Oct 262012

Halloween is fast approaching, and with this festive celebration come some potential hassles and hazards to your dog that you should avoid.

  • Candy is generally not good for dogs. While some dogs will just vomit after eating candy, most will react like children with too much sugar in them. They will bounce off every wall in your house and they will not listen. Remember that a well-exercised dog is a well-behaved dog? Well, an amped up dog is not a well-behaved dog. But also like children, they will collapse into a sugar coma soon after and you will have some time to clean up the mess. Better to avoid the whole scene.
  • Chocolate in all forms—especially dark or baking chocolate—is potentially lethal (though I have read that white chocolate—which is not real chocolate—is less dangerous than other chocolates). Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, as well as increased thirst, urination and heart rate—even seizures.? Some dogs with chocolate poisoning can lapse into a coma and die. For more information about chocolate poisoning in dogs, check out this Web site.

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 Posted by on October 26, 2012
Sep 132012

Why are there still people who refuse to pick up after their dogs in the South Loop? There’s even a website called South Poop! On each and every walk I take with my dogs, I pick up at least two extra poops my dogs are not responsible for. Do I do it because I am such a nice person, or a good neighbor? No. I do it for very simple reasons. One: My Leo will eat it if he sees it before I do (how nasty and dangerous is that?). Two: If it is dark out, I have exactly the kind of luck that will put my foot in it every night. Aside from the gross factor, there are significant health issues to consider. 

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 Posted by on September 13, 2012
Aug 302012

I thought I would take a moment to talk about noise aversion in dogs. There is a wealth of information out there and a host of products on the market that can offer some aid.

In severe cases, I have read about dogs who are so panicked by the noises of thunderstorms or fireworks that they will jump through windows or sliding glass doors to try to escape what frightens them. In the greater majority of cases, the dogs will seek a quiet and secluded place in the house to hide, or they will sit on or near you and shiver. Some dogs will even exhibit destructive behaviors in the house (eating shoes, digging holes in the furniture and the carpets, destroying phones and tv remotes).

Addressing fearful behaviors.  You might react by yelling at the dogs or punishing them for barking or exhibiting fearful behaviors. This is not a good idea at all. It will only give them something more tangible to associate with what already makes them feel fearful. The fear they have of the noise will be compounded by the fear of any consequences they get from demonstrating that fear.

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 Posted by on August 30, 2012
Aug 232012

In part one of this miniseries, I talked about how to read a situation and avoid it before it escalates. In part two, I talked about the difference between aggressive behavior and defensive posturing. In this segment, I want to talk about what you can do with this information if you find yourself being confronted as you walk through town.

The first thing is to be aware of your environment. Think about the dog’s natural fight or flight instinct. As you are walking, if you see another dog or dogs coming toward you, think about where you are and what is going on around you. If you are walking past a bus stop, for example, and the sidewalk is narrow, you are putting your dog or dogs in a more defensive situation, where there is less room for them to flee. If you intend to allow your dog to greet and maybe play with these new friends on the street, make sure it is in an open area where there is room for them to back away if they feel threatened. If there are many people and voices and noises around, as at the corner of Roosevelt and Michigan, be more mindful that the dogs will be distracted and their behaviors may be more difficult to read and predict. It is wiser to wait until you get to a more open area where there is more calm and more space.

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 Posted by on August 23, 2012
Aug 192012

As you may have read in part one of this miniseries, there is a big difference between aggressive dogs and dogs who assume defensive postures or initiate play in an assertive way. My Lucy was guilty of initiating play in an assertive and noisy way, and we worked on that a lot. Her brother Leo, on the other hand, has become a bit of a fraidy-dog in his old age; he assumes defensive postures, trying to intimidate dogs to make them sit still to let him smell them or to make them go elsewhere so he feels less threatened. It does not come off well, but we are working on that, too.

Understand aggressive behavior.  Understanding is a rough word to use in this context, because by its very definition, aggressive behavior is irrational. Much like phobias in people, aggression in dogs has no basis in reason. Some dogs are perfectly social and friendly until toys are present. Some are triggered by food. Some react to fences, to baseball hats, to sunglasses, or to other dogs. There are many manifestations of aggression, and only a savvy dog owner will be able to assess and address what triggers aggressive behavior in his or her dog. You may even need to elicit the help of your vet or a trainer.

