For as long as I’ve been an Arlington business owner, there has been talk about the possibility of a fenced dog park one day being built in our town. In fact, Town Meeting voted to allow fenced dog parks in 2003, I was reminded when I recently sat down to discuss our current dog park situation with Sue Doctrow of the Arlington Dog Owners Group (A-DOG) as well as a member of Arlington’s Dog Park Task Force. Still, at times, the notion of a fenced dog park in Arlington has felt more like a fantasy than a possibility. Now, almost a decade after Town Meeting voted to allow fenced dog parks in Arlington, that’s all about to change. Thorndike Dog Park is currently under construction, and is expected to open sometime this spring.
The road leading to this point has been long. Doctrow explained that Arlington established The Dog Park Task Force in 2010 when they the town was in the process of identifying potential sites, designs & costs for fenced dog parks in town. Last year, a generous donation from the made construction of our first dog park a reality. Considering what a struggle it’s been to get this fenced dog park, it’s all the more critical that we all do our part to ensure its success.
Here are some ways dog owners can help:
- Know your dog, and be realistic about whether a fenced-dog park is the right socialization and exercise option for your particular dog. Some dogs love to play with other dogs in groups. Others prefer long walks with their humans in places where they may encounter and briefly socialize with a variety of other dogs, but probably wouldn’t linger long to frolic as a pack. Still others prefer the company of humans and do better when kept away from areas where unleashed dogs might approach them. If your dog might not play well with others in a fenced dog-park, a different type of recreation might be a better and safer fit.
- Familiarize yourself with and obey the posted rules. The town and the Dog Park Task Force are in the process of finalizing the rules which will be clearly posted once the park opens.
- Learn to read canine body language. When a dog asks another dog for space but doesn’t get it, trouble could erupt. Dogs use intricate and subtle body language to communicate with one another. If you know what you’re looking for, you can read the “conversation” among dogs, and better anticipate when you should intervene in their interactions to prevent scuffles. There are a number of great resources available on this subject. Two I like are a DVD set from Sarah Kalnajs called The Language of Dogs and a book by Robin K. Bennett & Susan Briggs called Off-Leash Dog Play – a Complete Guide to Safety and Fun. As I looked up links to these resources, I came across another promising book with good reviews titled Visiting the Dog Park – Having Fun, Staying Safe by Cheryl Smith.
- Brush up on your dog’s training. “Come when called” is perhaps the most critical skill to work on. I also find these additional cues very useful: Red Light/Green Light (meaning stop and focus on me/now you’re free to frolic), Leave It, Sit/Freeze and Down/Freeze (Freeze is my version of Stay).
- Contact A-DOG about joining Friends of Thorndike Dog Park. This is a group for users and other supporters of the dog park. It will work with the town to set fundraising goals, organize volunteer efforts, etc. to ensure the long-term success of the park.
It’s so exciting to think that our first dog park will probably be open within a matter of months! This will be a big boost to quality of life for many Arlington dogs and their owners. I have high hopes that park visitors will rise to the responsibility this amazing new privilege brings.