How I learned to stop worrying and enjoy the dog park

One of my dog’s favorite activities is going to the dog park. The dog park encompasses everything he loves – attention from humans, attention from dogs and the space to run free. Oh, and dirt to roll around in. I can’t forget the dirt, that might be his favorite.

It wasn’t always a walk in the park (pardon the pun) though, at least for me. Being the owner of a small dog can make the dog park a nerve wracking place. Before getting my dog I had never been to a dog park. I had no idea what to expect; no idea what normal dog play was. The first time a dog began playing with my dog, I was terrified he’d get hurt. And I didn’t know how to tell if my dog liked it or not. I didn’t want my fearfulness to rub off on my dog, making him cowardly. So I did my best to keep a close eye, while also giving him some space.


Over time through trial and error I learned a few things that have helped make the experience less stressful for me, and hopefully also my dog.


1) Try to go to the park at the same time. I don’t know what it is – the fluffiness, the darting around running in circles – but my dog attracts a lot of attention when he comes into a new group of dogs. At the dog park that I go to, the Lakewood Dog Park, there are a lot of regulars at the time I arrive. My dog is pretty well known by this particular group, so the dogs are used to him and he doesn’t have to “introduce” himself each time.


2) Keep your dog away from the gate. The most stressful time for a dog is entering the park. Some dogs want to establish their dominance right away, so if your dog is all up in another dog’s grill, the potential for a fight to start is high.


3) Dogs don’t play like humans. Dogs like to bite at each other, roll around and sometimes even growl. I found this article to be helpful to determine what is normal play:


4) Keep an eye on your dog! This one is more for others, than something I’ve learned to do. I love watching my dog at the park (and I’m a worrier by nature, so I have to be able to see what he’d doing) so I pretty much never take my eyes off of him. But a lot of times I see owners buried in their phones, oblivious to what their dog is doing. Or, even worse, someone who has just dropped their dog off and left. Problems can erupt quickly, it’s important for your dog’s safety and the safety of other dogs that you are aware of what he or she up to.


5) And lastly, have fun! The dog park is also a great place for you to bond with your dog through play.



Yappy hours

After work happy hours have pretty much become a thing of the past since getting my dog. I feel bad enough leaving my dog all day when I’m at work, so leaving him for another two hours is pretty much out of the question.
Thank goodness for yappy hours! I feel much better about going out on a weekday when I can bring my dog. And added bonus – most of these yappy hours donate a portion of the proceeds to local animal rescue organizations.
Here are some of the ones that I’ve found, let me know if you know of any others (
Tremont tap house
The Tap House holds its yappy hour on the third Tuesday of every month from 4-9 pm. A dollar from every draft beer sold will be donated to PAWS and although they celebrate rain or shine, if it’s raining you may want to leave your dog at home as they’re not allowed inside.
Sunset Grille on Whiskey Island
Sunset Grille’s Yappy Hour, hosted by Q104’s own Average Joe, will be held on three Tuesdays this summer – June 25, July 23 and Aug. 6. All dogs must be on a leash. In addition to drink specials, Sunset Grille also provides treats for your dog.
The Winery at Wolf Creek
Throughout the summer The Winery at Wolf Creek will host Yappy Hours on the second Tuesday of each month from 5:00–8:00 p.m. on the lawn. Proceeds benefit GivePetsAChance. Tickets are $10 per person at the door and include a raffle entry, a glass of wine, and goodies for your dog ($5 per person for non-drinkers includes a soda or bottle of water).

Quaker Steak & Lube
This one is held every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., supporting the Lakewood Animal Shelter. So not only do you get to celebrate a rare weekend happy hour with drink and food specials, you get to contribute to a worthy cause!

Pet-Tique Summer Yappy Hour
This year’s summer yappy hour will be held Thursday, June 27 from 5:00-8:00pm at Pet-Tique in Lakewood.  Pets are welcome at the yappy hour which benefits Tails From The City, a non-profit, no-kill, all volunteer shelter. A $5 donation is suggested and beer, wine and food will be provided. A raffle will also be held to benefit the shelter.

CLE Dog Runs

One of the things I’ve tried to wear out my very active dog is running together. The time I got him to run 2 miles with me was one of my favorite days ever. Of course, it hasn’t happened again, but I’m hopeful! When your dog likes to sniff every last blade of grass and say hi to everyone he passes, getting him to run for more than a minute can be challenging.

