines, and brand new benches.However, after visiting Dyker Beach Dog Run for almost four years with my younger dog Zoe and observing the minor scuffles that break out, I do wish that the expensive renovations had included more enrichment for the canine patrons.

I truly believe that if there were more canine enrichment for dogs at local runs, there would be less fights between dogs.

To begin, if there was agility equipment, then owners would be able to engage with their dog and work their mind, especially if it was in a fenced-in area in the run. In my experience, when the owners are not engaged or carefully watching their dogs at the park, that is usually when scuffles or full-blown fights occur.

Not only would working on your dog’s agility skills burn off mental energy, but it would also improve their focus and their bond with you. Entering the park and running through the agility course a few times would also be a great way of tiring your pooch out so that they wouldn’t be overly energetic during playtime, which could lead to your dog acting rude to another dog and causing a fight to break out.

Plus, improving your dog’s focus and working on their recall using the agility equipment also means that if a fight does break out at the run, you can easily call off your pet so that they won’t be tempted to join the melee.

Other enrichment that should be incorporated into dog parks is things to climb on and sniff, such as tree stumps, logs, and large boulders. That way, older dogs who might prefer to only play with trusted friends can climb and sniff interesting objects while the younger dogs romp around the park. This also has the bonus of adding a bit of variety for canine patrons to sniff and work their brains.

Both types of enrichment would also serve as a wonderful way to give your dog a chance to calm down should you see that they are getting over aroused. Or, if a scuffle has already started between your dog and another dog at the park, taking your pet to use the agility equipment or letting them explore and climb on tree stumps on the other side of the run is a good way to let them cool down and re-focus on you.

Dog owners, if your neighborhood is interested in either constructing a new dog run or renovating an existing run, it is a good idea to meet with your local politicians. Ask them to work with the Parks Department to make sure that the new park has plenty of enrichment for the canine patrons.

About the Author:

Amanda Ferris is an accomplished writer who has written for sites such as TheThings, IndieReader, Fashion&Style, and New York Family. For the past five years, she has volunteered for Bay Ridge, Brooklyn’s very own Love Wanted Pet Adoptions. She currently owns a laid-back 12-year old Bichon Frise named Esme, and a 3-year-old fearful mystery mutt named Zoe whose noise phobia and anxiety sparked her foray into the world of positive reinforcement dog training.

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