You know the look: A quick pat on the head and a little game of fetch just isn’t cutting it for your dog right now. You need to get him out of the house for some serious rough-housing and socializing. But it’s 10 below with the windchill and your little pooch can’t struggle over the snowdrifts. For moments like this, you may want to consider finding an indoor dog park. Regular walks can reduce bad behavior like chewing, digging or scratching. Plus, walks calm pups down and reduce their hyperactivity, excitability and even nighttime activity.
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What Is an Indoor Dog Park?
Indoor dog parks are exactly what they sound like — a place to take your dog to play, run and socialize with other dogs, just as he would at an outdoor park. “Indoor dog parks can be a great practical solution for pet owners who live in areas where there is often inclement weather,” says Jeffrey Brian Liebowitz, owner of Karma Dog Training in Los Angeles.
How Should You Warm Your Dog Up for the Park?
“Dogs need to spend some time outdoors, no question,” says Liebowitz, “It’s in their nature. Avoiding the cold may benefit the owner, but keeping the dog indoors for long periods of time is not acceptable. Before you head out to the indoor park, make sure you walk your dog for a little bit before going there. This will help him to interact more effectively with other dogs when he gets there.” If you’re worried it’s too cold, make sure you put on your pup’s coat and shoes if he needs them.
Tatiana Cantu, a dog behaviorist at Dog Remedy behavioral training, adds, “When the dog gets to socialize off-leash for a while, after being cooped up inside because of bad weather, an indoor park can be a really fun — and necessary — diversion for him.”
What Types of Perks or Amenities Do These Places Offer?
Indoor dog parks vary in their features, but many places offer perks for both dogs and owners. Some facilities have doggie water play areas, daycare, grooming and a supply store on site. For pet parents, some indoor parks offer WiFi, beverages or even a restaurant.
What Should You Look for in an Indoor Dog Park?
Cantu likes to think of an indoor dog park as a “community resource. It’s just like a neighborhood gathering place where people can allow their dogs time to play and socialize, while their owners can relax and enjoy themselves, knowing that their dogs are safe.” She lists some specific things that pet owners should look for when shopping around for a dog park, such as “fountains and an area where owners can tend to their dogs’ needs.
It would also be good to have a separate area where emergency or first aid kits are kept. In addition there should be, obviously, doggie waste bags or pooper scoopers and an easy way to dispose of them.”
Liebowitz agrees that there should be access to plenty of fresh water, and comments on the need for additional supervision. “There should be a dog behaviorist or trainer on site to manage dogs and their interactions with one another,” he says.
How Can You Find an Indoor Dog Park in Your Area?
Both Cantu and Liebowitz advise pet parents to shop around and get suggestions from dog walkers, dog groomers, dog sitters, or other pet owners about the best local indoor parks. “The neighborhood vet hospitals or a dog trainer would probably be a good place to start seeking recommendations,” says Cantu.
You can also get recommendations on indoor parks in your area from Yelp and sites like DogFriendly.com. Ultimately, however, you know your pet best, and finding a place that works well for him — and you — is just a matter of hitting the pavement and trying a few of them out in person.
And when you find one, don’t just let the dog have all the fun, says Jeremy. “Spend some time playing with your dog in that environment; it’s the best way to help him get used to the surroundings and start interacting in a playful way.”
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Tisha Berg is a mom, wife, blogger and web content writer for businesses large and small. She currently serves as a regular contributor to Social Good Moms, Kids in the House and the Working Mother Magazine blog. She lives in a suburb of Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters. Connect with her writing portfolio at Tisha Berg, INK.