This week I had the pleasure of visiting the newest of central Ohio’s selection of dog parks, Godown Dog Park. I have been eagerly looking forward to this day since I first saw the plans for the dog park, shared at a “Dog Park 101” class hosted by Worthington Parks & Rec and Worthington Organized Off-leash Friends (WOOF). I was impressed at the level of dog savvy of the members of WOOF, especially regarding designing for safety and dog-centeredness. You’ll see what I mean, below.
So here are some things I LOVE about the dog park:
The hills, trees and landscape. Unlike many other central Ohio dog parks which are typically flat fields with few trees, Godown Dog Park was built on a hilly, treed lot, with clusters of mature hardwoods, stands of smaller white pine and other forested areas. The land is sloped, with mounds and hills and even a gully, and there are areas that are mulched, areas with boulders and areas that are grassy or bare.
- Your dog gets a sensory experience, complete with sounds (birds chirping, the train passing by, wind in the trees), textures (mulch, stone, pavement or grass underfoot) and of course, smells!
- There’s LOTS of shade, which means on hot days, there are lots of different places for dogs to congregate and escape to. This helps to avoid the pitfall of some other parks which might have scuffles and fights when too many hot dogs try to cram into the same small patch of shade.
- The hills and closely-clustered tree stands in particular create a visual break for dogs, which means that even if there are 50 dogs in the park, a shy or nervous dog might be able to “feel” more secluded or safe in a more isolated portion of the park. Rather than having all of the dogs become one big pack in the middle of an open yard, the “compartment” effect created by the visual breaks can help foster smaller, well-matched playgroups.
The size of the big dog yard. At a whopping 4 acres, the amount of space enclosed in the big-dog area ensures that dogs have a space to retreat to if they need a break from other dogs. Only 2 acres are currently cleared with the remainder to be opened bit by bit over the coming weeks, as Worthington Parks & Recreation clear underbrush and poison ivy from the remainder.
The fact that the watering station was OUTSIDE the dog yards. This is probably one factor that will annoy the average dog park visitor, but that I LOVED! Locating the watering station outside of the dog runs serves several functions: first, it prevents a huge maintenance mess. Watering areas are quick to get muddy and messy, and quickly create standing water and unintended gullies where runoff is channeled. They’re also magnets for retrievers and other water dogs that love to paw in the water basins, which just worsens the mess. It also means less bathing and grooming for the dogs post-park trip (a small consideration, admittedly). Finally, watering stations can also create overcrowding as many dogs cram into a small space around a few bowls.
But the thing I love MOST about the outside watering stations is that it forces owners and dogs to take a break from the melee of the dog park. In my experience, I have rarely seen a dog owner take his dog out of the dog park, then re-enter the dog park. Most people come to stay, and even when a fight breaks out or a dog is being a nuisance, the options are twofold: stick it out by staying in the yard, or leave and go home.
By forcing owners to go outside of the yard for water, it makes the leave-return a novel part of their dog park repertoire. Once it is part of the repertoire, it could be used for other functions: like, say, taking a time-out after a particularly intense play session, or a quick training session teaching your dog to enter the park calmly.
Unfortunately, what I witnessed on opening weekend was that the reluctance to leash-and-leave is too great. Many owners let their dogs play for long times without taking them for water. A few owners instead packed a dog bowl and bottle of water and attempt to water their dog within the dog yard. When they did this, they were almost always swamped by ten thirsty dogs, each pushing for access to water. Once, I saw the dog bowl itself turned into a toy, as a sweet bulldog threw it up into the air and caught it over and over, in intense jubilation.
UPDATE: Two weeks later, the dog park is peppered with water bowls and gallon jugs. It’s not as bad as a single, mud-pit watering station and I haven’t seen overcrowding at the the water bowls like I witnessed the first day, but it does mean that there’s a lot of tupperware containers and stray plastic laying around. Sigh. Hopefully this gets better when the wash station is created and they turn the water back on again at the watering station.
The double-gated entry at ALL entrances. This is one of my biggest safety objections to Wheeler Park, which offers a double-gated entry on one side of the park, but two other alternate entrances are single-gated. For the safety of all dogs, all entrances to dog parks should be double-gated to prevent escape artists from wiggling out, especially when gate-crowding happens.
