BY RHEMA ZLATEN
Summer plans are materializing, and it is time to prepare for the most tantalizing of Colorado’s seasons. Just don’t forget the value of entertaining the most faithful and furry member of the family, Mr. or Miss Fido. Longmont is packed full of options for active
puppies and people alike, from indoor trick classes and agility training to outdoor romps on open space land and urban dog parks.
Before thrusting any animal into a public scenario, having some basic manners down is a must. Longmont’s Zoom Room owner and trainer Marnie Johnson’s goal is to encourage the bond between owners and their dogs to help build trust and help the dog know an owner is always a safe refuge.
“We don’t train the dogs, we train the people who own them,” Johnson says. “We want to give owners the tools to make their dogs a better partner in their family.”
Why training? Learning social skills will prepare dogs to interact both with people and other animals without feeling threatened as they stroll through the Boulder County Farmer’s Markets, outdoor concerts at the park or Rhythm on the River.
“You just don’t want your dog to be rude,” Johnson says. “If dogs don’t have that early exposure, they want to play. Then the leash then becomes a threat.”
Older dogs can still learn better behavior. Johnson’s favorite turn-around story is a shelter dog who couldn’t deal with the outside world.
“At the beginning, this dog totally melted down and wouldn’t get in the door,” she says. “By the end of six weeks, the dog was doing some of the agility equipment. Now the dog is in the second agility class, and now the dog plays in dog groups and has gotten that socialization she missed out on when growing up.”
Once socialization is achieved, Zoom Room offers agility training and a tricks class for the entire family.
“It is the most fun for families to do, because everyone learns how to make the dog think,” Johnson says. “Having kids in the class is fun, because they come up with ideas that adults don’t come up with.”
Testing for the K9 Good Citizen test through the AKC is a great summer challenge. PetSmart dog trainer Sarah Schnedecker moves pups up to the advanced level needed to pass the test, something required for agility competitions and other dog-related events.
“The K9 good citizen test is the gateway too if you want your dog to become a therapy dog,” Schnedecker says. “The test is to prove that the dog listens to you, and gets a long with people and other dogs. It is not too hard, but it is not just simple either. It is a good foundation for anything you want to do with your dog.”
Schnedecker became a dog trainer after fostering more than 200 dogs. Many dogs could stay in their homes with a little bit of re-training and focus on family order.
“The number one reason dogs end up in shelters or rescues is fear or lack of socialization,” Schnedecker says. “So much of that can be avoided when you get the dogs in a group at 10 weeks. They are the most open until 14 to 16 weeks of age. Fear is the No. 1 reason for aggression. Training to me is not
so much that I train them to be army obedience level. My thing is to train family pets. Whatever works for the family is what I want the dog to do, so that they aren’t too far gone.”
Behavior and safety open the door for dogs to move from accessory to functional family members able to travel everywhere, from camping to leashed walks through city parks and events. Longmont Animal Control Officer Robin Breffle recommends checking at each trail head to determine if the area is designated for off-leash use. Having a dog off-leash in a city park could procure a ticket for the lucky owner.
“It is important that everyone in the park feels safe,” Breffle says. “So, to have your dog off leash in a park can put fear into people. Everyone needs to be able to use the parks.”
Certain etiquette and leg work are required for dog park use. Dogs must have proof of rabies vaccination, have a city license and not be overly-aggressive to use the parks around town.
“Some dogs fit in the dog parks and some don’t,” Breffle says. “For some it is just too much stimulation. Someone going to the dog park for the first time needs to be cautious. If they don’t feel like their dog is reacting well, they need to go. But they are great tools for those who like it.”
So, with some etiquette and health issues established, ready to adventure off and explore all the Longmont area has to offer for dogs? Make sure to bring along plenty of water.
DOG PARK 1 – 21ST & FRANCIS
This glorious expanse of in-town field real estate boasts several previously chewed tennis balls, a few pieces of agility equipment and some shade for owners who need a bit of a throwing rest. There is usually a steady stream of dogs of all sizes, which means people of similar heart can gather and chat about their furry children. There are two areas for big dogs and a separate area for tiny dogs if needed. However, some mighty tiny dogs have been seen in the big dog part, kicking puppy hiney and taking names. One downfall to the area is the limited parking space shared with the sports park down the road, and it is a bit of a walk from the parking to the doggy freedom zone.
DOG PARK 2 – AIRPORT AND
ST. VRAIN ROADS
This park is a favorite among both owners and pups. A water spigot provides ample water breaks, and there is a separated area for small puppy friends. The park is nearly always packed with play time, with pups zooming after Frisbees and greeting each other through the gates as new dogs arrive. The only downfall is that the park is not centralized, so those who live east of Airport have to drive a little further to visit. The extra miles are definitely worth the trip.
PARKS IN REGULAR PARKS
• Stephen Day Park, 1340
• Rough & Ready Park, 21st Avenue and Alpine Street
• Blue Skies Park , 1520 Mountain Drive
These dog parks at least offer some freedom for pups, but the gravel cover (instead of grass) creates a scenario for wrestling pups to need a bath pronto. Also, there are few owner amenities, such as shelter from the elements or pre-chewed balls to throw for chompy puppies. These parks are not inhabited as often as the primary dog parks,
so they could be a great place to introduce dogs to the dog-park way of life.
This popular sailing and nature area offers a lot of summer fun for puppies, including a separate off-leash puppy beach. Pups are still expected to treat each other and people with respect. One big downfall to Union Reservoir is the cost. At $8 a pop, frequent visits could add up. However, achieving a beach experience without paying to go to Hawaii will save money in the long run, and the dog can come without having to sneak into checked baggage.
JIM HAMM NATURE PARK
The closest thing to the wild in Longmont, Jim Hamm nature park offers numerous sniffing pleasures. Although this technically isn’t a dog park scenario, at least the destination won’t cost a pretty penny in gas for those who live in Longmont’s city limits. Check out the picnic spots and make sure to bring plenty of puppy treats along.
Located close to the IBM plant in Gunbarrel, Coot Lake boasts a magnetic quality for attracting happy puppies, especially those who love plunging into the several small lakes available on the walking loop. If off-leash status is desired, register every pup with the City of Boulder’s TAG program, certifying that the off-leash dog will respond
to his or her’s owner. For more
information on off-leash areas in
Boulder, visit www.bouldercolorado