Nov 262012

A final design proposal for the Fred Anderson Park was presented at a community meeting on November 20th. What follows is a brief description to highlight how the proposed dog friendly area compares to other Chicago dog parks, and to point out some interesting design features.

Here’s an overall picture of the proposal:

The site is situated between 16th & 18th St, between Wabash Ave and the alley to the east. Right now, this area is just a vacant field and the small asphalt parking lot to the north:

The park will encompass about 1.1 acres.  Now, Chicago dog ‘friendly’ areas are small, and this park will be no exception.  Frisbee dogs and dogs running free – you will have to go elsewhere.

The proposed small-dog area is an oval about 67’ by 94’, and is surfaced primarily (80%) with concrete.  About 18% of the surface will comprise an ‘artificial grass’ feature, a central raised planting, and a water runnel flowing from the planted area towards the center of the dog park.

The proposed large-dog area includes an entry space ~20’ wide by 70’ long and a larger ‘fetch’ area running north-south that is ~35’ wide by 226’ long. This fetch area will include two raised plantings (see the cross-section diagram, below), a strip of artificial grass and a water runnel flowing through it.

Overall, the small-dog area will comprise ~5200 sq ft (0.12 acre).

The large-dog area will comprise ~13700 sq ft (0.32 acre).

For comparison, Grant Bark Park is ~18000 sq ft (0.4 acre), and the average size of a Chicago DFA is ~0.18 acre.  The Fred Anderson Dog Park now proposed occupies only  about 45% of the ~1.1 acre site.  This is less than the original design proposal presented two years ago, but is certainly an improvement over the revision that was presented last year.

However, it’s instructive to compare the 35’ x 226’ size of the ‘fetch’ area in the proposed design to what exists at Grant Bark Park – for perspective, it’s about the same size as just the gravel area of Grant Bark Park:

And, as designed, there’s no escaping that the dog park surface will be largely concrete, hard, and somewhat reminiscent of the Mary Bartelme Park DFA:

Thus, the proposed Fred Anderson Park dog ‘friendly’ area will be ~three quarters concrete, with only one-quarter of the area as artificial grass or elevated planted features.

There will be one double-gated entrance to the small-dog DFA. The large-dog DFA will have two double-gated entrances on opposite sides, one of which will provide access from the alleyway to the east.

There are some nice features to the design –

  • An overlook – the center of the park will be elevated to create an ‘overlook’ over the dog friendly area. This might be a site for future sculpture [a statue dedicated to jazz legend Fred Anderson has been discussed], and should provide a space for informational graphics to bring the dog-owning and non-dog-owning communities together.
  • Dog water fountains – there will be at least three different water fountains with dog-bowls and hose connections (for dog water play and maintenance).
  • Equipment gates – an access gate from the east side of the park will allow access for large equipment, and there will be an access gate between the large- and small-dog areas.
  • Surrounding path – a 7.5’ wide perimeter path will surround the dog-friendly area and connect the various parts of the park together.
  • Shade structures – there will be shade sails installed around the dog park to provide protection from the sun and from the weather.  South Loop Dog PAC has suggested a shade sail over the stage area, as well, in order to provide protection for performers and to reflect its use elsewhere in the park.
  • Performance area – there will be an ~1000 sq ft performance stage anchoring a ~4500 sq ft  ‘performance area’ at the northwest corner of the park. There will be seating and, we hope (per comments made at the community meeting!), some kind of performance lighting provided.
  • Water features – the water feature seems particularly novel, as park users will press a switch to turn the flow of water on and off. Water will flow through a ‘concrete runnel a few inches deep with small stones and boulders embedded’.

Overall, it seems like an exciting plan!  We are particularly interested in what you think about this proposal, and we welcome your comments below or by email. We expect to continue discussion with the Chicago Park District about this park, and will be sure to communicate your comments and concerns to them.

Cross section of the park, illustrating elevation changes:

 Posted by on November 26, 2012
Nov 232012

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I trust that you all enjoyed your family gatherings and gluttonous feasts. I probably should have posted this prior to Turkey Day instead of the day after, but we can use the Thanksgiving hindsight to better prepare for the remaining holidays of 2012.

What can your dogs eat from your holiday table?

• Turkey, ham, roast beef. Lean proteins are okay to share with your dogs in moderation. The meats themselves should not pose a problem to your dog’s system, unless you are already aware of a poultry allergy, which is common in some breeds. The problem to watch for is the seasoning. Too much salt can cause them some distress. Same as in people, too much salt can make dogs bloated and distended, and it can make them drink more water than usual. This could wreak havoc on your walk schedule and your sleep schedule (urgent need for an unscheduled middle of the night walk).