The rule prohibiting children under 9 years old. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you realize that one of my BIG causes is preventing negative dog-child interactions . The dog park is simply too rough-and-tumble an environment for young children to navigate safely. Even if you have a tough kid who likes to play rough with your dog, it is not the same thing as being plowed over by a pack of unfamiliar dogs, many of which likely outweigh the child.
Furthermore, many dogs are not socialized to children, or are socialized to associate them with negative consequences. These dogs and dog-owners should have some environment where they can predict that they will not be exposed to children. If you must take your child to a dog park, all three of Columbus Recreation & Parks’ dog parks allow children, when accompanied by an adult.
The rule prohibiting toys, treats or food of any kind. You heard it. Godown Dog Park says “no” to all toys (yes, balls included!), treats and foods. This will prevent a LOT of fights, given the number of scuffles involving balls, ropes, Frisbees and the like. It also prevents treat-motivated dogs from fixating on the treat-toting human in the yard. This, in combination with the landscape, also gives Godown Dog Park the feeling of a nature park. I liken other dog parks to neighborhood parks: instead of swings and slides there is agility equipment and toys. Godown feels more like a metro park, complete with walking paths and sloped terrain.
The dog behavior info on the entrance kiosk.
At the entrance to the park, there is a three-sided kiosk. One side is dedicated to WOOF news, another side is dedicated to Worthington Parks & Recreation information. The third side is dedicated to sharing public information about dogs, dog behavior and training.
The things I didn’t love about the dog park:
The gate latches. There is no locking mechanism on the gate latches at the entrance/exit areas. A person entering the double-gated area need only push lightly, and the gate opens.
The way the latches are configured, a dog can push its way into the park, but cannot push its way out of the park. This creates a couple of problems: first, an overly-zealous dog might push its way into the park before its leash is removed. This could lead to a leash-induced scuffle or at worst, if the first gate hasn’t been closed prior to the dog pushing through, it could lead to an escape! This concern can be addressed by owners allowing less slack in their leashes on entry, but the risk still remains.
Secondly, for the nervous dog that might dig at corners, it could mean an escape. If a dog isn’t gung-ho about going into the park, and instead returns to the first gate and paws at it, it is quite easy for the dog to pull back the gate enough to get its nose in and open more. Again, this can be addressed by close vigilance on the owner’s part, but the risk remains.
Almost all entrance-area mishaps can be fixed by slowing down, not crowding the entrance and allowing the owner enough time in the double-gated area to unleash and take any other safety or calming measures with their dog.
The rule prohibiting treats. I admit it! I love, love, love to train Roo at the dog park. Much of the headway that we’ve made on his recall is due to our weekly training sessions in high-distraction dog park environments. I worry whether praise alone will be enough to maintain the strength of his recalls, stays and other obedience within the environment. But that’s my training issue to be overcome, and certainly doesn’t outweigh the problems that treat-toting can cause in the dog park.
So there you have it: my review of Godown Dog Park. I am particularly interested in seeing how a few things unfold:
First, I wonder what the demographic of the dog owners will be. Will there be a strong culture of dog aficionados that will help keep the park pleasant and safe? Or will there be enough bad actors to sour the experience?
Second, what will the changes of seasons be like? I’m curious what leaf-fall will be like in the autumn, and if the gullies will fill with water in the spring. I’m also curious if the trees will have any wind-blocking effect in the winter, which may contribute to the comfort of the owners.
Third, I am curious how the terrain will hold up. This is a concern for all of our dog parks, since dog claws and quick turns and skids can do a number on the turf. It’s hard to judge from the drought-ridden ground I saw this weekend whether the grass will be hardy enough to withstand the wear, and whether four acres is enough ground to disperse the damage.
Finally, I am curious what the traffic will be like. The park is situated in an area easily accessible to a huge population of dog owners, and will likely draw visitors from Upper Arlington, Clintonville, Linworth, and other near-north communities. The first weekend, there were times of day when it was sparsely filled with dogs, and other times when it was packed.
Only time will tell! Tell me readers, have you visited Godown Dog Park yet? What did you think? What’s your favorite central Ohio dog park and why?
**Special thanks go out to Jennifer Lyon and Worthington Organized Off-leash Friends (WOOF) for their tireless effort to make this dog park a reality. Thanks for having me out to play on opening weekend!
