Dog Days

We have two new additions to our family; an Akita called Captain Malcolm Reynolds, after the character from Firefly and Serenity, and a DLH black and white kitten called Captain Jack Harkness, after the character from Torchwood and Doctor Who. The kitten doesn't require much entertainment as he gets plenty smacking the dog in the face and snickering, but the dog is extra smart and needs lots and lots of things to do.

Our county Parks and Recreation has more than enough to keep a good pup alert and interested. They offer not one but two dog beaches (it helps that our county has lots and lots of water, sometimes a little too much), some dog parks and lots of dog friend parks that welcome canines on a leash. (Of course you have to follow some directions, which are mostly common sense. Pick up after your dog, no fighting (either dog or owner), dogs must be up to date on shots, etc.)

Dogs are allowed to be off leash at the dog beach but owners aren’t allowed in the water, so make sure your dog can swim and responds to voice command before you bring him. You also need to be prepared to break up a dog fight. Even if your dog is the most even-tempered creature in the world, you never know what other hellhounds some idiot might have brought to the park or beach, so you need to be the one who is prepared.

One of our beaches has a dog washing spot so you can get the sand and other beach detritus off of your pet after they swim, but one is more bare bones. You'll want to do more planning ahead and make sure your seats are protected if you drive to the dog beach, otherwise it might be a bit embarrassing next time you give your boss a lift.

Not sure if your dog likes water? You might want to check her feet. Are they webbed? Lots of breeds are used to working in water and have adapted with webbed toes. My own dog, an Akita, has this special quality and although he'll go running at the sound of the word bath, his breed does just fine in the water. But just because your dog might not have webbed feet doesn't mean he won't enjoy the water. There are loads of dogs without water ancestry that love to swim. You might want to stick to the shallow end until you're both sure how you feel about dog paddling.

Dog parks are another great way to let your dog play off leash. Some parks have agility courses, which are great for keeping your dog intrigued and fit. Others just offer an opportunity for dogs to play together in a safe, open environment.

If you don't have a dog park or beach in your area you can still have fun with your dog, so long as you keep your pet leashed. My county has loads of parks that welcome dogs, including several that have long trails that offer a challenge to owner and canine alike. Just be sure to bring plenty of water, which your dog can carry for you, if you have saddlebags and the right size dog.

If you live in the right area you can bring your dog to indoor festivities. I saw an article in an English newspaper saying a chain of pubs is going to offer free food to visiting dogs and Provincetown here in the US lets dogs into just about every building in town. There are plenty of campgrounds that welcome your pooch and there are hotels if you look hard enough. You and Fido can have a grand vacation if you do enough planning in advance.

If your dog isn't ready to socialize with other dogs think about signing up for an obedience class. Your dog will learn more than sit and stay at these classes; they will also learn how to behave when they are surrounded by distractions and they'll learn how to play well with others. Many companies offer private lessons but if you take this option your dog will miss out on the chance to learn appropriate behavior when in the presence of strange dogs, so take that into consideration. Your vet should be able to recommend a good trainer or you can call your local humane society and either get a referral or take classes at the shelter.

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