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 Posted by on November 23, 2012
Nov 082012

The Chicago Park District and Alderman Fioretti’s office have organized an on-site tour of the new d’Angelo Park Dog Friendly Area this Saturday, November 10th at 11AM.  They will be asking for your help organizing a DFA support committee and planning future organizational meetings. This may be your opportunity to support your local dog park, from the beginning!

We’ve scouted out the park for you, and will soon have information on our Chicago Dog Parks page!

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 Posted by on November 8, 2012
Nov 062012

OK, South Loop dog fans, it really is time for the final community meeting for the Chicago Park District to present their plans for development of the new Fred Anderson Park (16th Wabash Park) and Dog Friendly Area (DFA).

The Chicago Park District and Alderman Fioretti have scheduled a public meeting for

Tuesday November 20th 6pm, at the 1st District Police Station, 1718 S. State St. 

This meeting is important.  It will be your chance to see what’s going to be built at the park in 2013, it will provide an opportunity to make  your comments and suggestions, and it will allow us as a community  to show our support for a new, dog-friendly, dog park in the South Loop.

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 Posted by on November 6, 2012
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
Oct 182012

Save the date!

The final Chicago Park District presentation of their plans for the Fred Anderson Park and DFA at 16th & Wabash has been scheduled for Tuesday November 20th.

This will be an important meeting.  It will be your chance to learn about and comment on the final plans for the new DFA, which will begin construction in 2013.

UPDATE:  The meeting is scheduled for 6pm, Tuesday, November 20th, in the Community Room at the 1st District Police Station, 1718 S. State. 

Sep 172012

On September 4th, the Board of the South Loop Dog PAC met with Michael Lange, Project Manager of the Chicago Park District regarding the new park at 16th and Wabash (Fred Anderson Park), to discuss the planning for the new park and dog-friendly area. Board members Pamela Focia, Doug Freymann, and Gordon Stewart presented a number of ideas that we believe would make the new DFA a state-of-the-art recreational resource for people and their dogs in the South Loop. We outline some highlights here, but Mr. Lange asked that we not release details of the latest plan until the park district presents them at a public meeting.

o The Park District will hold a public meeting to discuss Fred Anderson Park development plans in early October. As soon as the date is released you will be notified.

o As in previous proposals, the current plan includes a small public stage/performance area and a plaza area, in addition to small-dog and large-dog play areas, surrounded by a strolling path.

o We emphasized that providing more than one entry point to the dog park would better serve the community.

o We emphasized that the park surfacing should be a top priority, as coated asphalt is not ‘dog-friendly’. The CPD is considering an artificial, state-of-the-art ‘canine-grass’ surface, which is designed to be and will be built upon a specialized drainage substructure, for easy maintenance.

o We asked that the dog park design be people-friendly as well as dog-friendly in order to promote (people) socialization and community building.

o We asked that the ‘interface’ between the dog areas and outside of them be carefully designed so that educational materials (e.g. ‘how to greet a dog’, ‘what dog breed is that?’, etc.) could be posted to bridge communities, and, particularly, to teach kids about dogs.

o Michael assured us that consideration of maintenance activities is an important element of the design. Service gates that we suggested be added will be large enough to allow equipment access.

o Construction cannot begin until after approvals and bidding are conducted in Spring 2013. The anticipated construction start would be summer 2013 and construction will take several months.

o The proposed DFA will be ‘large for Chicago’, but likely will not be larger than Wiggly Field or Grant Bark park.

We’ve been doing our part to advocate for the best possible dog-park in the South Loop at Fred Anderson Park. But the Board of the South Loop Dog PAC is a small group, and we ask that you, as a member of the South Loop community interested in, and hoping for, a great local dog park, take action, too. Please keep in touch with us, come to our meetings, help us reach out to the public and to the press, and let your Alderman know how you feel.

And watch for announcement of the public meeting in October!

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

Acadia Park!

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Aug 272012

If this doesn’t get dog owners toasted, I don’t know what will.

The latest info comes from the Sloopin Blog: 
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!

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 Posted by on August 15, 2012
Aug 132012
Photo from

A recent email from a user of Grant Bark Park brought to our attention the need to talk about park safety!  We all want our local dog parks to be a safe, fun space for our dogs and ourselves, but what do you do when the worst happens and another dog attacks you or your dog?

The Short Answer:
Call the police.

According to the Chicago Park District website, all owners are legally responsible for their dogs and any injuries caused by their dogs.  If your dog is bitten or attacked, exchange information with the owner of the other dog.  Most owners in good faith will offer to pay for your vet bills.  If the other owner is unwilling to speak with you, call the police and report the incident.

The Long Answer – From the South Loop Dog PAC President:

“Unfortunately, there are no procedures in place for situations like this. There is a Chicago Park District ‘rule’ about ‘dogs that have shown dangerous behavior’, but there is no mechanism for enforcing it – the CPD is not going to police the parks, the SLDogPAC is in no position to police the park, and in the end it’s going to be up to the parties involved to negotiate how to handle it amongst themselves. 

