Published in On the Record: Dog Day Afternoon
Dog parks are all the rage in Adelaide and are loved by both pets and their owners for the off-the-leash exercise, socialisation and fun.
With 47 dog-friendly parks scattered around Adelaide, everyone can find somewhere that suits the lifestyles of their families and their four-legged friends.
Off-leash parks are great for a dog’s health and wellbeing, and are also beneficial to owners as well.
A well-socialised dog is less likely to develop behavioural problems and will build safer and more compatible relationships with adults, children, and other dogs.
Dogs are active and social animals. Fenced-in dog parks allow dogs the space to run around in a secure, supervised environment.
Jan and Clive Stokes, who often take their dog Rocky to parks, believe they are an opportunity for dogs to experience new environments.
“Although we take him for walks everyday, dog parks are good for Rocky because they allow him to run free on grass, which you can’t let him do on regular ovals,” Jan Stokes says.
“And because all of the parks are fenced-off, there’s no worry about him straying too far,” adds Clive, as he throws a red Frisbee for Rocky to chase.
Not only are dogs able to socialise and build trust around other dogs, but owners are given the chance to meet new people, says Liz Bishop.
“Your dogs will start playing and you’ll start talking to other dog owners. I’ve made some great friends,” she says.
Liz brings her dog Trailer to the Jenkins Reserve dog park a few times a week, and she says its great exercise.
“Trailer really loves just running around and interacting with the other dogs,” Liz says.
“The dogs get used to each other, and they get excited to see and play with one another again.”
This is true of most dogs at the parks. They chase each other around in packs and whenever a new dog arrives, they all rush to the gate to greet him.
Most dog friendly parks in Adelaide are fenced in, and so dogs are allowed to run around off-leash, as long as their owners are able to control them.
However, apart from being able to ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘come’, Ben Huser says that training is not a huge issue.
“It’s a good idea but not essential. Even with the best training, your dog isn’t going to get along with every dog he meets,” he says.
“My dog Abyss gets along with most dogs; only once has he gotten into a small scuffle. We just kept him at home until we thought he was ready to go back.
“They’re just like kids in a way; they won’t become friends with everyone.”
Most dog parks are equipped with water fountains, pavilions, seating areas, doggy-clean-up bags and agility equipment, including tunnels, hills, jumps and slides. The best times to use the agility equipment are when the parks are not as busy, most dog owners say.
If there is no one else around, owners can run through the obstacle courses with their dogs, but if there are a lot of dogs then “all they’ll want to do is run around with each other and play, which is also great exercise for them, especially if they’re not used to a huge backyard at home,” says Liz.
Weekends are the busiest times for dog parks, and sometimes there’ll be around 20 dogs in the park together, says Ben.
“That’s one of the times when it’s better your dog is trained,” he says.
Michelle Kane says it’s a good idea that larger dogs are trained before they are taken to dog parks. Her dog Henry was over-excited by the new environment on his first visit to a dog park, and was hard to control.
“We might not take him back until he’s a bit more obedient,” says Michelle.
However much the dogs act like children, though, dog parks are not a day care.
Dogs must always be supervised by their owners, and never left alone at a park.
Without proper supervision, dogs can make a mess, escape, injure themselves, or get into fights with other animals.
It’s also important to consider that it can be dangerous for small children at dog parks, especially when it is really busy. Some dogs are much stronger than children and can easily hurt them if they push past or jump up onto them.
When it comes to finding the perfect park for you and your dog, it is all a matter of experience, says Jan Stokes.
“We’ve taken Rocky to a fair few around Adelaide, and by doing that you get a feel for which ones suit you better.”
“It’s definitely worth it though, we love them, and so does Rocky.”