An expanding group of dog owners is communicating daily to plan play dates for their pets in locally fenced areas.
Petrina White and April Parent say the group formed just before March Break and it posts their meeting locations on a Facebook page called Play Group for Dogs in Yarmouth, NS.
The play areas alternate from the old high school field, to Kempt Street, to Hebron Recreation ball fields and on occasion the Albert Street tennis court.
Ideally, say White and Parent, the group would like a permanently designated area for a dog park.
“We really need something closed in. Some dogs will run and you just can’t catch them,” said White.
“If they don’t want us here, then give us somewhere,” added Parent.
The exercise the dogs receive is not the only beneficial factor. Socialization for these canines is just as important.
Dog behavioral experts say appropriate socialization helps to prevent behavior problems. Studies show that puppies that are not socialized during the first three months of life are more likely to be fearful, defensive and possibly aggressive as they mature.
Parent has been bringing her mixed breed pup Ben for play dates, specifically for this reason.
“People think if they just have their dogs around family members they’re socialized, but they’re not,” she said. “Ben is a phenomenal puppy and I really attribute a lot of his good characteristics to coming here.”
White says the group has “really taken off” with at least two owners bringing their dogs to the twice-daily get-togethers, which are usually around 1-2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The play dates are not monitored and participants bring their dogs at their own risk. Advice and help are readily available from other dog owners on any issues of aggression.
“A lot of people don’t realize how unsocialized their dog is,” said White. “Owners have to learn their dog’s body language and what’s going on.
‘They have to socialize their dog early or he’s not going to be friendly… he’s not going to be a nice dog,” she said.
Owners are expected to watch and pick up after their dogs.
Yarmouth Recreation is the organization that is responsible for the areas that dog owners have been utilizing. Director Frank Grant says Yarmouth town council is interested in investigating the possibility of a dog park somewhere within the town, but no work has been done on this yet.
“Yarmouth Recreation does not have any public spaces designated for dogs,” he said. “People take dogs on our fields and even tennis courts in town. There usually are no issues, but it only takes one owner to not scoop up after their dog, then a ball rolls through it or someone steps in it.”
He added that from time to time there have been issues with feces on fields that are reported by user groups and maintenance staff, as many in the public use these areas for their dogs due to the absence of a designated dog park.