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 Posted by on August 19, 2012
Aug 152012

One of the best things about living in a neighborhood like the South Loop is walking with your dogs. For new dog people or new residents, this can also be one of the scariest things about living in a neighborhood like the South Loop. Opportunities abound for confrontations with other dogs and with other dog owners.

How can you avoid these confrontations, and if you cannot avoid them, how do you address them?

My Lucy was a prime example, as many friends and neighbors already know. She was a feisty baby at just two years of age, and she had a voice that should be credited to Julie Kavner (the voice Marge Simpson and her sisters). She loved to wrestle and she made some rather intimidating vocalizations. To make matters more confusing to strangers, her standard method of play was to go for the collar or harness of the opposing dog. This scared the bejeezes out of people who didn’t know her!

Continue reading »

 Posted by on August 15, 2012
Aug 102012

In 2010, the Miami Sun Sentinel published this story about a condominium association in Baltimore considering the implementation of a new pet policy. Wait ‘til you read this.

BioPet Vet Lab is a Knoxville, TN-based company that makes breed identification kits that take a cheek swab via snail mail and send back to you an analysis of what breeds your dog has in his or her blood.

This is the company that supplied the results I posted about the breeds in my mongrels. Well, in October of 2008, the company announced the introduction of a program called PooPrints™. The program was developed for condo associations or municipalities with a problem with residents not picking up after their dogs, and it offers an accountability solution.

The premise is that DNA samples of all resident pooches would be offered and collected, and sent to the nice folks at BioPet Vet Labs to establish a database. Then poop samples that were left outside can be collected, sampled, and shipped to the lab to be compared to the database to identify the poop offender. How genius is that?

Continue reading »

 Posted by on August 10, 2012
Aug 062012

I walk my dog a couple of miles through the streets of the South Loop every weeknight.

This past Friday, we started out an hour earlier than we normally walk, and it had strong repercussions with my baby. He was dragging behind me; he was walking, not trotting happily as he normally does; and he even stopped to lie down at two separate points in the walk.

The heat was just too much for him.

A friend’s son once lost his dog to heat stroke. A beautiful, big, strong, healthy, two-year-old American bulldog, Rocco was poor Christian’s first dog, and they were the best of friends. Rocco lived at Chris’ dad’s house, and Chris was with his mom when it happened. He was absolutely devastated when he got the call.

So what is heat stroke?  Heat stroke is a very common and preventable illness, according to the vets at Drs. Fosters and Smith (   

How does it happen?  Dogs who are left outside in the peak hours of Chicago summer heat are especially susceptible. Remember that dogs do not sweat. They have a few glands in their feet and in their mouths that secrete fluids that are intended to cool the dog slightly, but those mechanisms are not nearly as sophisticated or effective as the human system.

What are signs to look for?  Dogs who are in jeopardy will slow their walk, will pant more loudly and more desperately, will actually stop and refuse to walk at certain points, and will eventually collapse.

How can it be prevented?  My vet’s best advice is to walk early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sun and heat are less severe. Limit their stride and pace to a level that seems comfortable for them, and don’t push them past their limits. They will tell you when it is too much and you need to listen.

There are some products on the market that you can buy for walks in the summer heat. There are vests and bandanas and collars that you can soak in water, and they are supposed to cool the dog’s body temperature without seeping that water onto the dog’s coat. They seem heavy and cumbersome to me, so I have not bought one. If you have tried them, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.

Water is another issue about which I have received considerable amounts of conflicting data. Some sources say that you should carry a bottle of water with you on long walks and high heat, for the drinking of water can help to cool the dog’s core. Remember, again, that dogs do not sweat as we do, so they will not dehydrate as we could from sweating profusely. They do not need to replenish water they have not perspired out.

Also, and this is the scary part, I know of two cases where large breed dogs died of bloat from drinking too much water during exercise. This is another area of conflicting data, as most web information about bloat talks only about gas and digestive issues and feeding methods in relation to bloat. However, two dogs that we knew personally in New Jersey died sudden and painful deaths from drinking water at the dog park.