This comes up more frequently than we would like in Chicago dog parks – we hear it from our colleagues across the city – and we’re trying to come up with a way to at least try to improve the information provided to dog park users and clueless owners.  This is a long term project we’ve been trying to get off the ground – this incident, and others, is giving the effort impetus.”

Things to Look For – From 

Understand what to do when corrections, squabbles and fights happen
?? Sudden, quick disagreements with lots of noise that end in a matter of seconds are normal and it is probably safe to allow the dogs to remain in the park if neither shows any inclination to continue the argument.
?? Interrupt any situation that seems to be escalating.
– Use your voice in a calm, commanding way to stop the fight.  Screaming simply increases the
arousal of the dogs involved.
– Do NOT stick your hands into the middle of a dog fight to separate dogs. If physical intervention is
needed, try to grab the back legs of your dog and “wheel-barrow” it until it calms down. Fighting dogs will often strike at anything that moves near their face and human hands are far more delicate than most areas where one dog will bite another.
South Loop Dog Note: We strongly discourage the use of pepper spray for breaking up a dog fight as it could injure your own dog or other dogs around you.
– Do not allow additional dogs to jump into the fight. If you see or hear a squabble between other dogs, get your dog immediately and take it away from the area.
– Do not panic. It will not help the dogs. Remember that as a general rule, the louder the fight, the more bluff and bluster is involved and the less damage. Most dog fights between similar size dogs do not result in serious injury.
?? Once a fight occurs, the adrenaline levels of the dogs involved, and many of those who witnessed the fight, will be raised for several hours. It is wise to take these dogs out of the park and exercise them elsewhere to avoid the potential of another fight.

If you have any advice or opinions, please feel free to leave a comment for discussion.

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?

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 Posted by on August 10, 2012

Park Update – CPD Meeting from 8/6/12

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Aug 072012

Your South Loop Dog PAC board had a meeting scheduled with Michael Lange (our new Project Manager contact) of the Chicago Park District for yesterday, Monday August 6, 2012.  Unfortunately, Michael decided to cancel the 10:00am meeting at 10:05am when he arrived.

Pam, Elizabeth, Kirsten, and Doug were in attendance and while we were incredibly disappointed Michael cancelled on us at the last minute, in person, after we arrived.  At least we were able to get a few questions in while we stood in the CPD lobby.

What we know from Michael Lange/CPD:  The entire park budget has been increased to $4 million as was announced earlier, but the park is still in the design phase.  They have just been given approval to reengage the architect and are hoping to finish the design by early fall.  If this happens on time they would procure the construction company for spring 2013 construction with a build out period of 90-120 days, but realistically on the later end of that number.  The TIF funds for the park do not expire until the end of 2014 (which was verified by the Alderman’s Parks Liaison Leslie Recht).

What about the dogs?  The whole park is 1 acre total and Michael said the entire park would be dog friendly, a dog friendly area/dfa, BUT he could not confirm how much of the park would be an off-leash area or give us the percentage the dog park would be of the total park.  He commented:

I won’t give a percentage because it’s a spaced that serves the community – whether you have dogs or kids or are by yourself.  

The only other park concern we had time to discuss was the rumors about Acadia having an outdoor dinning space.  Michael had this to say:

We are not designing for any specific vendor in mind.

To date they (Acadia) have no contract with us that I know of. 

Michael said that parks are not designed with specific vendors in mind, but that when the park was built or being built, Acadia could pursue a contract with the CPD for use of the space.  There is a plaza space that will be incorporated into the design, but as of now, it is designed for general use and not being designed for the use of Acadia.

So where are we?  Essentially in the same place.  We’re still waiting for designs to be finalized and are hoping they will be finished and presented to the community in the next couple months.  The CPD is hoping to schedule a community public meeting for early October to sign off on the plans.  In the past year and a half since the revised plan for the park was presented in April 2011 (and was resoundingly rejected by the community) the Chicago Park District has been very tight lipped about the project.  There have been no specifics available to us about further development of the park.  This meeting, unfortunately, did nothing to clarify the CPD’s intentions nor did it reveal how the park design will continue to evolve in their hands.

Want to help?  Leave a comment on this blog, like our facebook page: 16th and Wabash Dog Park and share your support for the new park.  Also, plan on attending the South Loop Dog PAC Annual Member Meeting which will be scheduled for September…we will be discussing the new park!  And as always, we’re always looking for great community members and dog owners to join the South Loop Dog PAC.  More information on membership can be found here.

Thank you for your support!

~Kirsten Agnello-Dean
SL Dog PAC Board Member

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