Dog Park Adventure Series: Thousand Acres/Sandy River Delta

Address: Crown Point Hwy, Troutdale, OR 97060

Fenced: No
Size Segregated: N/A
How many sections: N/A
Water: No (except river)
Size: XL

Note on location: This park isn’t so much a dog park as it is a giant nature area where dogs can roam freely. It has significant natural barriers between it and the road, and I’ve never had any concerns on that account. It is also not technically in Portland, but is a pretty quick drive.

Weather/Health Considerations: In the winter, it gets quite windy; it’s generally about 5-10 degrees colder then the Portland metro area. If it’s been a wet winter, the river floods almost the entire plain area, so you can only use the woods paths to the west (there’s still plenty of room there, though!).

Training/Enrichment Opportunities: Great place to practice advanced recall work. If there’s water in the river (often dry in summer), a good place for water-retrieval practice. Very large spaces for on-land retrieval work. Opportunities for strengthening obedience and other skills with distraction and distance. Very advanced nosework would be great here. River banks/fallen trees offer fun parkour/agility opportunities.

General Thoughts: Samuel
This is definitely one of my favorite places to take Rick (and one of his favorite places to be). We don’t go too often, as we are limited what we can walk to. It’s not the best choice for young dogs, newly adopted dogs, those prone to flight, or pups who don’t recall or check in with their handler. I would recommend this as a great spot for dogs over 1-2 years and who have been in the home just about that amount of time.

If your pup is ready for this adventure, it will be a great one! There is so much exploring to do, I’ve never known a dog to get bored or disinterested here.

General Thoughts: Rosie
Thousand Acres is probably one of the Portland dog owner’s best resources. It’s a rare space where dogs have almost unlimited freedom to roam and explore, while still being bounded and safe. Yes, it’s not a good idea for those Beagles that put nose-to-ground and never reappear, but for the most part even the less recall-oriented dog is ok here. I love how many different terrains there are for the boys to explore, Fiske digs for rodents in the plain area and Bill often gets gleeful zoomies in the wide open space. You can go just a quarter mile up the trail from the parking lot to the open floodplain and remain there, or if you want some exercise yourself, you can follow the trail to the river and along it, then back through the woods. The full circle is a leisurely 1-1.5 hours. There are homeless camps set far into the brush areas nearer the highway, so just avoid the semi-beaten tracks and stay on the well-worn ones.

Dog Park Adventure Series: Sellwood Park

Address: SE Spokane Street and Oaks Parkway

Fenced: No
Size Segregated: N/A
How many sections: 1 large open area, unofficial beach/paths area
Water: No (except river)
Size: Medium/Large

Note on location: The official off-leash area is right by the parking lot, bounded by the paved walkway. The city park extends maybe a quarter mile down the beach, and then it becomes Oaks Park, which is a privately owned/run area but open to the public.

Weather/Health Considerations: Official off-leash area is very muddy in winter. If you go to the river, make sure your dog isn’t going to swim out to the depth where there is a dangerous current. The fence by the path is not complete, and there are homeless encampments back in the woods which can offer unsafe edibles for curious dogs. Finally, although rare, there have been known to be coyotes seen here looking for small dogs to prey on, so if you have one of the little guys, keep a sharp eye out.

Training/Enrichment Opportunities: The river is generally safe for a ways out, so if you’re training for water-retrieval work it’s not a bad place to practice. Overall, the beach has good visibility, so working on play skills there isn’t bad, as well as generalizing obedience work to the outdoors or working on recall, but only if your dog already has a reasonable recall (the off-leash area by the parking lot also runs right up to the road).

General Thoughts: Samuel
The Sellwood off leash dog area is not my favorite. Being so close to the road and parking lot makes me uncomfortable! And if there’s any amount of rain, the whole area is a mud pit. The paths and beach area are pretty nice, but not worth the travel time for us. There’s plenty of parks closer in with a better experience (for us at least).

General Thoughts: Rosie
I like Sellwood, but it’s not for everyone. If your dog doesn’t have good recall, I’d probably skip this park since there are no fences between the off-leash area and a parking lot and road. I do like that the beach extends a ways and there’s also a path above the beach, as it’s actually quite a pleasant walk for those whose dogs just like to do their own thing. For Fiske and Bill, the differing terrain offers plenty of stimulation and variation, and the beach has long open stretches where I can throw Fiske’s ball. I generally avoid the official off-leash area, since it’s often very muddy and the road makes me uncomfortable.