In these two cases, the dogs drank a belly-full of water and ran off to play with their friends. When the belly was full and the water in the belly was sloshing around, the stomach flipped. The flipped stomach was subsequently pinched off on either side, preventing digestion and blood flow. Both dogs died in a matter of hours after running and playing with friends at the dog park, and both causes of death were diagnosed as bloat. Because that scares the bejeezes out of me, I do not ever bring water with us on our walks. I am certain that a little sip of water here and there along the way is ok, as long as your dog does not fill his or her belly with water.

So what is bloat?  Bloat is a medical condition where the stomach fills with air (or water) and flips itself over. 

How does it happen?  According to the vets at Drs. Foster and Smith (, bloat happens most frequently when dogs eat too quickly, ingest too much air, or eat foods that make too much gas in the stomach, and the very full and distended stomach flips itself over during some sort of exertion.

What are signs to look for?  Signs of bloat are significant periods of gagging and unsuccessful attempts to vomit, a distended or swollen abdomen, and refusal of food or water.

How can it be prevented?  Monitor your dog’s eating. If he or she is a very fast eater, consider one of those bowls that have the things in the center that limit access to the food to slow the dog’s ingestion of the food.  If your dog does not eat at a fast pace but still seems to ingest a lot of air (if there is a lot of burping after a meal), I have read that elevated feeders can minimize that (of course there are also sites that say the elevated feeders contribute to it, as they make speedier access to the food).  Wait a half hour after eating before engaging the dog in rigorous exercise. (This is a bubbemeiseh in humans, but it is supported by good science for dogs.)

As I said, we walk every weeknight after 8pm. We walk a couple of miles through the streets of the South Loop, and we walk at a pretty good clip. My baby is stubborn and hoggie about water. If he knows I have it, he won’t walk. He will just sit and look pretty asking politely for water until there is no more. So we water before and after the walk, and we don’t pick up pace on the walk until he has sufficiently emptied his bladder. This works for us, and my vet approves every aspect of our plan. Believe me, I have asked and verified a number of times.

Sometimes you will see just me and my baby, and sometimes you will see a whole parade of dogs and dog owners cruising along. If you see us, say hello. If you want to join us, come on along. It is great exercise for all of us, and it is a great opportunity for socialization for them and for us. What better way to get to know your neighbors and your neighborhood than by strolling along the streets and through the parks with tired dogs?

Jill Aronson is an SLDogPAC  board member who lives in the South Loop with her dog Leo. ©2010 Jill Aronson. This article originally appeared at 


Jul 302012

Leash manners not only help to make your walk with your dog more enjoyable for you, but they make all the difference in the world in keeping your dog safe as well. The first thing to consider in teaching leash manners is the equipment.

The first equipment to consider is the leash. The safest leash to use for the most control is a standard six-foot lead. This leaves them enough room to smell things and greet friends but gives you enough warning to grab hold and offset any possible issues you may encounter. Retractable leashes seem to be popular around town, but they have serious drawbacks! First, they offer you very little control and they limit your reaction time to correct a situation. Also, the retractable portion of the lead is usually a thin cord. This cord can wrap around a leg in an instant and can inflict a nasty rope burn or slice into flesh causing injury to people or to dogs.

The second piece of equipment to consider is the collar. There are many options available, and they all have their pros and cons. A brief examination of the most common options follows:

Fashion collars: These collars come in a variety of materials, from nylon to cotton to hemp or bamboo. They come in as many colors and designs as anyone could imagine. They serve to make a fashion statement, to hold rabies and name tags, and to hold onto a dog who already has leash manners. These are not recommended for puppies under 6 months of age, as the trachea of a pup is fragile while it is developing and can snap and kill a puppy just from running or jumping with a regular collar and leash.

Harnesses: These are also available in a variety of materials and colors, but it goes around the chest of the dog instead of around the neck. These are ideal for young puppies and small dogs, but they will not help at all in teaching leash manners. In fact, they will make a dog who pulls pull more. It is a physiological response to the stimulus of pressure against the breastbone (think about sled dogs).

Halti or head collars: These are recommended for dogs who are easily distracted, such as scent hounds and labs. They are designed to steer the dog’s attention in a particular direction, and the dog will follow where you steer his gaze. While they are effective at controlling dogs who pull and helping to guide their attention, they will not teach long-term leash manners. When the head collar is not on, the dog will continue to go in the direction of his attention. Other methods of teaching leash manners will need to be employed in conjunction with the head collar, or the head collar will need to be used indefinitely.

