Dog parks benefit both dogs and their owners

Published 9:38 am Monday, January 25, 2016

Guest Column by Sheila Schulz

Everyday, around 3 p.m., Cali senses it’s quitting time. She starts panting and pacing the office; her eyes fixate out the window. Cali circles in place as she sees Addie, a 3-year-old Husky outside. The two dogs are best friends; they look forward to their afterwork play dates at the dog park. It’s the highlight of their, and often their owners’, day! Cali is my daughter Kalia’s dog, adopted from a rescue shelter in Massachusetts. After months of working with Cali, and thanks to a pet policy in the workplace, Kalia is able to bring her to work. Addie is also an office dog, two floors down though. For these two dogs, it’s like happy hour after work when they meet up at the dog park.

Sheila Schulz

Sheila Schulz

A dog park, sometimes referred to as an off-leash park, or bark park, is an area of land, at least one acre or more in size, surrounded by proper fencing, offering dogs a place to run, exercise and socialize safely and freely, in a controlled environment while under their owner’s supervision.

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Dog parks are places where kindred souls meet. All over the world people and their dogs are discovering the simple pleasures of a community meeting place. Closer to home, communities around Albert Lea are enjoying the benefits of dog parks. Dogs need to play and dog parks offer an environment for just that. Being off leash helps dogs relieve stress, especially if they have a relatively nonactive lifestyle at home. While romping about at the park, your dog has opportunity to socialize with other canines, allowing for some mental stimulation and physical exercise while developing manners and respect for boundaries. Dog owners are able to get out, move around, enjoy the fresh air, as well as socialize with other pet people. These interactions have beneficial consequences that make park users feel like part of the community. And that has hidden value as people feel a sense of belonging.

Of course for a dog park to work, pet owners have to be responsible and knowledgeable of associated risks. All dogs should be up to date on all vaccines to prevent certain contagious diseases. Owners should make sure their dogs behave properly with training and socializing before they let their dogs loose in a dog park. Just as on a playground with children, owners should be aware always and in all ways; pet owners need to pay attention, read cues from their dogs and other dogs, and know the signs of trouble. For a more enjoyable time at the dog park educate yourself on proper dog park etiquette. This etiquette also involves cleaning up after your pets. It’s the polite and right thing to do! This will also help with prevention of disease.

A community dog park in Albert Lea will provide a safe place for well-behaved dogs to be off leash and a chance for people and pets to socialize and engage in our community. Let’s remember, a well-exercised dog is likely to be a better-behaved dog and less apt to be a nuisance to people, property or other dogs. For many people, dogs are family too!


Sheila Schulz is an Albert Lea resident. The dog park is one of two projects vying for a $20,000 grant on Tuesday.