Go Play Outside

by | Apr 2021

Dog playing in dog park

Photo: Emily J. Davis

Experts offer tips to keep pets safe at home and the park.

With many Minnesotans sticking closer to home during the pandemic, folks have been looking for inspired ways to use their newfound time. For some, that meant welcoming pets into their homes.

Rachel Mairose, executive director of Secondhand Hounds in Minnetonka, says the shelter witnessed an uptick in interest for pet adoptions and fostering. “Our large dog coordinator had a 75 percent increase in the number of lives saved over the summer,” Mairose says.

“[Pet adoptions] is the silver lining of this whole pandemic for us,” she says. “The amount of lives not only Secondhand Hounds has been able to save, but every rescue across the country, is amazing.”

With so many pet owners bringing animals into their homes and exploring the outdoors, it brings to question how to properly care for the animals. Spending time outdoors is healthy for owners and their pets, so where are good areas to take pets for a walk? At home, is there anything owners can do to make sure landscaping elements are pet friendly?

There are plenty dog parks in the Metro, but did you know that there’s one nestled in the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum? Its Dog Commons is “a place where members [with a dog-added membership] and their leashed dogs can enjoy the beauty of the arboretum together,” says Jean Larson, PhD, manager of the arboretum’s Nature-Based Therapeutic Services and assistant professor at the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota.

During walks, Larson says that it’s essential to let dogs follow their instincts while staying on marked paths. While humans are used to moving at their own speed, it’s important to allow dogs to have a say in the pace. “When you are on a walk with your dog, let your dog sniff.” Larson says. “Sniffing on a walk is extremely important for a dog’s wellbeing, and it allows us humans to slow down and enjoy the walk, too.”

Larson gives a few tips for pet-safe yard care at home. “Invest in a quality fence for your yard,” she says. “Physical fencing allows your dog to roam freely and stay safe.”  She also says that careful supervision and recognizing your dog’s habits can be a great way to create a space he/she will enjoy. Is he a digger?  Provide a sand pit for digging. Is she a sniffer?  Feature areas of heavier cover where your dog can happily sniff.  Does your dog like to sunbathe?  Find a sunny spot where your dog can warm his belly.

Larson recommends using dog-safe materials in landscaping and warns against cocoa bean mulch and commercial weed killers. Kristi Flynn, DVM, assistant professor, Primary Care, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, says fertilizers with bone meal can also be dangerous. “[They] prove to be irresistible for some dogs and can make a dog sick if they eat too much,” Flynn says.

Be strategic about planting gardens, avoiding elements that are harmful to pets if ingested. Yews, castor bean, holly and lilies are a few that can quickly become dangerous. “The best prevention for keeping your dog healthy is to research plants that work in your zone and are safe for your dogs,” Larson says. She suggests Dog Friendly Gardens by Cheryl Smith, or visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ online library for information.

“Plants can cause drooling or mild [gastrointestinal] signs right away, while others can have more serious adverse effects delayed after ingestion,” Flynn says. If you are worried your pet ate something they shouldn’t, contact a vet or a pet poison center, including the Pet Poison Helpline at 855.764.7661.

If you have questions about your pet’s health, don’t risk it. Contact your veterinarian.

Born to Run

In addition to local parkland (Find out cities’ regulations regarding on- and off-leash pet areas, including permits.), here’s a shortlist of some area dog parks.

4 Paws Dog Park at Plymouth Playfield, 9755 36th Ave. N, Plymouth

Brookdale Park, 7650 June Ave. N., Brooklyn Park

Environmental Nature Area, 10201 West River Road, Brooklyn Park

Cedar Knoll Park, 2541 Nevada Ave. S., St. Louis Park

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve, 12595 Park Drive, Hanover

Dakota Park, 2643 Dakota Ave. S., St. Louis Park

Elm Creek Reserve Dog Park, 12400 James Deane Parkway, Maple Grove

Fish Lake Regional Park Dog Park, 14900 Bass Lake Road, Maple Grove

Happy Tails Dog Park at Oakwood Playfield in the hockey rink, 1700 County Road 101, Plymouth

Iron Horse Dog Park, 5180 Kentucky Ave. N., Crystal

Lake Minnewashta Regional Park, 6900 Hazeltine Blvd., Excelsior

Plymouth Dog Park, 17005 County Road 47, Plymouth

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chaska

Susan E. Lurton Park, 3580 Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake


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