A dog park? In Eagle Rock?
"Doesn't Eagle Rock already have its own park? It seems like the type of place that would?"
In 2011 residents of Eagle Rock, CA formed Dogs of the Rock. The group's mission was to assess the feasibility of building an off-leash dog park somewhere within the neighborhood bounds, where residents could meet to watch their dogs play and interact. Supported by members of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, a committee was formed to investigate the options and ascertain community support. Though no firm location had yet been established, possibilities included: Eagle Rock Recreation Center, the vacant DWP land at the end of Hillmont Avenue, and underutilized space behind the swimming pool at Yosemite Recreation Center.
Big city dog parks by the numbers
In the city of Los Angeles, a city of over 3.8 million residents (according to the 2010 census), there are just nine official dog-friendly off-leash areas, with the last one opening in 2005. Los Angeles is second to New York City in the U.S. in urban population, and yet in the borough of Manhattan alone there are 28 dog "runs" for its 1.6 million residents. In the nation's third largest city, Chicago (population 2.7 million), there are 22 "dog friendly areas" where dogs "are allowed to run and play off-leash." Los Angeles covers almost 469 square miles, making it the 12th largest U.S. city. New York and Chicago rank 24th and 32nd, with just 303 square miles (of which Manhattan is less than 34) and 227 square miles respectively. Both cities have found the space to construct these dog parks for their communities.
What do the ASPCA and American Kennel Club think?
While dog parks may not be for everyone (and maybe not for every dog) it is generally accepted that the benefits of off-leash parks outweigh any risks that may be involved.
Exercising your dog’s body and brain is vital for both their physical and mental well-being. Overweight dogs are prone to more medical issues (and so costly trips to the vet), while many canine behavioral problems arise due to a lack of mental simulation (according to the ASPCA). At heart, dogs are sociable pack animals, so it is good to encourage other dog (and human) interaction, especially at an early age. Outings to the park should foster your dog’s socialization and communication skills, skills which typically help prevent any fear and aggression issues occurring.
So there are benefits for the dogs, but what about the benefits to their people? The American Kennel Club (AKC) notes that parks promote more responsible dog ownership. Owners are more inclined to respect leash-laws, more conscious about infringing on other community members, and well-exercised dogs tend to make better (quieter, less destructive) neighbors. Also important for the community at large “the love people share for their dogs reaches beyond economic and social barriers and helps foster a sense of community.”
Parks can be stressful for both dogs and humans alike. Some dogs are shy and easily overwhelmed. Some dogs (and some humans) are overly dominant and don’t play well with others. Overexcited "incidents" can happen, but by recognizing you and your dog’s boundaries and preferences, along with an understanding of common dog park etiquette, a local dog park can be an enriching experience for all.
Dogs of the Rock will work tirelessly to encourage and motivate the city to build this much needed community benefit and then work with the community to make it a jewel in the neighborhood.