In August, my husband and I adopted two puppies, aged three and four months. And yes, we are a little crazy.
Since then, we have been working with Jack and Cora to train them to come when called, partly so we can let them play off-leash.
We are lucky enough to have a wide open space near our home where the dogs can run freely, but it isn’t a perfect or perfectly safe option.
Last week, our dogs ran away.
For 20 minutes, we fretted as our dogs wandered through the woods, fortunately avoiding the road and others’ properties.
Since that day, the puppies have been back on their leashes for every walk. It’s just not worth the risk, but I wish there was a better option.
To my knowledge, there is nowhere in the Flin Flon, Creighton and Denare Beach area where pet owners can legally and safely let their dogs exercise and play off-leash.
In Canadian towns and cities, dog parks, or dog-friendly areas in parks, are becoming standard recreational spaces. Many are fenced in to protect both the dogs inside and the people and pets outside.
A dog park is not so different from a playground, where parents of “fur babies” can gather to let their dogs exercise and play.
Though they might seem frivolous, dog parks are not a luxury. At least, they should not be seen as luxuries if we accept that pet ownership is an ingrained cultural practice in Canada, and one that is valued highly by many.
Owning a dog, particularly a young dog or an active breed, comes with a responsibility to ensure that one’s pet receives adequate exercise and socialization.
Take a look at just about any dog training resource, and there is near-universal agreement on the fact that dogs need exercise, and lots of it, to be safe, happy and disciplined pets.
A dog park offers a convenient, secure space where that exercise can easily take place.
Of course, for some dogs, frequent walks or running on a leash are sufficient. Some families have fenced-in yards where they can play with their pets. But even if a dog is getting enough exercise with its owners, a dog park has another crucial benefit: it is a space where dogs can be socialized with other dogs and people, so they will be less likely to react to strangers or strange dogs with fear or aggression.
While proper training by dog owners and more municipal oversight of animal control would likely contribute to safety in regards to family pets, creating a dog park would also be part of a solution.
Ultimately, a dog park is a community-building space where dogs learn to play and pet owners, and those who enjoy spending time with dogs, connect.
These spaces have been created in other Manitoba and Saskatchewan communities: in Winnipeg, Brandon, Portage la Prairie, Melville, Regina, Saskatoon, Unity, Weyburn and North Battleford. So why not here?
As Terri Eger reports in today’s paper, Flin Flon city council will soon be looking at a proposal for a dog park project. This is a great step forward, and I hope other local municipalities will consider working together to make this project happen.
Local residents, and not just dog owners, would benefit from an investment in pet-friendly and people-friendly spaces where dogs can get the exercise and social time they need in order to be safe, loving and happy companions.