As the snow melts away and the first signs of spring begin to erupt from the cold earth, it’s time to start thinking about long walks with your four-legged best friend. Dogs are an irrepressible source of joy and companionship, but if you live in an urban environment there are a few issues you should consider to ensure that your canine is comfortable, safe and healthy.
In much the same way as humans adapt, our pets must adapt to living in the city. Suburban and country dogs can get away with being rambunctious, but city dogs have to play by a different set of rules. Stephanie and Mic Foster opened downtown’s Pet Athletic Club (818 Reedy St.) in 2006 and specialize in helping city dwellers acclimate their pets to city living.
“Dogs that live in an urban environment have to be a lot calmer than their suburban counterparts,” Stephanie says.
Loud sirens, heavy traffic and unexpected surprises like horse-drawn carriages are all possible threats that can spook or upset your pet.
“It’s important that an urban dog be a lot more aware of their surroundings and their space, which may require some extra training,” she says.
Consult with your veterinarian or trainer for specific methods. If adopting or buying, consider whether the dog is predisposed to be high-strung or more easy-going.
A key command all downtown dogs must learn is some form of “Leave it.”
“I actually think it’s one of the most important things you should teach your dog,” Mic says.
Downtown sidewalks can be a smorgasbord of cigarette butts, wrappers, foods scraps and all kinds of trash. Some items could be poisonous or cause your pet to become ill. Ensure your pet understands and complies when told not to pick up or eat things off the street.
A barking dog can drive your neighbors (and you) nuts. Apartment or condo living offers plenty of distractions that could potentially send your pooch into a barking frenzy.
Dogs have superb hearing. Couple that with thin walls and lots of people coming and going and you could end up with a manic mutt.
The Fosters say this behavior likely can be corrected or alleviated with training.
There are plenty of great spaces downtown to stretch your dog’s legs. Small parks are tucked away in some of the most unexpected places, so ask around. Sawyer Point down on the riverfront is a great place to take a run or play fetch.
Be a good neighbor. Take baggies or a “pooper scooper” with you to clean up after your pet.
Some popular dog walking spots stock “pet mitts” for precisely this purpose, so there’s no excuse for leaving behind unwanted presents.
The grassy median stretching the east/west length of Central Parkway is popular among dog walkers. The city provides Mutt Mitt dispensers on each island, so removing pet waste is easy and mess free.
Depending on your location, grass might not be an option. If your dog isn’t used to living in a concrete jungle, Mic says it might take some additional training to help him or her become comfortable with eliminating on hard surfaces.
Keep in mind that while you may enjoy a “hug” from your puppy, not everyone feels the same way.
“In an urban environment, you run into so many people in so many different scenarios,” Stephanie says. “People in business suits or dressed for a night out on the town usually don’t expect to get a kiss from your well-intentioned dog. An urban dog really has to be a lot more well-mannered.”
Downtown’s first veterinary clinic opened last April. The Plum Street Pet Clinic (427 Plum St.) is a full-service office that offers everything except boarding. The jovial Dr. Robert Biederman — a.k.a. Dr. Bob — has more than 20 years of experience.
The clinic has weekday and Saturday hours and even accepts drop-offs beginning at 7 a.m. For those who can’t get enough of Dr. Bob’s comical ways and vast knowledge, he hosts a weekly radio program called Our Best Friends on WMKV-FM (89.3).
The Greater Cincinnati area offers several dog parks. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., or 3CDC, says its Washington Park extension plan calls for 11,000 square feet of pup-centric space. Vice President for Communications and Community Relations Kelly Leon says the group hopes to begin work on the project this summer and wrap things up by the third quarter of 2011.
In the meantime, here are some other options: Wiggly Field at Voice of America Park in West Chester is a bit of hike from downtown but offers a ton of space for romping, rolling and running. Otto Armleder Memorial Park on Wooster Pike north of the Beechmont levy is closer to town and is scenically situated along the Little Miami River. Beware the mud here though — this park is prone to flooding.
During the rainy months, your best bet is the dog park at Mt. Airy Forest (on Westwood Northern Boulevard between Montana Avenue and North Bend Road). The park’s lofty hilltop location usually means dry paws post-romp. Water pumps and buckets are also available to keep pooches well hydrated.
A few reminders about dog park etiquette: Clean up after your pet; make sure your pet isn’t getting too aggressive with other dogs; and read and abide by the posted rules.
If you’re looking for a more inclusive experience to keep your dog busy while you’re at work, consider doggie daycare or a full-service members-only center.
The Pet Athletic Center downtown is ideal for city-dwellers and commuters. The Fosters have loads of experience with dog care and training and have the honor of being the only dog training facility in the downtown area.
The center offers a variety of private session training options designed to meet individual dog and owner needs. Weekly demonstrations showcase the various training levels available. Your canine can enjoy activities in daycare, grooming services and boarding.
A little further out, The Pet Spot (2503 Norwood Ave., Norwood) offers training, boarding and daycare as well as grooming and webcams. Co-owner Jeff Voelpel agrees that city dogs must be well trained so they’ll get along with other dogs and not annoy neighbors. He says all dogs are different and poor behaviors can be set off by a multitude of factors.
“It’s a brand new dog once you figure out how to address what triggers a poor behavior,” he says.
Voelpel employs three professional trainers who have proven experience working with animals that are deemed unsuitable for doggie daycare because of aggressiveness. The Pet Spot also offers long-term boarding, which can be a lifesaver following major life changes or if you’re new to Cincinnati.
“Not only do we draw from the five-mile vicinity around the facility,” Voelpel says, “we have plenty of people who commute from Dayton and drop their dog off on their way downtown.”
Since The Pet Spot offers boarding and daycare, boarding clients can rest assured knowing their dogs will be playing and socializing, not sitting in a kennel all day.
“That’s the number one thing, I think, that draws people to us,” Voelpel says. “Most places don’t offer both.”
WagsPark in Newtown (3810 Church St.) bills itself as “Cincinnati’s premier private dog park.” The resort boasts acres of play space, agility courses, a swimming pond, water fountains, paw wash stations and self-serve dog bath stations. WagsPark offers day passes and a range of membership options.
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Park and Vine (1109 Vine St, Over-the-Rhine) offers a full line of “green” pet supplies. The shop sells environmentally friendly shampoos, flea and bug sprays, cat litter and biodegradable pet waste bags. Vegetarian pet owners will be glad to know the store also carries several lines of vegan dog and cat foods.