Portland Dog Park Adventure Series: Fernhill Park

Address: 4050 NE Holman St. Portland, OR 97211

Fenced: No

Size Segregated: N/A

How many sections: 1 large open area

Water: Yes (fountain shut off in winter); jugs/bowls by table in off-leash area

Size: Large

Note on location: Unfenced, and bounded by roads, but none are high-traffic and the park offers plenty of natural barriers (trees, hills) to reduce chance of dogs running into streets. The official off-leash area is next to NE 41st Ave, there are posts designating its boundaries. People generally don’t keep their dogs within them, though.

Weather/Health Considerations: Overall, the park seems less muddy than most in Portland during the winter. There are tons of big trees, so in the summer the park is probably nice and shady.

Training/Enrichment Opportunities: The large trees offer interesting nosework terrain, as well as the uneven ground level. These also provide sight barriers, so it would be a good place for advanced recall work.

General Thoughts: Samuel
This was a fun outing for us all. I loved how varied and challenging the terrain was. You can easily create an enriching adventure for your pup, even if there are not many dogs around (we only saw about 5). There’s squirrels to tree, hills to run up and down, and plenty of smells to track down! I am not generally a fan of unfenced, off leash dog areas like this one, so close to the road. But I have to say, the layout of this one really works. I still wouldn’t recommend for wanderers or pups without a solid recall. There’s too many risks due to the location. But if you have a pretty reliable pooch, this is a place to check out! Rick and I will absolutely visit here again!

 

General Thoughts: Rosie
I really liked this park! It’s very pleasant, quite large, and has an interesting mix area areas for the pups to play. The trees make scent carry in odd ways, so it was a great challenge for Fiske to find his ball when he’d lost it, and I think it’d be great fun to bring nosework supplies here at some point as well. There are also several significant hills, so we threw the ball down them and Fiske and Rick got very efficiently tired out from running back up. We didn’t see any small dogs (besides Bill), but it may have been due to the weather (usually only the most desperate, high-energy dog owners brave the heavy Oregon rain).

Portland Dog Park Adventures: Gabriel Park (Summer and Winter)

Address: Winter: 4115 SW Canby St, Portland, OR 97219
                      Summer: 7000-7198 SW 45th Ave, Portland, OR 97219

Fenced: Yes
Size Segregated: No
How many sections: 1
Water: No, though a lot of folks keep up on bringing jugs of water
Size: Medium (Winter)/ Large (Summer)

Note on location: Summer park is right next to the tennis courts off 45th Ave. Winter park is harder to find: from Multnomah Blvd, turn north onto 40th Ave (you’ll pass the Post Office), then left onto Canby St., then you’ll see a parking lot on the right. You can park there, or continue driving past the community garden and there is another small lot right next to the dog park area.

Winter park parking lot by the community garden

Weather/Health Considerations: The winter park holds up surprisingly well to Portland’s rainy winters.

Training/Enrichment Opportunities: There is a lot of open space around the summer park and trails around the winter park. This makes for a great space to practice impulse control and recalls.

General Thoughts: Samuel

I’ve only been to the winter park a couple times. I do appreciate the space (it’s three or four times the size of Wallace Park) but it does tend to have a challenging dog or two in the space at any given time. It works well for Rick and me, as he has the space to disengage with them. Though I wouldn’t recommend the space if your pup is smaller or more timid. The timid pups tend to get a lot of flack from the rowdier guys. Owner involvement is a bit lower here (from what I’ve seen), as folks tend to camp out towards the front of the park, by the table and chairs.

Covered table at winter park

General Thoughts: Rosie

The winter park is sand, and the steep hill generally keeps the messiness down. So, less chance of really dirty pups! I do like the winter park, as it’s big enough for Fiske to chase the ball and isn’t too messy, but it doesn’t offer much interest for dogs who like to sniff around on their own. I agree with Samuel that I regularly see some reactive dogs here, and often a pretty hands-off attitude by owners. The hill also creates a situation where humans are at the top and rarely venture out form there, so if an altercation develops, it’s often a good while before the owners can get there to disrupt it. If your dog is very dog-focused, she might run into some issues with the more intense/reactive pups here.