One of the greatest shortfalls of parents raising dogs and children in the same household is that they often place all of the responsibility on the dog. They assume that a well-trained, well-socialized dog is all they need to ensure the safety of all involved. They often will completely ignore that the dog is only on piece of the dog-parent-kid relationship. Parents need to work with their child to teach them safe behaviors and boundaries when interacting with dogs.
Dog aficionados are quick to assert that the parent needs to teach the child “respect” for dogs, but infrequently is there a detailed description of how, exactly, a parent should teach that respect.
Here are some examples of safe boundaries/rules that will help children living with family dogs understand and respect their dogs’ needs. Parents can begin working on these as soon as the child is mobile or shows interest in the dog. Children can begin to grasp these well before their second birthday.
- Dogs don’t like to be bothered while they are eating.
- Dogs don’t like their toys taken away from them.
- Dogs don’t like to be woken from a sleep.
- Dogs like to be pet with hands, not with objects.
- Dogs don’t like hugs and kisses.
- Dogs don’t like their paws, ears, nose, mouths, eyes or tails touched.
- Dogs don’t like to be chased.
- Dogs don’t like to be sat on, crawled on, bounced on or fallen on.
These are examples of “no” rules, but certainly, toddler-dog interactions shouldn’t be limited to what they can’t do. It’s important to teach them what they can do, too, and praise them lavishly for it. While a young toddler might not be able to grasp “Ask three times,” or be expected to learn doggie communication signals, there are things they can begin to learn that will help them interact with dogs in a safe, fun, and mutually-beneficial way.
- “Gentle” touch.
- Offering treats safely to dogs, with an open palm.
- Dogs like to be pet on their backs.
- Dogs like to be pet with one hand. Two hands is too much!
It is a good idea to teach children the safest possible interactions, regardless of how their particular dog reacts to certain situations. For example, even if a family dog has never demonstrated guarding behavior, it’s still a good idea for parents to teach their children not to approach while eating, or take toys away from the dog. The reason for this is that the child may be exposed to many, many dogs in their lifetime, some of whom may feel differently about sharing their food/toys.
Tell me, readers, what dog-related rules or boundaries have you taught your toddlers?
Meet CODB’s newest Mutt of the Month, Jasper. Jasper’s story is a heart-wrencher for me, not because he has a sad story or a sordid past, but just the opposite: there’s not a bloomin’ thing wrong with him, and yet he’s coming up on a YEAR in his foster home. We know that his forever family is out there somewhere, but they need to get busy looking for him! He’s certainly waited long enough.
Jasper is a one and a half-year old pibble boy looking for his forever family. He’s a typical bully, complete with goofy personality, love of cuddles and affinity for the family life. Jasper’s foster mom describes him as a “nurturer” who cares for his foster puppy siblings like a big brother: protective, loving and patient to a fault. He gets along equally well with his canine and feline siblings, and has liked all of the children that he’s met. He may take exception to dominant male dogs. After all, he’s a family man, but no pushover! His mom thinks he would do best in a home with a sister dog, or as a family’s one and only.
Jasper’s the perfect combination of playful energy and laid-back attitude. At adoption events, he doesn’t solicit attention from people like some dogs, but prefers to have a wrestle with the other dogs, or be adored by his mom and fellow rescuers. Though he likes to play, he does tire easily—he has weak knees—but that doesn’t stop him from trying to keep up with the other pups. Jasper is easy-going on walks, and doesn’t bark or react to other dogs. He loves walks, trips to the dog park, bones and tennis balls!
His wonderful personality comes wrapped up in a handsome package, too. He’s got a sleak brindle and white coat, a broad block head, and quirky ears: one stands up, and the other lies flat!
Jasper is currently available for adoption through PetPromise, Inc. Won’t you please help this boy find his forever home? Share this post with friends! Who knows? One of them might just be the one that Jasper’s been waiting for!
Roo’s got some news to share…
This was, in fact, the way that Husband learned that we’re expecting another (non-fur) baby in October. Planning this stunt included a two-day crash course in belly-targeting, some uncomfortably misplaced nose-nudges, and a whole bunch of peanut butter smeared on my belly. I couldn’t get Roo to generalize to the outdoors during the short time I had to train him, so you get a messy glimpse of my living room. I asked Husband to film a trick I taught Roo “for the blog” and then waited for him to put the pieces together. It took a looong two minutes.
