Tag Archives: dog parks

Training at the Dog Park

This week in May 2010, we in the St. Thomas Dog Owners Association were doing a final spit and polish on our new Lions Club Dog Park.

The Lions Club Dog Park had its grand opening on the May 24th weekend – one day of rain, one day of beautiful sunshine. A pretty good time though, I thought.

Recall Training

I picked up some pointers on dog training from Anne MacDonald of K-9 Concepts Saturday afternoon. She gave a workshop on recall training, one of the hardest and most important things to teach.recall training by Anne MacDonald St. Thomas dog park

My two are pretty good about coming when called, if they feel like it. And that, of course, is the problem. If they don’t feel like coming when called, it’s because they’re doing something way more interesting like chasing a rabbit or, in Leo’s case, eating poop – things I don’t want them doing. So your objective is to make coming to you a better option for them, and make them believe you have the power to make them come even if they don’t to.

The ‘carrot’ part of this is lots of good treats. Don’t be stingy, Anne said. Give them lots of the really yummy treats for a good recall. Many people, she said, give just the same amount of treat for a sit, a shake paw or a recall. With the recall, because it’s so important, give more and make a huge fuss over them for doing it well. I make a big fuss, but I just give the same small amount of treat that I do for anything else.

I worry about them gaining weight from too much “junk food” so only give them a teensy bit of dried liver or whatever as a treat. But I hadn’t thought about it from their perspective – why should I interrupt this interesting thing I’m doing for the sliver of treat she’s got. So now, lots of treats, different kinds of treats, lots of hugs and fuss. We’ll see how it works.

Be a slot machine

Anne MacDonald at Lions Club Dog Park“Be a slot machine, not a vending machine,” Anne said about training. Sometimes they get a lot, sometimes they get a little, sometimes they get nothing – they never know for sure. So like people sitting for hours feeding coins into a slot machine, hoping against hope that it will give the big payoff, a dog will be more inclined to keep coming back in hopes of hitting a mother lode of treats.*

But don’t do it every time. If the dog knows you’re going to give a treat every time, after the first time you don’t, the dog might treat you like a broken vending machine. If it doesn’t produce, you don’t go back to it. When Leo knows I’ve run out of treats (which he seems to have a sixth sense about), he thinks about whether he’s going to come back or not. If he feels like it, he might but not with as much alacrity as when he knows there’s a treat waiting. If he doesn’t feel like it, well, he doesn’t until he’s ready.

The long leash

When they don’t feel like coming back, that’s when you need the “I am all-powerful” tool. Anne uses a long lead, a soft rope much longer than a regular leash. Just let the dog drag it (obviously not in brush areas where the dog can get caught up). Give the recall command, if dog doesn’t react, say it again and step on the leash. Don’t go to the dog, pull the leash back to you.

Keep the treats in your pocket, not your hand. But act fast when the dog comes back. “Good dog”, pats and hugs and quickquick into your pocket and treat to dog. That reinforces the connection between the dog’s action and the reward, but lessens the chance of the treat being a bribe instead of a reward. That’s where my training with Leo fell down. He saw the treat in my hand often enough that he started looking for it before he’d decide whether or not to do what I asked. With him, it’s not even a case of bribery, it’s more like negotiation. With Charlie too, it’s negotiation. If he knows I’ve got treats he really likes, he’s more likely to do what I ask. If he doesn’t like them, he just sniffs the treat and walks on past. So for recall especially, have ones they like a lot.

Competitiveness

Sometimes they get into competition to see who can get to me faster. Anne says you can use that competitiveness in training, and reward only the winner. The dog who does it right gets the treats and the big fuss. The other gets nothing. I have a hard time doing that, the other one looks so pitiful that I end up giving him a treat Charlie doing recalland pat too. She says be tough so they see that if they don’t do the work, they don’t get the prize.

So I learned a lot, mainly how much I’ve let “pretty good” be good enough for me. As a result of my back-sliding, my very willing-to-learn poodle is only about halfway to well-trained and my smart but obstinate terrier pays attention and then does what he wants. Both of them like playing “the training game” as they see it. And both have learned a lot since we’ve had them. Now I’m going to do my part to help them learn more. Thank you, Anne, for some helpful tips and reminders.

First posted May 25, 2010 on the St. Thomas Dog Blog.

* On CBC’s The Current, Mon. May 15/17, Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked, said about social media likes: “This idea that a reward is just within reach but it’s never guaranteed. Paradoxically when you guarantee someone a reward, they get bored and they stop doing something quite quickly, whereas when you build in just a small dose of uncertainty… is very hard for humans to resist.”