The paths in the woods nearby are quite pleasant, but are designated on-leash and I have seen park employees enforcing it. The summer park is very large and grassy, again without water but people generally provide jugs of it for use by the community. If your dog is a jumper, the fence on one side of the summer park is only about 4 feet high, so that might not contain your bouncy pup. However, there are a lot of different areas and interesting things to sniff here, so if you have a sniff-and-wanderer like my little guy Bill, it’s a great place for an hour of mental stimulation.

The main winter park area (Fiske and Rick modeling)

Sorry, we don’t have any summer park pictures up here yet!

Should They Stay or Should They Go? Finding the Right Place for Your Dog at the Holidays

Deciding whether or not to have your pup join in on the holiday festivities can be tough. Whether you’re hosting at home or spending time elsewhere, most of us would like to have our pets with us. After all, they usually make our lives richer, funnier, and sweeter, right?

But let’s take a step back and consider if our pets would in fact enjoy the commotion. Some dogs just don’t like the crowds. If your pup leans towards the fearful or timid side, finding alternative arrangements for them might be the best way to go. You might just be doing your dog a service by giving helping them opt out of the holiday chaos.

Here are some quick questions to help you decide:

Is your pup fearful or reactive to people (known or unknown)?
Will there by other dogs, and if so has your pup met them yet?
If they have met, do they like each other?
Will your pup be able to counter-surf all your holiday delicacies? (i.e. will you be able to supervise them enough to keep them out of trouble?)
Will monitoring them actually take away from your own experience and enjoyment of the holiday?

If your pup is not so social, consider finding a pet sitter or dog walker (and check out the PST article “Who’s Watching the Dog?” for tips on how to find a good option). If your pup loves crowds, is psyched about novel humans and dogs, and an overall party animal (see what I did there?), see our post on good management around the main event(s).

Keeping Your Cool in the Cold

Wintertime can be lots of fun for dogs, and doesn’t need to mean that your pooch is confined indoors. However, there are certain considerations that you need to prepare for if you’re going to be romping with Rover in the snow. Also, see Note #2 at the end of the article if you’re a reasonable human who likes modern amenities like heaters and mini marshmallows and just want to skip the outdoors altogether (but, still read the article, it’s good).

First, think about paws; we take for granted that dogs’ pads protect them from all sorts of evils, but in facts they are just heavy calluses that provide little protection from extreme temperatures. In winter, snow and ice can get packed between a dog’s pads and form a solid, freezing mass that is highly uncomfortable and can damage the dog’s foot. So, whether you’re going for a hike through snowy fields or braving the slushy streets, frequently check your pooch’s pads to clear them of snow and ice. Also consider using booties if you are outdoors for prolonged amounts of time, or if the conditions are especially extreme.

Second, don’t be afraid of clothing. I can no longer count the number of times I’ve heard, “dogs are born with coats, why would they need more?” This is an unfortunate sentiment. Some dogs, certainly, are naturally equipped with the heat-regulating coats that keep them warm in low temperatures; Huskies and other snow dogs, specifically. But most dogs do not, in fact, have “built in” weatherization; my little 12-pounder, Bill, has a thin layer of soft Schnauzer fur over his hide-covering Italian Greyhound stripes. My neighbor’s pitbull has a shiny coating of ¼-inch long hair, and his belly is practically bald. I could go on. Furthermore, when a dog’s coat gets wet, it loses its ability to hold heat next to the skin.

So, please use that incredible human invention, the coat. These can range in type and price from thin knitted sweaters costing $15 to snow- and wind-proof goose down puffers that weigh in at a whopping $100. Each dog and weather condition requires a different level of protection; for Bill, I have invested in water-proof, insulated chest-covering coats that I often layer with a thinner fleece layer underneath. For My Jack Russell Fiske, on the other hand, who never stops moving and is seven years younger than his brother, I generally get away with just the light fleece. In the end, you make the call, but don’t skip the sweater just because you don’t want to be judged. It’s your dog’s well being; would you want to be out in 35-degree weather without a coat?