The anticipation of a new kid has me thinking back on how we prepared Roo for our first baby, introduced her to him, and managed their interactions in the first months of her life. I’ve been pondering what I did, what I’ve learned since, what I hope to repeat, and what I would like to do differently this time.
Some things I did before that I hope to repeat:
- (Continue to) train Roo throughout pregnancy, with an focus on training behaviors that will be helpful with a baby.
- Convince my generous friends to take Roo to the dog park during the postpartum period.
- Indulge in nap snuggles with Roo during those exhausting newborn-nursing days.
- Keep Roo with me at all times. Having him follow me around the house—even to the bathroom—is the easiest way to make sure he’s not left unattended with either E. or the new baby.
Some things I hope to do differently:
- Be more intentional when introducing Roo to the new baby.
- Stuff more bones and kongs, and consider puzzle toys to keep Roo occupied.
- Use barriers more, since it will be difficult monitoring both 2-year-old E. and Roo when my attention is on the new addition.
- Blog more about raising kids and babies, and schedule guest writers for the postpartum period.
Tell me, readers with young children, what did you do to prepare your dog(s) for a baby? If you were doing it again, would you do anything differently?
The intake, adoption and “euthanasia” numbers for Franklin County Dog Shelter are posted on their website. In the coming weeks, I’ll post a more complete review of what these numbers mean and how they compare to previous years, but from a few quick calculations I did this afternoon, it looks like the kill rate for bullies has held steady with previous years, at around 85%. This means that for every 20 pit bull dogs that come in, only 3 are reclaimed or rescued. Please note that this includes those dogs who were “euthanized” at their owners’ request. This compares to a 36% kill rate for all dogs of other breeds, which also includes those dogs who were euthanized at their owner’s request, had significant health issues or dangerous behavior/unsafe temperament. It also appears that the pit bull population is generally holding steady: 3,330 of a total 12,666, or just over 26% of dogs admitted to FCDS last year were classified as “pit bull breeds.”
As many may know, currently Franklin County Dog Shelter’s current policy is to not adopt pit bull dogs out to the general public, so the only way that bullies can be saved is for them to be pulled by a private rescue group that meets certain requirements. If you’d like to support these dogs, please support one of our local groups that pulls them from FCDS: PetPromise, Inc., Pets Without Parents, New Beginnings Animal Shelter, Peace for Paws Ohio, and Colony Cats (& Dogs).
It’s true. But before my bully-loving readers get up in arms, I’ll clarify that I don’t dislike them either. Despite how much I’ve found myself writing about them lately (here, here, here and here), they’re not the breed that capture my heart and command my devotion. They don’t have the sleek lines of a setter, the spunk of a corgi moving a herd, or the sheer speed of a border collie in pursuit of a Frisbee: these are the dogs that catch my interest.
Bullies are fine, and I understand how folks could fall for them. They have such floppy faces, such happy smiles, and their heavy heads feel reassuring in a lap at the end of a day. They’re great dogs, but they just don’t light my fire.
So why do I write about them so much? Why have our past two Mutts of the Month been bullies? Why do I follow bully advocates, champion their cause, correct the errors and myths when I hear them shared?
A few weeks ago, KC Dog Blog shared an interesting post about the popularity of different dog breeds by state. The data was derived from veterinary records, and previously-available population estimates were based on AKC registration. AKC data has been widely criticized as a base for estimating bully breed population because it fails to recognize American Pit Bull Terriers (APBTs) as a breed, though it does recognize American Staffordshire Terriers.
While questions remain about this new data (How are mixed breeds classified? Is the data skewed towards more responsible owners?) the results were telling. Pit bull dogs showed up in the top three most popular dogs in 28 states. (In Ohio, they ranked as the 8th most popular breed.) They are wildly popular. And if we go with the common assumption that bully breeds, on the whole, have less-responsible owners than non-bullies, we can draw the assumption that pit bulls are, in fact, underrepresented in these numbers. That means there are TONS out there.
This is no surprise to those in the local rescue community. Franklin County Dog Shelter reports that in 2010 (latest data available at the time of this writing), 3,395 pit bulls entered their doors out of a total 13,062. This means that 1 of every 4 dogs admitted to FCDS in 2010 is a “pit bull dog”. Franklin County Dog Shelter doesn’t report statistics on other non-bully breeds that come in their doors, but this number is so high that I’m willing to bet they get more bullies than any other dog “breed”.