The Dog Park

old road going into dog parkWent to the dog park yesterday with the boys. It was a mauzy day, light rain and cool. I figured nobody would be there, and I was right. It was beautiful.

Charlie and Leo trotted along, happy to sniff at stuff. Another dog and his person joined us. Dogs sniffed each other, then went back to whatever else they were sniffing. A young dog came careening around the path to the meadow, ran around like a whirlwind trying to get the others to play. No luck with these three, so tore off up the hill looking for somebody more fun. I hope more dogs came, willing to play with him.

steps in path from meadow in dog parkWe went up the steep hill, muddy and slippery. But I could make it up fast enough to keep an eye on the dogs, thanks to the steps that Albert built into the slope. Back up at the top, I looked around. I felt proud of our little dog park.

Just two years ago, it wasn’t like this. Oh, it was just as pretty. But it wasn’t fenced, there were no picnic tables or bag dispensers or garbage containers. No steps, no trails cleared through the hillside. It was a wooded ravine with a meadow by the creek. Not many people went there. Now, it’s often very crowded with people and dogs. I wonder what the deer and neighbourhood cats who had it all to themselves for so long think about it. But sometimes, like yesterday, it’s the same as when I first went there with a dog years ago. Except now I don’t have to remember my own poop bags.

The STDOA did this – got a fenced dog park in our city. I was one of the founders of the group, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. I no longer go to the ravine very often. My dogs are too anti-social for large group activities. But I love seeing social dogs chase each other and wrestle, having so much fun. Pups on their first visit, intimidated at first then realizing they can act as wild as they want and tumbling around with other dogs. It’s lovely to watch.

sign for dog park meeting Oct 16 2 pmBut the steps and bag dispensers didn’t get there by themselves. Volunteers built the steps and keep the park clean of litter and dog poop. The STDOA raises money for poop bags and dispensers and for building and maintenance materials. The STDOA needs your input and participation. Money and energy – that’s what’s needed to keep the Lions Club Dog Park running and get another one in a different part of town.

In Memory of Forte, Dog Park Dog

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Oct. 13, 2011. For Forte, one of the original STDOA and dog park dogs. Forte passed away this week at a good old age, surrounded by his family.

forte-may-2016
Forte waking from a nap, May 2016

An All Breed Canine Rescue dog, Forte was at first fearful and mistrustful due to abuse he had suffered. But he lucked into the best home he could have asked for. His people lucked into the best dog too. Forte became a foster dad in turn to many more pups and adult dogs who joined his household as ABCR fosters. He will be missed.

Dog Hallowe’en

This Saturday is Howl-O-Een at the STDOA Kettle Creek Dog Park. Party at the park from 2 to 4 pm. Treats, prizes and no charge to come. But donations for the pet food bank would be greatly
Hallowe'en walkathon Leo 2010appreciated. To put you in the mood to find a costume for Fido, here are photos from the 2010 STDOA-ABCR fund-raising dog Hallowe’en walkathon, Paws in the Park.

Dog Hallowe’en Walkathon 2010 pics

Hallowe'en Charlie 2010Charlie and Leo got new outfits in honour of the event. They liked them. Well, Leo liked his. Charlie? You can judge for yourself.

It was a sunny, windy, bone-chilling day. Dogs had their hats and boas blow off. Still, they pranced and played and asked for treats. A nice day. And money raised for ABCR to keep rescuing dogs and for STDOA to keep the dog parks operating.

Dog Hallowe'en ABCR walkathon 2010

Halloween-Paws-in-the-Park-1 photo Jim Stewart

Hallowe'en walkathon 2010

Halloween-Paws-in-the-Park8 photo Jim Stewart

Hallowe'en walkathon 2010

halloween-paws-in-the-park-12 photo Jim Stewart

Hallowe'en walkathon 2010

Halloween-Paws-in-the-Park-2 photo Jim Stewart

Afterwards, we went to show off the new  costumes at my mother’s nursing home. The dogs are always welcome visitors. They sashayed
Hallowe'en walkathon 2010around and greeted everyone. Then Leo sat posing, as the dog of mystery perhaps. Charlie decided that he’d had enough. It was time for Elvis to leave the building.

Elvis-has-left-the-building2

 

Lab Mysteries

Click for Amazon link for Randolph A Dog About Town
Click for Amazon link

If you like dogs and mystery novels, or even just one or the other, have a look at J. F. Englert’s Bull Moose Dog Run series.  There are three so far; A Dog About Town (2007), A Dog Among Diplomats (2008) and A Dog At Sea (2009). The ‘sleuth’ who tells the story is Randolph, a middle-aged black Labrador Retriever.