Finally, don’t push it. Signs of cold are generally pretty obvious and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Remember that your dog is at your mercy; if she’s shaking with cold, she doesn’t want to be out in it anymore. At the first signs of shaking and slow, shallow breathing, it’s time for your pup to get warm. If you’re seeing weakness, muscle stiffness, labored breathing, and a blank stare or mental dullness, it’s time to call the vet and check in, just to be safe.

Note: many of the precautions we take to prevent slippery conditions can be harmful to dogs. Thoroughly wipe down your pup’s feet, legs, and belly after outdoor excursions to remove any salt or antifreeze. Be particularly careful with the latter, as it is highly poisonous.

Note #2: All this being said, consider increasing indoor enrichment activities and reducing outdoor exposure if the temperature is dropping below freezing. Don’t lie; you don’t want to be out their either. So set up an agility course, toss a ball up a flight of stairs, design a fun food puzzle, or build a living-room-sized Game of Thrones-level fort/maze/obstacle course; it’s your call how fancy you get, but there’s plenty to do indoors.

Who’s Watching the Dog? Finding a Sitter for the Holidays

With the holidays around the corner, you have most likely found a solution for your pet care needs. Sometimes, however, last minute issues arise, and below are some tips for finding a reputable and responsible dog care provider. Remember, the sweet old lady next door may offer a safe home and three squares to your canine companion, but she might not be equipped to fulfill the needs of Violet the Vizsla or Jamison the Jack Russell.

The most important considerations for finding a pet sitter are:

  • Experience: How long has the person been working in the field? Do they have experience with dogs like yours?
  • Credentials: Do they have pet first aid/CPR training? Do they have any type of professional certification? Do they operate through another business (ex. Rover), or do they operate their own business? If they operate their own business, do they have liability insurance?
  • Customer Reviews: Ask beforehand where you could go to find reviews by previous customers. In addition, consider asking for a couple of references from current clients, and give them a call prior to meeting with the sitter.
  • Policies: The person should offer a meet and greet before scheduling a board or other overnight arrangement. This shows that the sitter takes the individual dog’s needs and that of their owner seriously, and wants to have the tools to provide the best care for the dog.
  • Your Dog’s Needs: Is their experience relevant to your dog’s individual needs? For example, working with separation anxiety, leash reactivity, etc. If you are working with a trainer, this might be a good time to bring them into the equation, as they may be able to set up a consultation to help you and your pup prepare for the overnight, and to give the sitter some tools to help them work with your dog.
    Also remember to make sure the sitter is familiar with any special medical issues your dog has, and has the skill set to address them.
  • Gut Feeling: Always follow your own instincts! Even if the sitter appears to have all the boxes checked, if you don’t feel they are the right fit for any reason, move on to someone else.

For a dog walker, these considerations still hold true, although obviously the overnights would be less of an issue. In particular, make sure the walker has experience working with any behavioral issues on-leash that your dog might display.

Dog Care Recommendations:

  • Trailblazing Tails for dog runs, walks, and sitting
    www.trailblazingtails.com
  • Jasmine Casimir for dog walks and sitting (booked for the holidays)
    503-577-0741
  • Jo Meskel for dog walking
    503-853-6946
  • Tom Robinson for dog sitting
    503-810-6324

Portland Dog Park Adventure Series: Wallace Park

Address: 1628 NW 25th Ave, Portland, OR 97210

Fenced: Yes
Size Segregated: No
How many sections: 1
Water: Yes
Size: Medium

Note on location: In the NE corner of larger Wallace Park. There are often many people, including children, using the rest of the park, so if your dog is not a fan of loud playgrounds, this might not be the place for you.

Weather/Health Conditions: Has a wood chip substrate, so that mitigates the mud, but the dog park is essentially a big hole, so the mud definitely still happens. In summer, most of the park isn’t shaded, but the water is functional.

Training and Enrichment Opportunities: It’s a small-ish park, so if you’re using timeouts as a means to interrupt inappropriate play behaviors, this park isn’t a bad place for it. There are also plenty of visual barriers between the dog area and some other park spaces, so if you’re working on dog-dog reactivity on leash, you might be able to do so here. However, this is not the place to bring dogs with human-directed reactivity, as Wallace is generally pretty well-patronized by families, homeless people, and sports-players.