Choke collars: These are sliding chain or rope collars that are intended to be used for corrections during training, but many people use them as regular collars to walk with. These are dangerous to walk through city streets with. A dog who tries to take off can choke himself to death, and you yanking that leash to prevent your dog from being hit by a car could do more damage than good.

Martingale collars: these combine the convenience of a fashion collar with the corrective capacity of a choke collar but without the danger of choking or strangling the dog. The choke chain is limited in its constriction but serves the same purpose. It also comes in handy in preventing dogs from backing out of a standard fashion collar.

Pinch collars: These collars have gotten a really bad rap over the years, but they really are not at all as scary as they look. The idea behind the pinch collar is twofold—first, they correct the dog the way his mother would, by grabbing the scruff of the neck. This gets his attention and distracts him from whatever he is trying to do. Second, there are glands on the back of the neck that secrete calming hormones. The weight of the collar and the pinching of the scruff release these hormones and help the dog to calm himself.  They look like they hurt, but I can tell you that I put one around my leg before I put it around the neck of my baby Leo, and it was not a pleasant feeling when I yanked on it, but it did not break skin. I was wearing shorts, and I promise my thigh skin is much more sensitive than the scruff around a dog’s neck. It does not hurt them unless you try to hang them with the collar. This is not recommended with any leash.

Once you have the equipment you think best fits your needs, the process is to be patient and consistent, firm but fair, in teaching your dog to walk nicely, to smell and play without getting unruly, and to be a pleasurable walking companion. These will help to make walking through city streets like State Street a safe and enjoyable experience for all of us!

Jill Aronson is an SLDogPAC  board member who lives in the South Loop with her dog Leo. ©2010 Jill Aronson. This article originally appeared at 


Jul 232012

There are tremendous benefits to taking your dog to an off-leash dog park and letting him run free!  According to the American Kennel Club, off-leash dog parks allow dogs to exercise and socialize safely. Even when we run with our dogs, they are merely trotting along beside us. The only time that they open up, let loose, and really expend some energy is when they are off leash and running after a ball or another dog.

Ask any trainer and they will tell you, a well-behaved dog is a well-exercised dog.

So once you have found your way to the dog park and made some friends, what more do you need to know? These are, in a nutshell, a few basic tips to consider when visiting a dog park:

• Gather useful information from not only talking with other pet owners but also from observing other dogs and their behaviors.

• Prevent dogfights by waiting for packs to disperse before entering the park. If you are already inside, bring your dog away from the gate. If a scuffle breaks out, redirect your dog’s attention quickly.

• Provide room for escape to curb your dog’s impulse to fight.

• Do not leash your dog when unleashed dogs are around. Apart from giving other dogs opportunities for bullying, it prevents your dog from feeling he can escape an undesirable situation.

• Do not bring treats or toys to the park that could stimulate competition.

• Never take your attention away from your dog.

• Always pick up after your dog. Sometimes picking up after others is a good practice, too.

Remember that dog parks are about socialization and exercise that will lead to better behavior and a better relationship between you and your dog, and between you, your dog, and your community!

Jill Aronson is an SLDogPAC  board member who lives in the South Loop with her dog Leo. ©2010 Jill Aronson. This article originally appeared at 


Jul 162012

Many people say that it is unfair to have a dog if you don’t have a yard for them to run in.

When we lived in New Jersey, neighborhood dogs who had yards to run in rarely if ever ran around.

Even worse, people who had yards to let dogs run around in never took their dogs for walks. The dogs asked to go outside, did their business, and asked to go back in. There was no exercising and very little socializing.

It was not until I moved to an apartment community that I saw well-exercised and well-socialized dogs on a large scale.

Here is a brief list of the benefits we have discovered of apartment-dwelling dogs:

Walks — This may sound simple, but there is no let-the-dog-out option when you live in an apartment. Apartment dogs must be taken out on a leash for a walk at least a couple of times a day, every single day. This provides opportunities for exercise and socializing for both your dog and you.

Dog walkers — Yes, there are dog-walking services in more suburban or even rural areas. The caveat to that is that the dog walker may not be centrally located, and so you will need to consider the travel time he or she would need to get to you on short notice. In an apartment community, especially one that has a liberal pet policy, a dog-walker could have multiple clients in the community, and will likely live locally. That can be a great thing. We have a couple of really good dog walkers right here in our building.