I’ve found several dog-friendly races this summer to inspire me to train my dog to be a runner. These events have been added to the calendar – check it out for more info, along with info on other CLE dog events this summer:!CAKE-GALLERY/cwvn

Saturday July 6
Muddy Paws 10 Mile Run, 5 Mile Run, 2 Mile Dog Run

Satuday July 20
Dirty Dog Run, Walk or Wash – 5K run, 1 mile dog run
Avon Lake

Saturday Sept. 21
Nature Center Hike & Run – 1-Mile Pet Friendly Hike for Families Hike along the Nature Center trails
Nature Center at Shaker Lakes

Sunday Sept. 29
16th Annual Tom Madzy Short Run and Family Dog Walk

Sunday Oct. 13
Berea ARF’s MONSTER MUTT DASH –  Pets can participate in both the race and afterparty event.

Saturday Nov. 2
Eaton-Euclid 5K Walk/Run and 1.5-Mile Doggie Dash – special awards given to dogs

Know of any other dog friendly races? Send me an email at

Is Your Dog a Canine Good Citizen?

I always told myself that when I got a dog as an adult I would take him or her to training classes. The beagle that I had growing up was not a well-trained dog and she became a bit of a terror, eating everything in sight (she had a stomach of steel), bolting every time the door opened and howling for hours at a time.

When I got my dog and read more about training, I realized even more how important it is to the dog’s well-being. A dog needs a strong alpha leader to feel safe. Most of the time a dog’s bad behavior can be attributed to him or her feeling anxious or insecure in his surroundings, along with being bored. Dogs need mental stimulation as well as physical activity, another reason training classes can be so helpful.

I’ve tried a number of classes with my dog, all through North Coast Dogs ( Most recently we did the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) course. The five week course focuses on teaching your dog the skills to accept distractions gracefully, as well as fading the use of treats and toys as rewards. At the end of the course, dogs take the CGC test, a test designed by the American Kennel Club to promote responsible dog ownership and well-mannered dogs. The test is composed of these 10 skills:

  • Accepting a friendly stranger.
  • Sitting politely for petting.
  • Allowing basic grooming procedures.
  • Walking on a loose leash
  • Walking through a crowd
  • Sitting and lying down on command and staying in place.
  • Coming when called
  • Reacting appropriately to another dog
  • Reacting appropriately to distractions
  • Calmly enduring supervised separation from the owner

I would like to say that although my dog does some of these things really well, he doesn’t do all of them well yet (he loves me a little too much for the separation part). And since the dog has to pass all 10 test items, he did not get the CGC certification. Even though he didn’t pass, the class was not a complete failure. The test training definitely taught my dog a lot, including control of his reactions to dogs and others, staying for extended periods of time (usually best when I am still in sight), and sitting politely for petting. And now I have a good idea of things we need to focus on in more depth. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone who wants to have a well mannered dog that you can take out to restaurants and shopping centers.

We still have a long ways to go but I know that my dog benefits from the mental stimulation and confidence that the classes provide. He may not have the certification, but he’s definitely a Canine Good Citizen in my book.

What training classes or activities have worked for your dog? Would he pass the CGC?

Where do you take your dog Cleveland?

As a dog owner I’m always looking for new dog-friendly spots. My dog is very social and curious and needs activities to keep him busy. I compiled the list of dog friendly bars and restaurants on the site (under Where to Go) as much for you, as I did for me. I wanted to find some new spots to take my dog!
To compile the list, I did some research to see what places are considered “dog friendly” and then called to make sure that if you show up with your dog you won’t be turned away or shunned. I decided I would only include places that are what I consider to be truly “dog friendly” meaning dogs are welcomed (usually just on the patio understandably), not asked to sit outside of a fence close to your table.
If you are considering taking your dog to a bar or restaurant for the first time, keep in mind his or her personality. Even though you may enjoy having your dog with you, it may not be something he or she will enjoy. If your dog is aggressive, scared of crowds, an excessive barker, not friendly to strangers, those are clear signs that he may not be a good dining out companion. If you’re not sure how your dog will act, take it slow and start with a more casual spot like a coffee shop so you can leave quickly if problems erupt.
Have any places in the CLE that you’d recommend? Hit me up at, or on Twitter at