With a dozen dogs and owners anxiously waiting, Tillsonburg Councillors and Dog Park committee co-chairs Tyler Coghill and Pete Luciani were quick to cut the official ribbon Friday morning to launch the new Tillsonburg Dog Park.
"I was really surprised at how many people showed up at 11 (a.m.) to really get into it right away," said Coghill following Friday's ribbon cutting.
"It's fantastic. Obviously it's a sign that it was a park that was needed in town and people were excited to get in - and be the first in. I'm sure we're going to see great results long-term with more and more people... I think we're going to see a lot of dog owners coming here and enjoying it. It's great."
"It is great," Luciani nodded. "We like the site - this was our preferred site. It fits, I think, in the grand scheme of Memorial Park and I think it fits as far as having a park here for proximity to local neighbours. It's basically a hub of the town - the centre of the town - it's a really good spot to have a destination for a dog park."
Open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, the park seems to have already become a 'destination' at least during daytime hours.
"Most people won't use the park after dusk," Coghill noted. "In the future, maybe we'll look at putting some lighting in, but that wasn't in the initial plans."
"This is well overdue," said Luciani, noting there was an unsuccessful attempt to get a dog park in town back in 2008-09. "In the long run, maybe not so fast, but definitely fast since the inception of this committee (in 2016) and council approval (April 2017)."
In the past year Luciani has visited most dog parks in the area, and while Tillsonburg's may be smaller than most, he feels it is a good size.
"We can put a lot of dogs in here," he said, noting there are actually two areas, separating the small and large dogs. "I think we should be fine."
How much time owners and dogs spend in the park will vary according to breed, said Coghill.
"With my dogs, within 15-20 minutes they're done, that's the day. But I know people with bigger dogs who will come for an hour. Right now, it's important to know for people coming for longer periods, we don't have water in the park yet, so they need to bring their own water."
There aren't many dog park rules, but the rules, which are posted at the park, are important.
First, dog owners need to be within the enclosed, fenced area. You need to be able to control your dog, and if and when necessary retrieve your dog.
"You have got a small contained area, but it's pretty big if you're chasing a dog," Luciani smiled. "We do want owners to have the ability to get your dog out when required. But saying that, most dogs will 'come.'"
Occasionally, some dogs do not mix or a 'situation' arises. It's important to be in control of your dog at all times.
"A lot of the times the dogs will work out whatever that little issue is. Sometimes they don't. You've just got to keep an eye on your dog. You're putting your dog in with a bunch of other dogs you don't know, it's imperative you take a look and keep an eye on your dog."
There are some behaviours, he said, that if you're not used to multiple dogs together may look like aggressive behaviour, but may not be.
"The barking, the growling, that's posturing..."
Going forward, the goal for the Dog Park Committee, now that they have a park, is to add new members.
"Our mandate was to try to get a location for a park, and get a park up and running," said Luciani. "Our goal now is to get a larger group - the users - who are going to have an input into this park, and be able to make suggestions and changes. It's better to have a bigger group, and more representation from the users, who might then say, 'you know what, we need more shade' or 'we need whatever...' That group would hopefully report to Parks and Rec and hopefully try to implement some of that stuff."
Shade is a priority, he said, and at least three trees should be planted within the next week.
The dog park will be maintained by Parks and Rec staff, but Luciani said it's important for users to self-police as far as picking up after your dog.
"Poop-and-scoop is still a by-law in this town, so you need to make sure you're looking after your dog and you're picking up after your dog. That's for the betterment of the park and the enjoyment of everybody in here."
Coming into the park for the first time, Luciani said dogs need to be 'fairly well behaved' and at least semi-socialized.
"This isn't the spot to socialize them for the first time - the first time they're ever going to meet another dog. You want to make sure your dog is fairly socialized.
"We prefer not to see choke chains or collars like that because dogs, as they're playing, could get their teeth caught or something and that would likely cause a pretty major ruckus."
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