As I was perusing my daily update of Dog related news I came across two letters to the editor from a town in Alberta named Cochrane. Apparently the town of Cochrane has proposed a third dog park for the town of 17,580 residents. The first letter indicates that the writer lives near a pathway where dog owners regularly walk their dog off-leash (despite this not being a designated off-leash area).
The writer questions the need for a dog park when so many owners already let their dogs off-leash in other areas. The second letter questions the cost of the dog park (estimated at $330,000) and suggests that this cost is too high.
Being a dog owner myself I have some pretty firm opinions on both of these matters. First of all the implication that dog parks only benefit dog owners is, in my opinion, nonsense. Dog parks benefit EVERYONE. Why? For a few reasons: it gives owners a place to let their dogs run free, interact with other dogs, practice training (such as recall, leave it commands and more) and gives dogs an opportunity to learn skills to make them well adjusted polite members of their community. By having a designated place to go, dogs who are high energy and tend to bark or jump on others (in other words, have not learned their manners yet) will not be a nuisance to “non-dog” people.
A well exercised and socialized dog will be calmer when out for on-leash walks, is likely to bark less at other dogs and is less likely to be aggressive. This benefits everyone in the community.
To the point that dog owners in town walk their dogs off leash anyway so why a dog park? The answer is simple: not all dogs have learned the skills required for a off-leash walks in public areas. Some have not developed a strong sense of recall and may run away, or they may not yet be well socialized with other dogs making it more likely that an altercation will break out when the dog meets another on the path. Or the dog may not have learned “down” command or how to greet others properly and may be inclined to run up or jump on someone who does NOT want this kind of attention. Providing a dog park where owners can go to work on socialization, recall and other commands in a safe setting is a must. Once a dog has learned these “rules” they are more likely to be able to walk off-leash in other areas of the community without becoming a nuisance or a problem.
To the second letter that questions the cost of the dog park (estimated at $333,000) I would ask the writer to consider how much of that park would be funded by the dog owners themselves. In the City of Cochrane the cost for a dog license ranges from $35-$70 annually. Part of these fee’s would be allocated to dog related infrastructure. On top of that, each of the dog owners is also a local taxpayer – meaning that their tax dollars should go towards paying for parks and local infrastructure that benefits them. As a taxpayer I understand that not everything funded by my tax dollars directly impacts me (for example I do not have children, but part of my taxes go to funding playgrounds, schools, etc.), but there needs to be give and take in what is funded by the town.
I was not able to find statistics on how many dogs there are in Cochrane, Alberta specifically but an Ipsos Reid poll estimates that 35% of Canadian households have a dog. If this stands true for Cochrane then this dog park has the potential to directly benefit 1 in 3 residents of the town. Additionally, a quick search of “Cochrane” and “dog park” brings up a Facebook group titled “Cochrane Dog Park Users” which has almost 1300 members. This suggests a robust dog community within the town and many citizens who would benefit from additional dog resources provided by the city.