A sucker for animal stories, I’ve read some of the other dog- and cat-perspective mystery series.  I’ve liked them, found them kind of cute, kind of funny. One of the Midnight Louie books by Carole Nelson Douglas made me think about feral cat life and TNR (trap, neuter, release) from the cats’ point of view.  Not as straightforwardly beneficial as people may think it to be. While I’ve enjoyed the animal-detective books I’ve read, I haven’t felt a pressing need to immediately get the next one.

Randolph, a literate Lab

As soon as I finished A Dog About Town, I went back to the library and took out the second, A Dog Among Diplomats.  Now I want to read the third.  I want to know what happens next. Randolph’s take on being an intelligent dog in a human world made me think about many dog behaviours, and people’s behaviour in relating to dogs.  You learn a lot (Randolph is a very literate dog), you are given lots of little doggy asides to think about, and the mysteries at the heart of the books are interesting and well-presented.

As with all novels featuring non-human protagonists, disbelief has to be suspended.  But it wasn’t a lot of work doing that with Randolph.  This is despite him being able to read (a skill learned while being papertrained in puppyhood), and not just reading the cereal box.  He reads Dante’s Inferno, Proust, Kierkegaard and, for light reading, Dickens.  He teaches himself how to use the internet and succeeds in setting up a hotmail account for himself faster than I’ve ever been able to do. But these improbabilities do not get in the way  – I found myself quickly accepting Randolph’s extraordinary skills and just got on with the story.

Dog park behaviour

Randolph’s observations on human-dog interaction are shrewd, even cringe-making sometimes when you recognize yourself.  He also observes the child-dog relationship in a refreshing way, especially coming from a Lab, the perceived ‘kids’ dog’. Randolph takes you into his Manhattan – the streets, Central Park and the dog parks.  He gives you the dog perspective on dog park politics of dogs and people.  He notes the types of dog behaviours in meeting each other and even in their toilet habits.  After you read his descriptions of dog habits, you find yourself watching dogs to see if they fit Randolph’s classification system.  By and large, they do.

Englert is an astute observer of dogs and people, or he has been taught a lot by his own Lab.  I’ve never been a big Lab person – they’re too boisterous and single-minded (usually involving a tennis ball) for me.  But I look at them a bit differently now, after ‘meeting’ Randolph.  He reminds me of Labs I have known and liked, nice old sensible ones.  I also look at my dogs a bit differently, wondering if there’s more going on in their heads than what I have thought.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Apr. 24, 2010.

Newtown Kids & Dogs

A lot of dogs in Newtown, Connecticut will be working overtime in the solace department.  There are children and adults who will need Victoria Soto and Roxie from USA Todaythe love of their pets to help them cope after losing a sibling, a son or daughter, a mother or wife.

The pets will need comfort themselves.  They too have lost a beloved member of their family.  Roxie, a Black Labrador, is one.  Victoria Soto, one of the teachers killed in Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was her person.  Ms Soto died protecting the children in her classroom.

Newtown Park & Bark

Trying to learn about Newtown, I went to the municipal website.  In dogpark_july newtownparkandbark.orgthe menu under the “residents” tab, I saw they have been raising money for a dog park called Park & Bark that is scheduled to open in late 2013.  It was sad, yet cheering, to look at the people looking so proud of their fundraising efforts and happy about building a place to play with their dogs.

If you wish to let the people of Newtown know in a practical way that you are thinking of them, consider donating to their dog park.  There’s a donate button newtown park-&-barkon the page.  While it’s not directly related to the tragedy they are enduring, the town and people and dogs will go on.  I hope that Park & Bark will open on schedule as a symbol that Newtown has survived this unspeakable loss.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Dec. 16, 2012 (2 comments)

Tale of Two Dog Parks

stthomastimesjournal.com_2012_07_18 dog park maintenance
click for larger view

I don’t know if St. Thomas dog people and City Hall are still battling about the weeds in the dog park.  Please God, I hope not!  Of all the issues that may cause problems between the powers that be and dogs running loose, tall weeds should not even register on the fight-o-meter.

No one has suggested clear cutting the woods or leveling the ravine.  All that was asked was to keep weeds and grasses to a manageable height so that dogs, and their poop, cannot get lost in them.  No one wants a dog or a small child to get a stick in their eye while running through an area where they can’t see where they’re going.  No one wants ticks on their dogs, their children or themselves.  And in case you’re wondering, park users aren’t permitted to just cut the weeds themselves.  Only City employees can do so.

Thirsty Pooches 3 Jul 2012 in Kings Co. Record Sussex NB
click for larger view

Two weeks before the weed cutting battle was raging at St. Thomas City Hall, the King’s County Record in Sussex NB published this article entitled “Thirsty pooches should be pleased”.  The town council approved the expenditure to install a water fountain for the dogs, replace the snowfencing with chainlink and create a small dog area in the town’s dog park.  I don’t know what kind of negotiations preceded this decision, but it was nice to read Mayor Marc Thorne saying “There are a lot of dogs in town, and residential properties don’t have the amount of space they need to get a healthy workout.”

