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Off-leash dog areas offer socialization and exercise for canines

Posted: June 2, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 2, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Bridgette, left, plays with Roxie, a pit bull mix, in Central Bark’s area for all dogs.

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If it was up to 6-year-old Xander, he would spend his summer sitting on the couch.

Instead, Tracie Cannon, the Saugus resident who owns the Great Dane, takes Xander to Central Bark in Saugus twice a day.

"He needs to come out and get some exercise," Cannon says. "So I bring him here, and then he can run around with the other dogs, and he likes people so he goes up to everybody in the park."

Santa Clarita Valley dogs and their owners come to Santa Clarita's two off-leash dog parks, Central Bark and Canine Country, to exercise and socialize.

Castaic resident Kraig Lane has been bringing his Swiss mountain dog Shasta to Central Bark for those very reasons.

"She just needs some extra room. It's hard for her to just walk around the backyard and feel good," Lane says. "They're social animals so they should interact with other dogs."

Dr. Balpal Sandhu, a veterinarian at Canyon Country Veterinary Hospital, agrees with the benefits of dog parks.

"It's a good way to socialize your puppies from a young age," he says.

Sandhu advises that dogs shouldn't be brought to the park until they're 4 to 5 months old and have received all the standard vaccinations.

"There are a lot of diseases they can catch if they're not fully vaccinated," Sandhu says, such as gastrointestinal parasites, kennel cough and parvovirus.

Also, dogs entering the areas should also have at least some training, according to Sandhu and some local trainers.

Mark Tipton, a trainer for Angeldogs Training, suggests an owner should be able to at least recall his or her dog to avoid trouble. Close supervision is also important.

"Most people that go are there to socialize themselves instead of the dogs," he says. For this reason, Tipton doesn't advise going to dog parks.

"Be aware of what's going on with your dog because sometimes, one dog might not like another," Cindy Emmer, of Canyon Country, who takes her black Labrador retriever Remme to Canine Country.

Lane, who has been going to Central Bark for the past five years, agrees that dogs should be supervised, but says, "A lot of the time, people overreact cause the dogs are just playing. Some of the dogs, like boxers, will growl a lot and vocalize as they play, so some people will immediately think the dogs are being attacked, and they'll jump in."

A dog with intentions to attack will be staring intently, leaning forward on its paws, with its hair rising on its back and its tail straight and not wagging, Tipton says.

To warm up a dog to its first visit to a park, Tanya Terzian, a trainer at Petco, suggests starting slowly.

"Rather than walking right into the dog park, get your dog used to going to the dog park, do loose leash walks from the parking lot to the park, reward the dog and then go home," Terzian says. "Get your dog used to the scenario, don't just push your dogs into it."

Befeore their first trip to the park, Cannon had her apprehensions about bringing Xander.

"I was afraid to bring him in the first time, because I've never let a dog loose with that many dogs." Cannon says. "There was like 30 dogs in here, and I didn't know how he would react."

Over time however, the nearly 3-foot-tall brindle beast has earned a nickname at the park, his owner said.

"They call him ‘The Referee,'" Cannon said. "When other dogs start fighting in here, he runs over and pounds on the ground and goes woof and splits them up. And then he comes back happy."

The parks are officially open dawn to dusk, and rules are posted at each park's entrance and also on Santa Clarita's website at http://www.santa-clarita.com/index.aspx?page=408. Central Bark is located in the far back corner of Central Park, 27150 Bouquet Canyon Road, Saugus. Canine Country is located next to the Santa Clarita Sports Complex at the southern end of Ruether Avenue near its intersection Centre Point Parkway.

jrosario@the-signal.com

661-287-5539

 

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