Category Archives: dog parks

Socialization Project: Off-Leash Dog Park

Seattle has an amazing system of off-leash dog parks. From Dr. Jose Rizal Park and its amazing view of downtown, to Magnuson Park and its access to Lake Washington, there are ample opportunities for dog owners to get their dogs out to romp with other dogs and get out lots of energy.

Seattle skyline from Dr. Jose Rizal Park

Admittedly, I was not a fan of dog parks when we got Pickle. I had heard bad stories of dogs getting sick, other dog walkers having out of control packs of dogs, or owners who didn’t know how to behave. I had heard so much bad, that I was turned off before I even took my first trip. Luckily, the feeling went away after a couple trips. Pickle loves being around other dogs, and she was well enough socialized that I didn’t have to worry about her getting into a fight, and she does well enough that if she escapes my line of sight for a minute I don’t have to panic.

After my hesitation diminished, I started to work with new dogs at the off-leash area. Typically I’ll do this with dogs that I know have been to the park before, and owners generally grant permission first as a way to reassure me that their dogs will behave. Since I started, it’s become a great way to socialize puppies to being around other dogs, their owners and to changing environments. In the same day, I can go from a gravel covered park under the interstate, to a wooded park with little traffic, to a very dog-filled park with lake access. All with enclosed, fully fenced spaces with lots of room to run and play. It’s difficult to mimic that without off-leash access.

Making waves at Warren G. Magnuson Park!

Being confined to an urban setting, dog parks are great! But, there are still reasons to be cautious. First, dog parks are heavily populated with strange dogs, which poses the risk for your dog picking up illnesses. Your dog should be fully vaccinated before you bring them to any off-leash area. Otherwise, you could face a heavy vet bill to pay for antibiotics to fix a stomach virus. Never let your dog eat other dogs feces, and be aware of what your dog is getting into in heavy grass (I’ve pulled Pickle and several of my dogs from leftover food, even dead rodents).

Secondly, know your dog. If you have a puppy or young dog that loves to mount or charge at other dogs, maybe a dog park isn’t the best place for them. You will be around lots of strange dogs, and not all of them will be amiable. remember, even the most tolerant dogs don’t like other dogs taking them for a ride. I have taken great strides to make Pickle good at reading signals from other dogs, and it has kept her from getting lots of scars. If your dog isn’t as aware, you need to take them somewhere else.

Lastly, and most importantly, pay attention to body language. Especially with young dogs, it is easy to be overwhelmed when you are surrounded by dozens of older, pushy dogs. If your dog is running away, cowering, tucking their tail, pay attention and don’t force them to be uncomfortable. You can do lots of damage by forcing a dog into a scary situation. Take this time to step back to a quieter part of the park, praise your dog and slowly reintroduce them. I’ve run into lots of intimidating dogs and situations that are overwhelming to me, I could only imagine what goes through the mind of the puppies I care for!


Dog parks can be great ways to get your dog out of the house and let them run and play. When safely done, off-leash areas expose your dog to lots of good socialization opportunities. But as the human, you are responsible for keeping your dog comfortable and out of harms way. Be smart, be aware, and everyone will have a good time.

If you want to know more about the network of Seattle dog parks, visit the Seattle Park’s page. If you’d like to help out and volunteer in a dog park near you, visit the Seattle COLA page.


1000 Acres Dog Park – Dog Friendly Portland

I have to admit, Portland is pretty cool. Powell’s Books, quirky neighborhoods, Voodoo Doughnuts, hipsters on tall bicycles, Portland has it all and a lot more! But I am a Portland novice, or at least I was until this past weekend, and it turns out that there are plenty of things for you dog to do in (and around) Portland as well.

Friday afternoon, Pickle and I had some time to kill so we ventured out a bit to 1000 Acres Dog Park in Troutdale, just a 15 minutes drive outside of Portland. In a word, this park is stunning! There is a huge space of off leash area that dogs can have free reign of! Pickle and I got out of the car and into the warm sun, and after a small walk beyond the trail head, Pickle found herself in hundreds of acres of open grass to run in. I was simply overtaken by the amount of space she had to run, and with it being a Friday afternoon, we only saw a handful of dogs on the trail so there was plenty of room to rome!

The view of Mt. Hood was pretty sweet, too!   Photo credit: Bring Fido

After some walking I was worried we would get lost, but Pickle was bound and determined to keep going, and eventually she found herself along a beach where the dogs have access to the Columbia River. She went crazy! We still don’t know what breed Pickle is, but if tests come back with some kind of fish species, I wouldn’t be surprised!