Playdates — Once you and your dog make “friends” with your neighbors, you can invite them to meet at set times to walk together, you can make dates to meet at the dog park, or you can offer to watch each other’s dogs when the need arises. We love having doggie houseguests. As a matter of fact, we are hanging out with our neighbor, Hank, for two weeks while his mom is travelling. Stay tuned later in the week to read a profile of Hank.

Networking — This is the best of the best of benefits of having an apartment dog. In a community that allows dogs, there will likely be a lot of dogs and a lot of dog owners to share ideas with. Through your dog neighbors, you will learn about local pet stores and services, including dog walkers; you will hear about what foods and medicines and toys work best and which don’t work well at all; you will learn about products and illnesses and cures that you would not otherwise have access to. It is a tremendous benefit and an invaluable resource.

I think my dogs have a pretty good life now that we are apartment dwellers!

Jill Aronson is an SLDogPAC  board member who lives in the South Loop with her dog Leo.
© 2010 Jill Aronson. This article originally appeared at 


Feb 052012

Julie Walsh’s 2011 book ‘Unleashed Fury – The Political Struggle for Dog-Friendly Parks‘ is highly recommended. If you don’t like reading thoughtful academic-tinged texts (the author is an associate professor of political science), you might find it tl;dr, but do try to read through the first two chapters!  The book was reviewed in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of The Bark magazine.

If you’ve read the book and have comments or thoughts, please add them in the Comments section here. We may try to put together a more thorough review of the issues raised by this important book later this year.

 Posted by on February 5, 2012
Nov 062011
Please click the buttons below to sign our petitions in support of a large dog friendly area at the proposed 16th & Wabash Fred Anderson Park! 

The Proposed Fred Anderson Park is located between 16th and 18th Streets on Wabash Avenue in the South Loop. As the design for the park develops, the dog friendly area (DFA) is shrinking while the Park District allocates space to a gathering plaza and a covered performance stage. We have enough people parks! Let the people with furry ones have their space! Join us in giving a voice to those of us with four-legged friends and petition for 75% of the park be a dog friendly area!

Make the proposed Fred Anderson/ CPD “Park No. 561” (on the East side of Wabash between 16th and 18th Streets), ENTIRELY dog friendly utilizing natural grass and trees. This dilapidated land, originally acquired for that purpose, has been shrinking with subsequent renderings. The South Loop’s large and ever-growing number of dog owners, have very few suitable areas to exercise and interact with their pets and neighbors. Appealing dog parks build community, improve neighborhoods, and increase property values. Dog Friendly Areas (DFAs) may be enjoyed by everyone. 

 Posted by on November 6, 2011
Oct 182011

During our cleanup on Saturday 10.8.11, the SLDogPAC installed a mesh fabric barrier along the west side of the Grant Bark Park. The fencing fabric is intended to address a problem that is common to poorly designed pea gravel areas in the dog ‘friendly’ areas around Chicago – that is, pea gravel is going to spread out wherever it can!

And, if it’s not contained properly, it’s going to end up distributed all over the place.  So, in the case of GBP, large amounts of our pea gravel ended up on the Metra roadway below!

How to do it right?

There are good ways to design pea-gravel relief areas, and we’ve posted an example of a properly excavated space at a local condominium complex before. That area is fairly small, was extensively excavated, and was bounded by landscape ties. It experiences very little gravel loss or gravel dispersion.

We can’t re-excavate the GBP or CPDR gravel areas, so we’ve had to come up with another approach.

At CPDR we’ve implemented a preliminary, labor intensive, and not completely satisfactory fix by installing short segments of screening along some fence areas. These were off the shelf materials from our local home supply store, secured using cable ties.

What did we decide to do?

Our approach at GBP was to purchase and install a continuous fabric mesh along the chainlink fence on the west side of the park. The material is like the construction fencing you sometimes see at construction sites. The mesh was manufactured with metal grommets installed every two feet, facilitating installation. The bottom edge was secured by laying it out so that it could be held down by the gravel layer itself.