St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson has been a good friend of the Lions Club Dog Park since the beginning, as have been Council members and Parks & Rec staff.  That’s why it seemed so odd that such a battle over its “landscaping” ever developed.

two dog parks, poodle running in Sussex dog parkThe Sussex Bark Park terrain is totally different from St. Thomas’ park.  It is on a hill and could be improved further by planting a few shade trees.  But, as you can see from the picture, the dogs in it can run.  There ain’t no waist-high weeds.

First posted on this date on my St. Thomas Dog Blog

Luanne Demers, Founding President

It was with much sorrow that we learned of the passing of a lovely Luanne Demers and Katie, from Facebookwoman – our friend and founder of STDOA Luanne Demers.  Luanne died of cancer, too young, this past weekend.

Those of us on the executive of the STDOA met Luanne three years ago when she began bringing her dogs, Lab crosses named Katie and Buddy, to play with our dogs.  I remember her watching Katie and Buddy wrestling with each other and anyone that would play, and saying “what we need in town is a proper dog park.”  The response of some, like me, was “yeah, like that’s going to happen!  Been tried, hasn’t worked.”  She said, “well, it’s gonna happen this time.”

And it did.  She organized us in a group, which was about as easy to do as organizing wound-up dogs when it’s time to go home – as in, not!  Luanne at left ribbon cutting at Lions Club Dog Park May 2010She quietly but efficiently had us establish a committee, approach council, look for suitable land, and lobby for permission and funds.  Never heavy-handed, never raising her voice, never complaining.  Just getting it done and getting you to do it without even realizing it was getting done.

All the while, she and we knew about the cancer.  She was a mother and a worker.  She appeared on a Dec. 2008 CTV news documentary about hard times in St. Thomas, talking about employment searching in a bad economy.  She told her story, and that of so many in our area, clearly and dispassionately.  She didn’t ask you to feel sorry for her, just for you to hear what she was saying about the need for work.

Luanne with Lab puppySimilarly, with the dog park, she just asked that all residents – City Council, non-dog owners and dog owners alike – listen to why a dog park was needed.  And she succeeded.  We got a dog park and an ongoing group committed to the welfare of dogs.  I don’t think we would have done so without her.

Luanne officially stepped down as president of STDOA in mid 2010 when she needed to focus on her own life and family.  We missed her then, and we still do.  I will never forget her lovely smile and her laugh as she watched those silly dogs of hers roll and tumble and chase each other.  It was impossible to not smile yourself just looking at her.

Note: This was first published on my St. Thomas Dog Blog. With it no longer online, I have moved it here but kept the original posting date. I still think of Luanne and miss her.

Sussex NB Dog Park

In Sussex, New Brunswick, when the first snow of the season hit.  trail to Sussex dog parkBeautiful weather the past few days, then bam – rain, snow and high winds.  Not as bad as New England got it, where we had just been, but still very cold.  Not a day for the dog park.

But, having been told by my brother that there was one, I wanted to see it.  So off Leo, Charlie and I went.  We found it at the edge of the industrial section, at the end of a road with a hiking trail alongside it.  The sign was covered in snow so I couldn’t see what it said.

dog park Sussex New BrunswickIt was wet and windy on the top of that hill.  Nobody else was there this Sunday afternoon.  If I’d asked Charlie his opinion, he’d have said “and you’re surprised?”  He and Leo ran around for about 10 minutes then Charlie stood at the entrance.  Clearly, it was time to go.

It’s maybe an acre, about the size of a small ball diamond, enclosed two dogs going through entrance Sussex NB dog parkwith orange plastic snowfencing.  The gate is a chute which turns at a right angle, then there’s a flap of fencing you can fasten to block it off.  Quite ingenious and easy to do.  A dog determined to get out could, by jumping the fence or pawing at the gate.  But it’s not like you’re putting your dog out to pasture at the dog park so the fencing would be fine.

The hiking trail that passes the dog park hooks into a main trail that goes along the river right through town.  Apparently it too is lovely.  Wet dogs back in carToday was not the day for us to find out.  But I’m glad we went to the dog park.  I’d like to see it on a nice day.  The view is superb.

And it was clean!  Snow or no snow, my Leo can sniff out dog poop.  And he only found one lot (sniffed it and ran on).  That’s impressive in any field, I think.

The Sussex “Bark Park” is at the end of McLeod Dr., off Leonard Dr., in Sussex.