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Posted by on October 23, 2012.

Dog parks give pups space to run free

For a dog, it doesn’t get much better than running free in the cool autumn air.

There are several parks in or near Reporter Newspaper communities that have special enclosed areas for dogs where you can leave the leash behind and enjoy some time outdoors with your pup.

“Nowadays, we have leash laws, so a dog rarely has the freedom to get out off-leash, and to run and get the exercise that’s good for them,” said Laine Sweezey, president of the Brook Run Dog Park Assocation. “It’s good for the dogs to be able to get out and do that.”

The dog park at Dunwoody’s Brook Run Park is a fenced, four-acre area that is shaded by tree cover. She said the wooded play area is “exactly what a dog would want.”

“This park is ridiculously popular. We have people who drive amazing distances to come to the park,” Sweezey said. “The trees are without question the number one drawing factor of our park.”

Sweezey heads the nonprofit, volunteer group that helps maintain the dog park. They clean up litter and dog droppings, fill in holes that have been dug by the dogs and make sure there are no gaps in the fence.

“We make sure it is clean, healthy and safe for the dogs,” Sweezey said.

Sandy Springs’ Morgan Falls Overlook Park also has a special area for dogs.

Sharon Kraun, a spokeswoman for Sandy Springs, said there is a 7,000-square-foot dog park near the Georgia Power dam. “It’s a nice little area. It’s a place where your dogs can run with other dogs,” Kraun said.

Morgan Falls Overlook Park is a very popular park, with playgrounds, walking trails and a stunning view of the Chattahoochee River. But the property was initially overgrown, obscuring the view.

“Overlook Park was originally slated to be a dog park,” Kraun said. “Once the city started uncovering and cleaning it up, they realized there was potential to be a gem of a park there, which is now Morgan Falls Overlook Park. But they didn’t give up on the idea of a dog park.”

Kraun said the trails at Morgan Falls Overlook Park are popular with dogs too, even if they do have to be on a leash.

“We’ve got some residents that love going down there. They can go and play in the dog park and then take a walk in Overlook Park. They love that whole atmosphere,” she said. “It is a nice amenity.”

There are also several de facto dog parks around town, such as Brookhaven Park in Brookhaven and Tanyard Creek Park in Buckhead, where dog owners often congregate and let their dogs play. But pet owners are subject to fines for letting their dogs off leash in areas that are not designated dog parks.

Karen Spitz, a member of Friends of Brookhaven Park, said the group is raising money to conduct focus groups to find out what amenities, including an enclosed dog park, people want to see in the park.

“There are people who don’t want it at all, some who want the dogs that are running freely contained,” Spitz said. “We need to do those visioning sessions professionally and find out what the interested community really wants at Brookhaven Park.”

Sweezey said there is some dog park etiquette that people need to know. For example, if your dog is aggressive or easily intimidated by other dogs, a dog park may not be the best place to play.

“You need to know your own dog. Know how your dog responds to dogs of a different size, for example, how your dog responds to strangers,” Sweezey said.

Cleaning up after your dog is also a must. It not only makes the park smell more pleasant, but prevents the spread of parasites.

Sweezey said people also need to recognize that dog parks are for dogs, not children. A small child running through a dog park will likely be chased by dogs, which could be dangerous.

“A child should never run in a dog park,” Sweezey said. “You don’t know all the dogs in this park. Not all dogs are as accustomed to children, not all dogs are as well-trained or as well-behaved as others.”

People should also refrain from bringing any food to a dog park. Dogs may compete for the food, which could also lead to unnecessary aggression.

But Sweezey said problems are few and far between, with many friendly people and dogs using Brook Run Park.

“Most of the people who come to the park are knowledgeable about dogs and help each other out,” Sweezey said.

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