By Scott Hunt
The Dog Grumbler
AS I’ve mentioned previously, we dog trainers don’t always agree.
That doesn’t mean anyone is wrong — we’re all using human terms to decipher a mind and a reality which are very different from our own and the things that work for us and the reasons we believe they work vary.
I had the opportunity to work with Steve Austen a couple of years ago.
Mr Austen trains scent dogs for airports and places like Macquarie Island.
He was convinced that off-lead areas for dogs were a bad idea. I didn’t want to argue with him, but I beg to differ.
Tasmanian councils have started to agree with me and the off-lead dog parks springing up everywhere are a joy to behold.
Kingborough started the trend, I think. People would drive from all over to let their dogs run free on the north end of the beach.
Clarence City Council now provide and maintain an excellent facility at Bellerive on Clarence Street.
Sorell has one too and now there’s a new one in New Town, off Creek Road.
There’s no standard design for a dog park, but all have water and waste bags, of course.
Kingston has the beach, Sorell was first to supply seating for humans and Bellerive soon followed.
The new park at New Town is a doozie, but closed since the flood a couple of months ago.
Mr Austen’s argument as I understood it, is that one never knows when a dog may attack another dog or possibly a human.
From my point of view, access to an off-lead park is the best way to fight this.
Consider the following:
Your dog needs friends and interaction with other dogs to be happy and well adjusted.
It will learn good behaviour from other well-behaved dogs.
The best place for this is neutral turf that smells of happy dogs. It works even if you’re the only dog in the park.
Off lead, a dog is less compelled to defend an owner, especially one who smells tense. It can advance and stop, bow or charge as appropriate to satisfy dog protocols.
Dogs who get to do these things behave much better when they are on lead in my experience.
A dog needs to learn to follow its owner; it needs to learn not to be distracted.
It needs to walk in a group; a group of two is fine, but the bigger the better so take some friends when you can — human, canine, or both.
Move around the park. If there are seats, try and spend a few minutes in each one. Let your dog find you and touch base.
If you fear aggression, put your dog in a seperate area. This is easy at Bellerive and Sorell.
Other dogs in the park will likely come and interact through the fence. You will quickly see if there is any threat.
If you have an aggressive dog for whatever reason and want to make it less so, this is a good start. Let it watch other dogs through the fence. Talk to it about how you feel.
Repeat it. Let your dog sleep between visits. Keep at it.
There are dog owners who don’t take responsibility for their animal; who don’t socialise it, don’t make sense to it and probably leave it alone all day.
I think you have a better chance of meeting those people and their antisocial dogs outside of a dog park than in one.
Try it. You meet the nicest people and every one of them has a story.