Tag Archive for: dog parks

woman and 2 goldendoodles, one red and one cream, sitting on wooden bridge in forestSpringtime is right around the corner here in Minnesota and many of us are ready to get out and about now that the weather is more agreeable. From parks to events to coffee shops, there are some wonderful places you can visit and bring your four legged friend with you! Check out our list below of some of our favorite spots to hang with Spot.

Parks and Trails

There are so many great parks in Minnesota that it’s hard to pick just a few. We’ve listed our favorites below, but to see all of the dog parks in the Twin Cities, check out Bring Fido’s list. Before you head out, make sure the park or trail you chose is dog friendly (some of them are not) and be sure to bring water for you and your pup and poop baggies to carry out any waste. Orvis has some good tips on trail etiquette for your dog.

  • Minnehaha Regional Park is a great location in the Twin Cities to wander with your pup. The park has a beautiful waterfall, several miles of trails, a great seasonal restaurant, and even an off leash dog park (requires a permit or day pass). Keep in mind that dog park is not fully fenced and abuts the Mississippi River, so if your pup does not have good recall or doesn’t like water, this may not be the best park for you.
  • The Chain of Lakes has 15 miles of pedestrian (and dog!) trails along several lakes including Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska, and Lake Harriet. The trails are a part of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway and for most of the path you and your pup will be feet from the lakes with a lovely view of the water and the Minneapolis skyline.
  • Elm Creek Park Reserve is part of the Three Rivers Park District. It’s over 4,800 acres and contains numerous paved trails for dog walking, picnic areas, a fully fenced dog park (with separately fenced in pond area), and a water park and playground (although those are not dog friendly).
  • The Superior Trail is Minnesota’s premier hiking trail. It is broken up into 3-11 mile long sections, so you can complete however much or little you’d prefer with your pup. Check it out for a fun weekend adventure with your four legged friend.

Also, all of Minnesota’s state parks are dog friendly and many have some great trails. Just be sure to keep your pup on a 6 foot leash and clean up after them. Check out Sidewalk Dog’s list of best dog friendly state parks here.

Shops and Restaurants

  • Craft & Crew  is one of the most dog friendly restaurant groups in the Twin Cities. All of their restaurants (Stanley’s NE Bar Room, The Block, Pub 819, Duke’s on 7, and The Howe) have dog friendly patios with yoga mats and water bowls for your pup’s comfort. They even have a doggie menu in case your pup is a bit peckish!
  • Nadia Cakes is our go to spot for sweet treats for you and your pup. Their pupcakes are made with yogurt, peanut butter, apples, bananas, rice flour, and cream cheese. They come in regular and mini sizes, so no matter how big or small your pup is, they can enjoy a treat alongside you!
  • Birchbark Books welcomes pets inside with pats and the occasional treat for your four legged friend. Their passionate and friendly staff are a wonderful complement to their focus on native books and handmade art (this is a teaching bookshop).
  • Seven Points is a shopping mall in Uptown where all of the common areas are dog friendly. With plenty of pet friendly patios and some stores that welcome your pet inside, you’ll find that window shopping with your furry friend is great fun!

Breweries and Distilleries

  • Lake Monster Brewing Company is dog friendly inside and out! Your pup can join you on the patio or inside their spacious taproom while you sample local brews and check out whichever food truck is visiting.
  • Twin Spirits Distillery is both a distillery and a coffee shop. Dogs are welcome on the covered patio, so stop by for a cocktail and bring your four legged friend.
  • For those of you who aren’t fans of beer, Sociable Cider Werks allows well behaved pups to visit both indoors and outdoors. With a large parking lot and plenty of space, Sociable often hosts fun events and food trucks to entertain you and your pup as you sample the ciders.
  • Unleashed Hops and Hounds is a unique combo of dog park, bar, and eatery. Bring your vaccinated pup to romp in their indoor and outdoor play spaces while you enjoy a drink and a snack. Unleashed often has themed events like Pups and Pizza Date Night or Drink for Dogs.

For a complete list of all dog friendly breweries, distilleries, wineries, and more visit Sidewalk Dog. Check out their Brewery Pass for free beers at over 40 Minnesota locations as well!