General Thoughts: Samuel
It’s been a while since Rick and I have ventured to Wallace Park. It’s definitely not our favorite space. There’s only one fenced area and it’s not much larger than the Fields Dog Park. There’s a few trees, which does lend some shade in the summer, but turns into a bit of a mess in the winter months.

The groups tend to be a mixture of very high energy social dogs and those on the more fearful and submissive side. There’s generally at least one squabble when we go and the owners lean to the hands-off side of things.

It’s not my favorite park for Rick as he tends to be the center of quite a lot of unwanted attention there and we’ve found it challenging to disengage from that do to the layout and atmosphere of the park.

-Samuel Power, CPDT-KA

General Thoughts: Rosie
I’ve taken Fiske here about five times. It’s a convenient location if you’re in NW Portland and need a quick sprint, as my dogs and I often find ourselves. Parking can be a challenge, so be prepared for some tight parallel parking situations.

The park itself is VERY dusty in summer and has only partial shade. The water works, though, so Fiske takes advantage of that to cool off (he lies down in the muddy area around the fountain). In winter, the park’s geography makes half of it very soggy, so not a place where dogs are going to stay clean. Also, the fence is comprised of wide-mesh (about four inches at least between wires), so I’ve had to retrieve the ball from the other side a few times. And the fence isn’t very high or sturdy, so I imagine it wouldn’t do much to deter the escape artists out there.

The majority of the park’s regulars seem to be high-energy, often herding breeds and the like, and I’ve seen a fair amount of unskillful play happening there. As Samuel said, the humans don’t seem to be very intervention-focused, and I’ve seen more than a handful on their phones and completely tuned out. However, if you have a dog that’s not going to engage with other dogs much but really just needs a place to play fetch – such as Fiske – it’s perfectly suitable for that purpose.

-Rosie Schurman, CPDT-KA

Giardia: Oregon’s Holiday Gift to Dogs and Their Families

Most people associate giardia with backwoods hiking trips and unboiled streamwater. Oregon, always politically correct, rejects this stereotype. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we embrace the scourge of fecal-contaminated water in our backyards, playgrounds and, of course, dog parks! And while most of us may be familiar with the name, and many of us with the symptoms, it’s important to have a little more information when venturing into our shared public spaces.

Giardia is a parasite that is shed in fecal matter (read: poop). Thus, the parasite can end up pretty much anywhere an infected animal eliminates, and can live for weeks in a hospitable environment (read: right here where we live). The parasite can then be ingested by another animal in many ways, such as drinking from puddles, eating mud, chewing on a stick or ball that’s been in the puddles/mud, eating grass, or pretty much anything else a dog does with its mouth. Seem like a losing battle? It probably is.

But no need to panic, giardia is easily treated and there are steps you can take to reduce your dog’s risk. For one, puppies, older dogs, and dogs with compromised immune systems should be restricted to areas that are drier and less contaminated with other dogs’ waste; private yards, clean indoor play spaces, etc. For heartier pooches, or those that give you little choice (my Jack Russell would fall into this category), there are a few suggestions that might help: 1) Try to find parks or other spaces that don’t have standing water; 2) Provide clean water to your dog in a readily-available place (so they are less likely to resort to drinking from puddles); 3) thoroughly clean paws and other lickable areas of your dog’s coat when returning home; and 4) If your dog is a hunger-scavenger, provide a snack or meal before leaving the house to reduce the chances the pup will eat grass, mud, or other questionable items. And always check with a vet if your dog regularly eats mud and other non-food substances, as this could be a sign of nutritional deficiencies or other health problems.

So, what about when your dog has gulped down half a puddle, munched on a few muddy sticks, rolled in the puddle, and licked it all off her coat? Symptoms to watch for are diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and weight loss. In particular, the diarrhea might be frothy, mucousy, greasy, and have a foul odor (I mean, fouler odor). And these symptoms can come and go, so if you’re seeing them crop up, even with non-symptomatic periods in between, go see your vet.

The most important thing to remember: the world has a lot of gross things in it, and it’s always a balancing act between your dog’s need for exercise, social time, and mental stimulation, and your responsibility to keep the pup safe. We do what we can to help you balance that, but if ever in doubt, call your vet, your trainer, and your life coach. And, if you want the science-ier info about giardia, visit: http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/be-on-guard-against-giardia.