In short, I advocate for pit bull dogs because I care more about dogs generally than breeds specifically. The sheer number of pit bull dogs out there, coupled with them being uniquely targeted by breed discrimination, compels me. Our most-populous “breed” is also our most-killed one, and that fact alone keeps me working. If all dog lives are equal, I simply have to care about bullies.
Tell me readers, are you a pit bull advocate? Is it because you love the breed, or for some other reason? For those readers who are dog lovers but are not pit bull advocates, what is your take on the issue?
If you read Central Ohio Dog Blog often, you probably know that we have a soft-spot for special cases or “underdogs.” Senior dogs, disabled dogs, bullies and even black dogs are frequently passed over at adoption events and in shelters. We believe that a progressive animal welfare community takes up the cause of the underdogs, believes in them and allies with them, and is patient enough to work with them through training, or to wait with them until the right adopter comes around.
If you follow the Central Ohio Dog Blog facebook page, you’ll also know that I loooove to give money away to local animal welfare organizations, and I’ve used the page as a platform to do so. So I’m launching my next contest. My goal for this contest is threefold: first, to highlight the happy endings of some central Ohio underdogs, to show that they’re not hopeless cases nor should they be pitied, but rather be adopted, and loved. Second, to promote the Central Ohio Dog Blog and further its mission by expanding its reach. And finally, to give away some cash and free press to a deserving local animal welfare organization.
So here’s the contest:
I really, really want 500 likes. So much so that I’m willing to shell out $500 to get there! The more reach we have, the more we can educate our central Ohio community about responsible dog ownership, which is the core mission of the Central Ohio Dog Blog. We desperately want to bump the status quo, to help people better understand dogs and to make central Ohio a more hospitable environment for all of canine kind, and we can only do that if we’re connected to more people. So I’m launching the Underdogs of Central Ohio Contest.
- From now until April 8th, I will be accepting entries into the “Underdogs of Central Ohio” Contest, to highlight some of our great success stories.
- Entries must include:
- Name, phone number and email address for the individual submitting the entry.
- A high-quality photograph of your owned underdog residing in Franklin or contiguous county*. The dog does not need to have been adopted from a central Ohio rescue organization, but it should currently reside here. Please note that while Central Ohio Dog Blog remains committed to promoting adoptables, only owned pets are eligible for entry in the contest.
- A narrative of no more than 150 words telling the underdog’s story, what’s great about him/her, and any other pertinent details, and
- The name and contact information for a 501c3 animal welfare organization located in Franklin or a contiguous county* which will receive the prize donation if the entry wins.
- If a submission lacks a photo, narrative, or designated animal welfare organization, it will be automatically disqualified from entry. By submitting an entry, the entrant is granting Central Ohio Dog Blog the right to use the photo and narrative on the blog, facebook page, promotional materials, education events, and any other way which forwards the Central Ohio Dog Blog’s mission.
- All entries must be received via email at CentralOhioDogBlog@yahoo.com prior to midnight on Sunday, April 8th.
- On Wednesday, April 11th, Central Ohio Dog Blog will post all entries—photos, narrative and designated animal welfare organization– to a photo album on the Central Ohio Dog Blog facebook page.
- Entrants may lobby their friends, followers, and others to vote for their photo by ‘liking’ the photograph in the album, and also ‘liking’ the Central Ohio Dog Blog facebook page. They may also enlist the support of facebook pages to garner more “likes”.
- Please note that likes to photos from the album shared on other pages will not be counted towards the total votes. Only those likes the photo in the album on Central Ohio Dog Blog’s facebook page will be counted.
- The contest will end when the Central Ohio Dog Blog facebook page reaches 500 likes. If the page does not reach 500 likes by April 27th, the contest will end at noon of that day.
*Counties include Franklin, Pickaway, Madison, Union, Delaware, Licking, and Fairfield counties.
- A $500 donation to a 501c3 animal welfare organization located in Franklin or contiguous county* designated by the entrant. If that animal welfare organization permits, the winning entry may designate how they want the donation to be used.
- 7 on-air announcements on a local radio station promoting the designated animal welfare organization
- The winning underdog’s owner will win a ticket to join me on the inaugural Doggie Delights tour hosted by A La Carte Food Tours.
Feel free to share this post far and wide. There is no limit to the number of entries we will accept, nor is there a limit to the number of entries per designated animal welfare organization. I look forward to reading about all of our wonderful underdogs!