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Some lessons learned at the PTC Dog Park

Steve Brown's picture

We have had several warm weekends in a row and the attendance numbers at the Peachtree City Dog Park are rocketing upward. The word has gotten out about the best place in metro Atlanta to have fun with the family pet. The user-funded park now has members joining from five different counties.

Before you bring your beloved canine to the dog park, please go to www.ptcdogpark.com and read the important information about the venue.

The dog park is easy on the city’s budget, being totally funded by membership fees (Fayette residents, $35; and non-Fayette users, $45) and park entry fees. The memberships are per household, not per dog. If you do not want to pay the 12-month membership, you simply pay $1 per visit to use the park.

Interestingly, we have had visitors from all over the state coming to see what we are doing with our much-admired dog park. In many cases, they leave exhausted after knowing the amount of work it takes to keep an active park full of dogs and people going.

The secret of the Peachtree City Dog Park’s success is its volunteers and generous patrons. Volunteers run every facet of the operation while many of the park members have voluntarily paid an additional $100 to buy a section of fence in the park. Due to member generosity, the dog park is about to embark on a new expansion.

Let me share some of the lessons that come from a couple of years of observation at the dog park.

First, proper training is your dog’s best friend. A dog that will not listen, disobeys and pulls hard on the leash is not the kind of animal people want to be around.

I have seen a bunch of dogs (including mine) that were dumped at the animal shelter simply because the previous owners did not train them. However, in the hands of knowledgeable owners, these same dogs are well behaved and a joy to be around. If you cannot afford a trainer, buy a good book on the subject. It is good for the dog and you.

Second, remember that big dogs are a big responsibility. The misbehavior you accepted from those cute little puppies all of a sudden becomes a major problem when they reach 40 pounds.

If you are not willing to put in the necessary time to train and exercise a big dog, do not get one. Keep in mind there are certain large breeds like Newfoundlands that are super-sized couch potatoes that require less active owners.

Third, spay or neuter your dog. Trouble usually begins with “intact” males. Neutering reduces male territorial instinct and makes for a more sociable dog. Similarly, do not bring a female in heat to the dog park as trouble will ensue.

Fourth, pick up the darn poop! Not only is it inconsiderate to leave your dog’s poop lying around for someone to step in, but is also dangerous, actually polluting our water supply.

Pet waste gets washed into our lakes and streams, decaying, using up dissolved oxygen and releasing compounds that are harmful to fish and other animals that rely on water. Pet poop, containing harmful bacteria such as E. Coli and fecal coliform, also contributes to bacterial contamination of our rivers, lakes and streams.

Every dog owner at the dog park picks up the poop or they are asked to leave and not come back. If you are walking the dog on the cart paths, be a responsible citizen and bring a couple of plastic grocery bags with you.

Fifth, cooperate with other dog owners and take responsibility for your dog. Just like children, dogs can get a little overheated during play and moods go sour. Each owner needs to take their dog and settle them down.

The beautiful thing about the dog park is novice pet owners quickly learn dog behavior and body language, realizing when it is time to step in.

Finally, there is a terrible trend occurring with young men aged 18 to mid-20s picking up pit bulls and pit-mixes as pets. The pit bull has become a distinctive status symbol for certain young men.

Unfortunately, many of these young men have no knowledge of training methods and lack the desire to properly train their dogs. Their disastrous entry into dog ownership is exacerbated when they choose not to spay-neuter their dogs.

The callous behavior of the local pit bulls has more to do with their unskilled owners than the dogs.

Do not get me wrong, we have some wonderfully trained pit-mixes around, but most do not fit that bill.

Owning such a large dog with extensive muscle mass and an extreme force of bite is a huge responsibility that most of these young men are not capable of managing.

If your family is interested in adding a dog to your home, I suggest you come visit the dog park first. The park gives you a wonderful opportunity to see all the different breeds and mixes to figure out which one works best with your family’s lifestyle.

When it comes to loyalty and companionship, dogs are number one.

Luckily, for people in our area, we have the best dog park in the state, which makes the experience all the more rewarding for you and your pet.

See you at the Peachtree City Dog Park!

[Steve Brown is the former mayor of Peachtree City. He can be reached at stevebrownptc@ureach.com.]

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