-The Power Skill Training team

Portland Dog Park Adventure Series: Normandale Park

Address: 5700 NE Halsey St. Portland, OR 97213

Fenced: Yes

Size Segregated: Yes

How many sections: 3

Water: Yes

Size: Large

Note on location: Unfenced area is not for offleash dog fun, and you will get in trouble with rangers if you violate this. Also, you can approach small dog area from 55th, which would allow you to avoid large dogs altogether except those on leash in the park.

Weather/Health Conditions: Very muddy, very large puddles; giardia is a concern here so be aware. Staying dry/warm is unlikely during the winter. However, during summer it is well shaded and there is running water.

Training and Enrichment Opportunities: Because rangers are so on top of leash rules in the park, it’s a good place to practice on-leash manners around other dogs, long-leash recall work, and even dog-dog reactivity work at a safe distance.

General Thoughts: Samuel
We went to Normandale on a Wednesday around 12:30 and stayed for a good 45 minutes. The party was myself (Samuel), Rick the black terrier, Rosie with pooches Fiske (Jack Russell) and Bill (mini terrier), my partner Hannah and her min pin/chi mix Boba.

Partial view of both big dog areas; it’s quite a large park!

It was another rainy day (surprise!) and there were quite a few large puddles throughout the park. Be prepared with towels for this winter outing. Unfortunately, we we’re not so prepared!

Boba and Bill hung out in the small dog area. That space was relatively puddle-free and the duo stayed pretty clean. They didn’t see any other little dogs during their stay, which worked just fine for them. Boba enjoyed sprinting about and patrolling the perimeter. Bill spent his stint requesting to be held (not an unusual activity for him).

Small dog area

Rick and Fiske split their time in each of the two large dog areas, which were quite flooded. Having the option to switch sides is handy; everyone at the park was pretty well behaved, but that can sometimes vary and having the ability to exit a potential situation without leaving the part altogether is really nice. Each large dog area is also roughly the same size, which I appreciate, as there’s no need to compromise crazy running space for my crazy terrier. It makes creating a safe and enriching outing for your pup much easier.

We probably ran into about 5-7 dogs during our park time. Which is another thing I love about Normandale Park. You will pretty much always run into at least a handful of dogs whatever day/time you go. Though the small dog area does tend to be a bit slower, if memory serves, it picks up on Saturdays.

-Samuel Power, CPDT-KA (and Rick!)

General Thoughts: Rosie
I always enjoy Normandale, particularly because I like the two different “big dog” areas. Since Fiske has some social issues, I appreciate being able to switch sides if there is a dog/group that he’s not comfortable with. It’s also so large that I can really get some distance on Fiske’s ball. I also really enjoy the various logs that they’ve left lying around (trees, really), as Fiske can practice his agility skills on them!

One of the big dog areas, with giant logs for agility fun

The park is certainly not pristine in the winter; I have included some photos of our trip there in which Fiske’s lovely white coat demonstrates the effects of the park’s significant mud issues. This can also be a health concern because of giardia and other water-borne illnesses, so keep that in mind, especially for immunocompromised pooches such as puppies, older dogs, and already ill dogs.

Before the park
After the park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing that I have noticed at Normandale that particular applies to pooches like Fiske, who are very ball-focused, is that the size of the park is a two-sided coin. On the one hand, you can really let fly and get your dog a lot of great exercise. On the other hand, if there happens to be a ball-possessive dog at the park, your dog might end up far from you when that other dog gets reactive, and it would take you a long time to get there to intervene. So, just keep that in mind if you’re seeing another dog guarding its ball. And of course, please do not bring toys to the park if your dog is a toy-guarder.

Finally, the small dog area does seem a generally pretty calm place, though there aren’t as many dogs there as on the big dog side. Since Bill is usually with Fiske and I (Fiske might be 25 pounds, but he does much better with bigger dogs), we generally don’t use that area, but it’s large enough that small dogs can actually get some running in, unlike a lot of small-dog parks, and it does have shade in summer, as well as running water.

-Rosie Schurman, CPDT-KA (and Fiske, and Bill)