We delved into the slightly controversial debate about the place of pets, specifically dogs, in the park lifestyle. Man’s best friends are not universally popular on parks but yet they bring joy and companionship to thousands of retired people.
Many parks are in rural areas, with dedicated dog walking areas, both of which encourage healthy exercise for owners and pooches alike – so it’s hardly surprising that pet-friendly parks are always popular. Barton’s prestigious new park, Seascapes, near Clevedon allows one pet per home – an approach that provides a good balance of everyone’s interests. Here we take a fresh look at the subject of canine companionship on leisure and residential parks.
Is it a dog’s life?
The phrase “it’s a dog’s life” has changed over the years – it used to imply a miserable existence but has come to refer to an idyllic life of walks and naps, free from responsibilities – much like the retired lifestyle in fact!
Most experts agree that dogs are most content when they have easy access to nature. They are natural explorers, so running in natural landscapes keeps them active and stimulated. Exercise outdoors will maintain a dog at a healthy weight, reduce their stress and provide them with vitamin D.
If you choose a park with a dog walking area or close to open countryside or woodland, you will feel more relaxed about letting your pet off the lead. Just remember that letting your dog run free must always be done with respect to other homeowners and walkers. Not everyone is as delighted by the attentions of your furry friend as you are – indeed some people prefer not to share their walk with dogs at all.
Volunteer dog cuddling – better than a dating agency?
Meeting fellow dog walkers is one of the easiest and most natural ways of making new friends, and striking up conversations with like-minded people. Which dog lover doesn’t like to talk about their pets? The social aspect of life on a residential park is often cited as one of the most compelling reasons to downsize and move into a park home – life amongst a ready-made community of like-minded people can help offset any feelings of isolation or loneliness in retirement.
According to silversufers.com “Volunteer dog cuddling is being offered by Barking Mad Dog Care as an antidote to the problem of loneliness in modern society as a whole. For those who are retired or work from home, and are spending large chunks of time alone, caring for a waggy-tailed companion on a temporary basis and meeting other like-minded dog lovers, could really help to overcome feelings of isolation.
“Lee Dancy, Barking Mad Founder and MD, says: “Whilst retirement and remote working have obvious advantages, being alone and not having the physical presence of a team to support you can lead to loneliness that can’t be fixed by any kind of technology or app. Caring for a friendly dog not only provides canine cuddles (far better than any virtual hug) but also the motivation to go out on regular walks. This will help to increase fitness levels, improve the feeling of well-being and provide the opportunity of chatting to other dog walkers you encounter. After all, an adorable dog is a great conversation starter!”
The community of Barking Mad host families mainly consists of active retired people and those who either work from home or have extended periods away from work. It offers the opportunity to look after carefully vetted dogs in your own home, while their owners are away on holiday. Insurance, transport and administration are all taken care of. Hosts experience all the benefits of dog companionship without any of the emotional or financial responsibilities of full-time pet ownership”
There is also a social side to the Barking Mad Host Community, with dog lovers attending coffee mornings, dog walks, Christmas parties, shows and events on a local basis.
Lee Dancy concludes, “It is such a wonderful feeling to see groups of like-minded people brought together, where the common thread is the love of dogs. Conversations and friendships are struck up easily over a shared interest and people love the sense of community.” More information is available at www.barkingmad.uk.com
“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx
An uncomfortable truth
Playful and endearing when outdoors, dogs are rather prone to bringing a distinctive pong indoors. More worrying, you may not always notice it. Here are some tips to ensure that your home stays fresh and for keeping “eau de kennel” at bay. Muddy paw prints and dog hairs everywhere is all part of the fun – but these are some proven ways to prevent your home harbouring an unwanted whiff.
- First off buy a breed that is short-haired or do some research on which breeds have a reputation for smells.
- Buy a washable dog bed and wash it regularly. Train your mutt to keep off sofas and beds.
- Instead of bathing your dog, groom it dog regularly This will prevent you washing away the essential oils its coat and skin need.
- Keep its teeth and ears clean – they may be a source of odour. No one likes dog breath!
- Air purifiers reduce airborne smells, the best ones also filter particulate matter and destroy bacteria and fungi in the air.
- Don’t let a damp dog in the home until its completely dry. If your dog likes paddling and swimming dry him completely to avoid that ‘wet dog smell’ from lingering in the house. Dry thoroughly with a towel or a hairdryer on a cool setting if it will stand still long enough!
“What do dogs do on their day off? Can’t lie around – that’s their job.” – George Carlin
The best breeds for leisure and park-home owners
According to saferpets.co.uk “choosing the right canine companion can mean the difference between a joyful partnership or a relationship fraught with stress and anxiety – and possibly even injury.
“Size – this is one of the key issues. In general, smaller breeds tend to be more suitable for retired people. Remember, however, that many of the small breeds – especially the terriers – can be very energetic and so could still be difficult for an older owner to handle, not to mention the dangers of tripping over a small, hyperactive dog. Some large breeds, such as greyhounds, can actually be very placid and inactive and thus make great pets.
“Energy Levels – unless the owner is an octogenarian tri-athlete, it is usually better to choose a dog with lower exercise requirements. In general, breeds that have been developed to perform high energy tasks such as herding (Border Collie), hunting vermin (Jack Russell Terrier) or running behind carriages (Dalmatian) have naturally higher mental and physical energy levels. Unless their energies are directed into proper channels with extensive training and exercise, these dogs will often develop behavioural problems associated with boredom.
“Noisiness – certain breeds (and certain dogs within a breed) will be more vocal than others, particularly if left alone for long periods. Again, terriers can be troublesome in this regard but many small poodles, collies, spitz-type breeds and guarding breeds (eg, German Shepherd) can also be very noisy.
“Trainability – even if you have no intention of taking part in obedience competitions, the inherent willingness of a dog to please can make a huge difference to how easy it is to live with him. Dogs that have been developed to work closely with humans, such as the gundog breeds, often have a higher desire to please their owners than dogs with an independent streak, such as herding breeds and terriers”
So, in summary, there is no reason why dog lovers and the occasional cynophobic can’t get along. Choosing the right park and the right breed are key – along with taking care to clean up and keep dogs on a lead when necessary. As one famous wag, Josh Billings, puts it “”A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”