By Elke Thoms
It’s difficult enough to remember that you need exercise after sitting at a desk all day, and if you have a furry friend waiting for you at home, they need some calorie-burning, too.
Luckily, the weather is warm and there are plenty of dog parks around. Visit one, and your dog can get the workout they want, and you can tell yourself that standing outside and checking your phone while your pup plays counts as exercise.
That, however, is poor dog park etiquette.
“No reading the newspaper, no checking your emails, no something—you have to be vigilant about what your dog is doing,” says dog trainer Laura Sharkey.
Sharkey, 44, has been the owner of WOOFS! Dog Training Center, LLC. in Arlington for the past 12 years. Her experience has taught her that bringing your dog to the dog park should never be a passive activity for the owner.
“Interact with your dog,” she encourages. “Walk, definitely walk. Don’t stand still. Play ball, if it’s appropriate in that environment.”
It’s not just about increasing your bond with your animal. When you enter a dog park, you have to take responsibility for your dog.
“Allowing dogs to ‘work it out,’ that’s ridiculous. I hear that a lot, it’s crazy. No, the dogs do not need to work it out—you’re the human, take care of the situation,” Sharkey says. “That’s terrible dog park etiquette, to allow your dog to bully another dog and to allow your dog to get bullied is also terrible.”
The most important part of dog park etiquette, Sharkey says, is to “have a good recall on your dog, so that if and when you need to, you can call your dog out of almost any situation. Including, say, if two other dogs are fighting, or two other dogs are playing, and your dog doesn’t need to be a part of that. Call your dog off, have them follow you to a different part of the park and do something else with them.”
Okay, so your dog’s recall isn’t perfect. One day at the dog park is fine though, right?
Sharkey disagrees. “I don’t think dogs that don’t have a good recall should be at a dog park. I think that’s a requirement, you should have a good recall on your dog.”
However, if your dog does come when called, then the dog park riches are yours for the taking.
Here are a few in the area:
Baron Cameron Dog Park
11300 Baron Cameron Avenue
The Baron Cameron Dog Park in Reston can host up to 40 dogs, and includes a separate area for dogs under 25 pounds, as well as a water fountain and dog bowls.
K-9 Gunner Memorial Dog Park
13000 Minnieville Road
The K-9 Gunner Memorial Dog Park is dedicated to Gunner, a police dog for Prince William County Police Department who was killed in the line of duty in 2005. The dog park includes a separate area for smaller dogs.
Vienna Dog Park
700 Courthouse Road
The Vienna Dog Park includes a fenced-in play area surrounded by trees. Water is available for both dogs and their owners.