The material we used is 60%’ Knitted Shade Cloth by DeWitt, which we obtained from John and Mike at Catalog Clearance were extremely helpful in putting together this order, sending us samples of different mesh densities to evaluate beforehand, and arranging for it to be prepared to our specifications. The distributer is in Libertyville, IL, so once we placed the order it arrived quickly. The material is lightweight – 175 linear feet of 6′ mesh weighs only about 30 pounds.

We requested the 6′ cloth be cut in half, to 3′ wide, hemmed on both long sides, with brass grommets inserted every two feet along one edge of the material (and at the ends).  The total cost including shipping was less than $450.

The installation was straightforward – 6″ segments of vinyl covered wire were preinstalled in each grommet. After clearing away the gravel adjacent to the fence, it was then a simple matter of laying out the mesh alongside, and then walking along and securing it to the chainlink with the wire loops. We extended the fabric about 2 feet up the fence, leaving about a 1 foot extension at the bottom. The job was finished by shoveling gravel over the extended fabric to secure it.

It only took a couple of hours to finish up ~225 feet of fencing mesh.  We’ll be out to the park to finish up the north and south ends of the gravel area later this Fall. (We still need to figure out a strategy to secure the mesh to the vertical fence posts there.)

We expect that the mesh will secure the pea gravel area, and that it will allow us to begin power-washing the gravel area on a more regular basis. Previously, any attempt to wash the gravel was going to cause a lot of gravel to be blown out of the park. So the installation means a cleaner and safer park for our dogs.

It’s an important step, one that should have been taken at the beginning.

How bad can it get?

For the uber-example of gravel containment ‘issues’ at a Chicago DFA, take a look at some pictures from the recently developed Montgomery Ward Dog Park in River North.

This park is unique in that the surface is entirely pea gravel and the park is surrounded only by a chain link fence. Unfortunately for the design team at the Chicago Park District, it really is true that chain-link fencing will not retain pea-sized gravel!

Where does the gravel go?  Heh. The DFA is surrounded by a halo of escaped gravel:








Final notes

To DFA Support Committees – it’s important that you contact your Park Supervisor to let them know about an installation like this, and to get their approval. You don’t want a CPD maintenance crew pulling it down because they aren’t aware of the installation!

And yes, we will be passing on this information to the Chicago Park District, in the hope that their future pea gravel ‘design’ efforts can be more carefully thought out in light of the real world experience of those of us who try to maintain these spaces.

 Posted by on October 18, 2011
Oct 072011

Many of you have heard about plans for a new dog park to be built on Wabash south of 16th St.  We’ve blogged about it a couple of times (herehere, and here), too. The park was proposed by Alderman Fioretti, and the site is expected to be named Fred Anderson Park.

Well, today the DFA committee that was formed to advise and support construction of the 16th& Wabash Dog Park has started up a new website in order to facilitate communication and discussion among South Loopers about the development of the park.

This is great news! 

We encourage you all to to follow the site:, and to comment, post and become involved. The 16th&Wabash dog park site has great potential, but it will only be through your efforts that that potential will be realized.

Take a look!

 Posted by on October 7, 2011
Oct 012011

We’ve received word from the PDNA (Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance) that they have installed three new dog waste bag dispensers in the South Loop!  This is good news, and those of you who’ve seen the dispensers at Grant Bark Park and Coliseum Park Dog Run will be familiar with them:

This is apparently ‘Phase 1’.  Phase 1 Dispenser locations include:

  1. 18th & Calumet – just outside northwest corner of Battle of Ft. Dearborn Park (Prairie District Townhomes Ph I HOA)
  2. 2000 S. Prairie & Culleton – south East Corner (Prairie East Townhome HOA)
  3. 2303 S. Michigan Ave – Rear entrance of Motor Row Lofts (Motor Row Lofts HOA)
According to the PDNA –
We will be working with Alderman Fioretti’s office for preparation of permits for at least two additional area location dispensers after our PDNA Annual Howl-O-Ween Pet Costume Contest and Party on October 27th, 2011 at Glessner House Museum.
Great job, PDNA!
 Posted by on October 1, 2011
Aug 032011

The Golf Carts and RVs have already invaded the space north of the park.

According to Jackie Guthrie of the Chicago Park District:

The dog area, tennis courts and skate park will not be available during Lollapalooza. This area will open up after Lollapalooza is completed. From my understanding, Friday, August 5 – Sunday, August 7th during Lollapalooza.