She splashed and swam and barked and got dirtier then I think I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t drag her but out of the water, not with treats or her favorite squeaky ball. Luckily she partied it up with a pack of dogs that were heading out, so I got to meet a few very nice women (shout out to them for helping me out of the park!) and Pickle made a few new play friends.

As the sun was setting more people began to show up to get a reprieve from the hot sun. The trails lead to the Sandy River Delta, where the Columba and the Sandy River meet in a rainbow of blues, greens and browns.

In all Pickle probably got 3 hours of running, chasing and swimming. I’ve never seen her so tired, and here it is Monday, three days later, and she still doesn’t want to be bothered.

Downtown Portland was a bit more forgiving to her. Pickle and I wandered around a really nice Farmer’s Market, I enjoyed some crazy-delicious fresh made noodles from a food truck (Pickle was sure not to let any I dropped on the ground got to waste), we found a couple nice cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating for dogs and their owners, and even snuck in some shopping at Powell’s Books, all while staying in a nice dog friendly hotel!

(By the way, huge thank you to the staff and patrons of Powell’s. It did not occur to me when I brought in Pickle that you were a service animla only establishment, and yet the entire staff was very warm and friendly with myself and Pickle. I’m just happy she was so tired from the dog park and didn’t cause a ruckus 🙂 )

Food trucks on food trucks on food trucks!     Photo credit: Reflections on Portland

Now, I’ve visited my fair share of dog friendly establishments in Seattle, from parks to bars, but I’ll admit to being a little jealous of the scene in Portland. After visiting 1000 Acres Park, Seattle should really step up their game (yes, that’s hard to do at this point). Luckily, now I know that taking Pickle on a road trip won’t be a hassle.

Thanks Portland, you’re doing it right!

(Wait, I never got a doughnut from Voodoo. Sounds like we’re going back!)

Dog Park Etiquette

A few trips to the dog park does not make me an expert. But I’m sure if you’ve been to the dog park, you’ve encountered dog owners who cause all sorts of problems. Even in my limited experiences to off leash dog parks, I’ve come across a variety of people who could use a little work on their dog park etiquette.

The Newspaper Reader

I actually saw a man reading his newspaper while walking around the dog park. First, do you actually trust that you won’t step in dog poop (see below). Second, where is your dog? Is he the one that is running around barking in the faces of all the other dogs? Because that’s getting annoying. Keep your eyes out on the dogs and keep track of yours. I don’t want to be breaking up any fights because you needed to read today’s headlines.

This also applies to the ‘I’m on an important business call’ guy. Why are you at the dog park?


The Poop Neglector

I’ve navigated my way around the park twice now, and I’ve come across a pile or two of poop. Don’t tell me that you forgot your poo bags, because I see some hanging on the fence for public use. You probably didn’t see it because you had your face buried in your Facebook account. I’d like it if it didn’t end up on my shoe, I’d like it even better if my dog wasn’t tempted to eat your dog’s excrement.

The Guy Whose Dog is Wearing a Muzzle

Your dog looks like Hannibal Lecter, and it doesn’t bother you that they can’t drink water or defend themselves in case of a fight that apparently they cause a lot of. Nope, it’s okay because your dog’s jaws are bound behind a strong barrier of plastic. Never mind that they don’t belong in the park because they cause too many issues and they don’t like other dogs (stop with all the “it only happens sometimes” BS). This is the best way for them to get out as much energy as possible without you having to walk them. Good luck with that.


The 8-Week Old Puppy Daddy

Two things. First, dog parks are not a good way to socialize your puppy. Puppies are not going to learn the tricks and good habits they need in life while getting pushed around by older, bigger adult dogs. Second, dog parks are a great way for your puppy to contract Bordetella and Parvo. A puppies immune system is really freaking compromised, and they will pick up diseases fast. Kennel cough is rough, parvo is potentially deadly. Be smart if you are going to get a puppy and please don’t take them to a dog park before being fully vaccinated.

The Overprotective Type

Your dog is a gorgeous, pure bred animal. You spent thousands of dollars to bring it home and now you are taking the time to show off your prized possession to the rest of us in the dog park. You’re also making an extra effort to keep any dog from getting within 20 feet of your pooch. Seriously, are you just here to gloat? I hope you didn’t come through the front door thinking that every dog here was going to care that your greyhound scratches easy, or that your french bulldogs ears were off limits. No your own boundaries before trying to pass them on to others.


You are bound to run into all kinds of people at the dog parks. It’s a public space that everyone should have the right to use, but maybe some people need to second guess that decision. All I ask is that you pay attention to your dog, and understand that not every dog (and not every owner) belongs in a dog park. Be smart folks!