Dog Friendly Events

  • Mpls Pet Market pops up at Unleashed Hops and Hounds many weekends throughout the spring and summer. With plenty of vendors ranging from doggie treats and toys, pet wear, trainers, and more, there’s always something to peak your (and your pet’s) interest!
  • All About Dogs Day at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is a great time for you and your pup to check out the beautiful trails, snap some cute summer photos, and attend the Dog Expo with a variety of vendors. This year’s event is on June 4th  so be sure to register ahead of time.
  • Run for Beer with the Minnesota Brewery Running Series covers a full season from April through December at a huge number of breweries around the Twin Cities and beyond. As long as your pup is on a 6 foot lead and is well behaved in crowds, he or she can run each race with you. But the beer at the end of the race is only for the humans!

These are just a few of our favorite places to go with our pets. There are many more in the Twin Cities and all over Minnesota, so get on out there for some pup friendly adventures!

Many of us, particularly those of us in urban areas, love being able to take our pups to the dog park to play and romp to their heart’s content. Dog parks can be a great and safe way to get out some of your pet’s energy and let them learn to socialize with other pups. However, dog parks aren’t always the safest place for all dogs. Owners may not recognize or be able to fix unwanted or problem behaviors that could result in dangerous situations.

In order to keep yourself and your pet safe, there are some dog park etiquette rules that must be followed.

two dogs playing in a field, one dog with tongue hanging out and the other prancing

1. Know your pet.

Dogs are social creatures but not all dogs love all dogs. Dr. Susan Nelson, DVM, states that “a dog park is a great place for dogs to get some exercise and learn social skills…[but] if your buddy is aggressive or has issues that could make him hostile toward another dog playing with a ball or Frisbee, the dog park is not the place to teach him to make friends or share his toys.” Those issues should be addressed by a trainer first.

Dogs have different types of play styles. The Whole Dog Journal lists a few different types, including the social butterfly and the fetch-aholic. You should know how your pup likes to play to determine if a dog park is right for your dog. For example, is your dog a rough-and-tumble pup or does he or she enjoy the chase? Does your dog prefer a calmer one-on-one play style? Consider what your dog likes to do and watch for play that could stress out or scare your dog. If your dog does not play the way others in the park do (either too rough or too fearful) do not allow your dog to interfere in others’ play. An overstimulated rough-houser can cause an aggressive response from another dog or a fearful dog may become the target of a group of rough-housing dogs.

Above all, before you go to the dog park, for both the safety of your own pet and others in the park, be sure that your dog is consistently responsive to basic commands including “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it.” Here are a few ideas of when your pup should NOT go to the dog park:

  • If your puppy is under 4 months of age then it has not had all of its vaccinations and should not be exposed to other dogs
  • If your adult dog does not have a rabies vaccination you may not be allowed in the park; some parks allow for rabies titers but not many. Rabies vaccinations are required in the USA so your pup should have one anyway, especially if you have licensed him or her with your town.
  • If your female dog is in heat do not bring her to the dog park. You do not want to risk an accidental litter or cause a fight between male dogs vying for a female.
  • If your pup does not have consistent recall, you should not bring them to the park. If you cannot retain control over your pet (even if they are friendly) your dog can create stressful situations that could lead to aggression and you cannot remove them from a suddenly dangerous place.
  • If your dog shows any kind of aggression do not bring them to the park. Some dogs play well with little dogs but are afraid of or stressed by larger dogs or vice versa. Some dogs don’t like people in hats. Some dogs refuse to share toys or food. (While you should not bring toys or treats to the dog park, be aware that others will and your dog will need to cope with that.) Whatever your pup’s trigger(s) might be, if your dog can become threatening or aggressive, do not take them to a place that will cause unnecessary amounts of stress for them and those around them.

2. Know your park.

Pick the right dog park for your pup. Before entering the park, scan the inside and look for too many dogs, inattentive owners, too much dog waste left lying around, or aggressive or pushy dogs. If you see any of those, consider trying a different park or type of exercise. Ideally a good dog park will have:

  • A double-gated entry, preferably with multiple points of entry to separate dogs, sturdy fencing, and posted rules
  • Well-stocked poop bag dispenser(s) and trash cans for disposal
  • Large spaces for dogs to run and spread out and separate areas for large and small dogs
  • Dog-friendly water fountains, make sure it’s not just a bowl on the ground but there’s running water to refill dishes
  • A sheltered area for shade, either from large trees or manmade
  • Follow any posted rules, including those banning toys or food.
  • Consider dog parks that require a membership or entrance fee. Those are often better maintained with enforceable rules and more conscientious owners.