Jul 072011

Three weeks ago we posted a survey online and at the bulletin board at Grant Bark Park, in response to a Facebook comment:

“PLEASE REMOVE THE KIDDIE POOLS FROM THE GRANT PARK DOG PARK, These things are breeding pools of disease for dogs, especially puppies. If this is were my yearly membership is spent, I don’t know why I bother.”

This issue has come up before (August 2010):

Possible Water-borne Disease – A park user reported that his dogs got Giardia, and blamed the kiddie pools at GBP for transmission of disease.  Board members argued that dogs love the pools in the hot weather, and that they provide a real benefit.  Is there a way to work around the potential for water-borne disease transmission by posting ‘pool rules’ that specify, for example, that the water should be changed frequently, and by providing dilute bleach solution? Sarah agreed to discuss the issue with her vet and report back with a draft of a ‘pool rules’ sign to be posted on the ‘lock box’.“

Our decision at the time was to implement ‘Pool Rules’ that instructed Grant Bark Park users to frequently dump out and refresh the water, and to periodically clean out the pools using a dilute bleach solution.  The pools at GBP cracked and fell apart by year’s end, and they were thrown out over the winter.

Other Chicago DFA’s have kiddie pools during the summer, and they also rely on park users to be concientious about maintaining the pools.  The folks at the Churchill Park DFA, for example, recently posted:

Please help keep the pools clean, keep the water running, empty when dirty or peed in and don’t leave them full if you’re the last one to leave the park. We want our dogs cool and healthy!! Thanks and enjoy your weekend!”

We are well aware of the issue of disease transmission, but we have to balance that with the needs of dogs at the parks. The pools that appeared at the park this year were brought in by a park user, they were not supplied by the SLDogPAC!

We asked: Should Kiddie Pools be available at Grant Bark Park in the summer?

There have now been twenty five (25) votes submitted online and by email:

‘Yes’ – 21 

‘No’ – 4

We consider the result of our survey to give us a ‘sense of the park’ – people do want the  pools (or something wet!) in the park.  But we have to take concerns about disease seriously – is there a ‘better way’?

These are the comments we received:


As long as they are emptied every day and rinsed often, they should be safe, and the dogs love them!

It’s a great way for the dogs to stay cool while getting the exercise they need!

Yes, and dumped out at the end of the day. What’s the research say?

Only if the water got changed on a regular basis. Might be a breeding ground for bacteria and disease.

My dog loves them!

Make a rule to empty it if u leave – so new dogs don’t enter to old water

Maybe one bigger one.

It’s the best way for bulldogs to beat the heat.

My dogs (2) love them.

Keeps my doggy cool

I wonder if there are sturdier alternatives available? The kiddie pools seem to crack and leak very quickly.  Something more like this or this?


I’m kind of torn on this. I think they’re a great way to keep dogs cool, but on the other hand, without regularly refreshing/changing the water they can get kind of icky. Our dog has twice developed hot spots after he’s spent an entire day tromping thru the pool at daycare…So now we don’t take him during the summer. How about a nice sprinkler instead?

Sprinkler yes pool no! Too many dogs get sick!!!!

Bacteria, disease, lack of ownership for taking care of them.

I was just in the dog park this morning and saw  the poll being taken about the kiddie pools. Shouldn’t the question be “Are kiddie pools healthy for our dogs?” not  “Should we have them?”. Pools of standing water bring mosquitoes – and with the new research about  a new batch of mosquitoes being heartworm medicine resistant, standing water is not a good thing. Also, dogs pee in the water, stand (with paws that have been whoknowswhere) and lap it up. If you have a puppy, senior dog, immune compromised dog, etc.  “community” water is not a good thing.  Heat alone brings on drooling and diharea both of which gets transferred easily to water.  I think the individual water bowls being refreshed with clean water when you bring your dog into the park is a good idea. For summer fun, it would seem that a sprinkler would be the healthiest way to go for our puppies. Sorry, I have to vote “no” for the kiddie pools.

We invite those of you who feel strongly about this issue, pro or con, to participate directly in the decisions being made about your dog park – come to SLDogPAC board meetings, join our committees, or send us an email! 

Either way in the end it’s up to you, Grant Bark Park users, to make a difference.