3. Go at an “off” time.

If your pup is just getting used to dog parks or if he or she tends to be shy, consider going when you know the dog park won’t be crowded. Your dog will appreciate the extra space and lower numbers of other dogs and you will be able to breathe easier knowing you haven’t submitted your pup to a stressful situation. If your dog is a ball-hog and they just need to bring their ball, consider going at an off time so there are fewer dogs to interfere in fetch.

Going at off times can also be great in the summer as a way to stay out of the heat of the day. Your dog can easily get overheated if you go to the park after work. Instead, try to go early in the morning, before 10am, or later at night, after 6pm, for playtime.

Remember, you can always leave early or not enter if the park is too crowded. It’s better to try something different than put your dog in a stressful and potentially scary situation.

4. Bring necessary supplies.

You should be aware that there’s always a chance your pup could get hurt or overheated at the dog park. Be prepared with necessary supplies either on hand or in your car. When you go to the park you should always have:

  • Your dog’s collar with ID tags on your dog at all times
  • A leash to remove or restrain your dog if necessary
  • Poop bags to clean up after your dog (some diseases can spread through feces so it is important to pick up after your pet)
  • Fresh water in case the park does not provide any
  • Your cell phone with your veterinarian’s phone number and the number for Animal Control programmed into it
  • Some form of animal deterrent for worst case scenarios. You don’t want to get in the middle of a dog fight but an air horn or animal deterrent spray can help break up a fight before too much damage is done.

5. Be vigilant.

It’s not necessary to stare continually at your pet, but it is important to be observant and know where your dog is at all times.  Here are a few ideas for what to be aware of in the park:

  • Keep an eye on your pup and the dogs in the area. Be watchful of the dogs playing with or near your pup, especially if they seem to be overly excited or aggressive. If your dog seems overwhelmed, call him or her back to you to create space from the stressful situation.
  • Don’t enter the park if there are any dogs hovering near the gate. Wait until they’ve wandered or been called away to enter with your pup. Entryways can be a source of contention with some dogs and it is easy to get bottlenecked if you aren’t careful.
  • If there isn’t a separate small dog area be careful with your pup playing with dogs of different sizes. If your dog is larger, make sure they aren’t overwhelming the smaller dog. If you have the smaller dog, make sure he or she isn’t intimidated by the larger dog. In a worst case situation, a dog is more able to survive an attack from a dog their size.

6. Know the difference between play and aggression.

Some dogs have a rougher style of play than others. It can be difficult for both you and your dog to know when another dog is playing or becoming aggressive, especially when they have different play styles. Here are a few ways to tell the difference between play and aggression.

  • A playful dog will bounce around another dog with a loosely wagging tail. He or she will have a relaxed posture and a relaxed or gently smiling face. The playful pup will often play bow to the other dog before continuing to bounce or initiate a chase.
  • An aggressive dog will have a stiff posture with either raised hackles or tightly closed mouth and a hyperfocused stare. Often the tail will be wagging but it will be a high and tight wag that signals stress. Staring, crouching, stalking, and charging are all undesirable behaviors. For some very good descriptions of potential issues with dogs at dog parks, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers has compiled a list here.
  • If one dog is being chased by or ganged up on by a group of dogs, even if it began as play, it is a potentially volatile situation. Remove your dog (either the chaser or chasee) from that environment to de-escalate the play.
  • If your dog or another dog begin to growl at each other, stay calm and call your dog to you. Move to another spot in the dog park (or leave if your dog is overwhelmed) to allow stress levels to decrease away from the situation. Do not attempt to drag your dog away by the collar because that could ratchet up the aggression levels in either dog and instigate a fight. Do not get between dogs in a fight; use the air horn or deterrent spray.

7. Know when to leave.

Have you ever seen an overtired toddler? Happy play can immediately turn to temper tantrums. A similar thing can happen with dogs, especially in a dog park environment. Instead of staying for hours, leave before your dog gets to that point. Even if your dog starts out playing well, if he or she becomes overexcited, threatening, or is misbehaving in any way, it’s time to take your pet home and try another day. Overstimulated dogs that are not removed from their environment can easily cause problems for themselves or other dogs. Know your dog’s temperament and moods and leave before your dog can reach a snapping point. It is foolish to assume that your dog, even if he or she is normally passive, will never attack another dog or person. “He’s never done that before!” is a common refrain and a preventable one.

If your dog doesn’t seem like a “dog park dog” it’s not the end of the world. Not all dogs do well in a dog park situation. There are many other ways to exercise and socialize your dog and generally enrich their lives. It’s better to find new ways to play than put your pet in a potentially hazardous situation.