Dare to Dream: Regent Park Par 3 Golf Course Redevelopment

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Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

There are many groups opposed to the idea of redeveloping the Regent Park Par 3 Golf Course into an area with housing options because of risks to residents: specifically flooding, increased crime, lack of green space and low-cost family-centred recreation and its connection to child poverty.*

After reading the concerns brought forward by the delegates presenting to City Council, I would hope that Council will be unanimous in voting to keep the area as a green space with a vast number of 60 year old trees (over 300 of them) and incorporating hiking trails, some fully-fenced off-leash areas, and family- centred amenities such as picnic areas, spray pad, disc golf, a toboggan hill. As well, since this area is on Treaty 4 land and within the traditional territory of the Metis, the entire project should include in some way, a respectful homage to the First Nations and Metis. This solution has been suggested by one of the delegates and supported by many of the others because it will address all of the risks outlined by the delegates presenting.

Including some fully-fenced off-leash parks will be instrumental in the success of this redevelopment idea. 

Flood Risk: getting rid of the trees and building on the green space will cause severe flooding for the residents in the area. This is supported by engineer reports.  For this reason alone, the space should be kept as a green space with the water absorbing trees.  Green space and trees are perfect for off-leash areas.

Crime Prevention: A fully-fenced off-leash park that has trees and a lovely green space will be supported by a lot dog owners from all over the city. Off-leash parks are a crime deterrent because they bring more eyes to the area, so to speak. New York proves this to be true. 

Green Spaces and Child Poverty:

Environmental research reports that children’s academic performance, creativity, and emotional development are all supported when they grow up in areas with green spaces  and these traits might help children rise out of poverty.

What if the area could be developed in such a way that the community is able to generate income and jobs from the space?

This may sound crazy, but what if this idea for a “Family Park & Hiking Trails with Off-leash Areas” provided residents opportunities for employment and/or to generate income for their community programs. Some ideas could include a concession shop to buy dog treats, a pay-per-use dog wash station, a doggie swimming pool area (pay to use), a private off-leash area (pay to use), and selling advertising space on the dog park fencing or amenities within the dog park?

Incorporating some fully-fenced off-leash areas into the Family Park and Hiking Trails proposal is a win-win for all community stakeholders.

We can dare to dream!

*All but one of the 4 proposals include a high-density housing development (townhouses and low-cost senior housing). According to some of the delegates speaking, there is no guarantee that the developers will build low-cost housing for seniors, and some have suggested that this proposal is merely a smoke-screen for building low-cost housing that is smaller than standard housing and/or rentals — in an area where there is already a high vacancy rate. According to some of the delegates’ notes, the existing senior housing in the area has a low percentage of seniors living there, and high-density low-cost housing attracts crime and keeps people in poverty.  

 

 

 

Dog Parks: Not a One-size-fits-all Solution

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Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

Does Regina needs more off-leash spaces? 

Many dog owners want a space to run their dogs off leash, and I would argue that many dog owners need a space to run their dogs in order to help improve the safety of their neighbourhoods. The two current dog parks are over-crowded and are located too far from many areas of the city.  The seasonal off-leash areas are somewhat helpful, but more off-leash areas are needed. The chronic and increasing problem of dog owners using on-leash areas to run their dogs off-leash is a clear indication that Regina’s current off-leash offerings are insufficient (rather than a symptom of lawlessness or laziness).*

Some would argue that because of the problems in the existing off-leash areas, dog owners don’t deserve more off-leash spaces. I argue that most of these problems are because the off-leash areas are over-crowded, over-used, and not designed with dog behaviour in mind. For example, a common criticism of the existing dog parks is that dog owners are not picking up their dogs’ poop. Asking for 100% compliance for any Bylaw is unrealistic: there will always be a small percentage of the general population who will speed through construction zones, park in no-parking areas, ride bicycles on the side walks at times, or water their lawns on non-designated days during water restriction.  In the case of the existing dog parks, this small percentage of rule-breakers begins to look like a much larger problem because the parks are over-used. If 5% of the users don’t pick up poop, it can amount to a lot of poop when there are 1000 dogs using the park each week.

Clearly, Regina needs more off-leash spaces, but these need to be a variety of spaces that meet the diverse needs of dogs and dog owners.

City officials must consult professionals educated in dog behaviour when creating future off-leash areas. Land developers, builders, city planners, engineers, etc. are not experts on dog behaviour.** Consider the problems if playgrounds are created without understanding the behaviour of children and childhood development.  Many problems that plague off-leash areas can be mitigated and even prevented through design.

A single dog park cannot meet the varied needs of dogs and owners. Some dogs need large open spaces, while other dogs are more suited to smaller spaces, especially dogs that do not have a good recall. Not all dogs have excellent social skills and are able to get along amiably with every dog, so there needs to be some off-leash areas that can be used privately for short periods. Some dog owners enjoy letting their water-loving dogs splash around or swim and leave the park filthy, while other dog owners prefer that their dogs not enter the water for health and safety reasons (e.g. perhaps the dog has a tendency to get ear infections or the dog consumes too much water when fetching or swimming and is at risk of illness, injury, and death due to water intoxication). Currently there are no off-leash areas where small dogs and large dogs can be separated if desired, and no spaces where children are not allowed (not all dogs behave well around children).

There is not ONE solution for dogs and owners. There must be multiple options to meet the needs of dog owners and their dogs, and those who are developing the options need to consider the behaviours of dogs and dog owners.

Dog owners will take what they can get.

Certainly, many dog owners are grateful for the off-leash areas that currently exist, despite their problems, but these are not suitable options for many dog owners.  Those who cannot make use of the off-leash areas (for very good reasons) will continue to risk fines by letting their dogs off leash in on-leash areas. This makes the situation unpleasant for everyone: for people walking leashed dogs, residents nearby, cyclists, children, wildlife, etc.

Clearly the status quo is not meeting the needs of many Regina residents.

The current situation is not satisfactory to many taxpayers: not dog owners who tolerate the current off-leash areas, not dog owners who can’t/won’t use the current off-leash areas, and not the residents who have to put up with dog owners trying to meet their dogs’ needs by using on-leash areas as off-leash areas.

* The fact that there is a chronic problem with dog owners running dogs off-leash in on-leash areas should be seen as a symptom of the larger problem. More policing of this is not going to make it go away. How many Bylaw officers are needed to police the entire city 24/7? Surely it makes more sense to create suitable spaces that will meet the needs of many of these dog owners. 

** Entrusting the creation of off-leash areas to builders, land developers, etc. has not worked to get more off-leash areas, and it certainly isn’t going to help ensure the off-leash areas are designed to function well for the people who use them.  Perhaps stakeholders whose primary interest is profit should not be the only decision-makers regarding off-leash spaces (NOTE: There is some growing evidence that dog parks increase real estate values, so maybe there is hope that things will change soon.) Do dog owners have to pool their money to purchase land from the City and then build it and run it themselves? Do parents have to do this in order to get sufficient and well-designed parks and playgrounds?

 

A Hockey Rink is NOT a Park

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photo credit Charles Deluvio

Designating more outdoor boarded hockey rinks as seasonal off-leash areas is not a suitable solution for a city that needs more off-leash areas.  Hockey rinks can be a small part of the solution, but they do not make great places for off-leash play for dogs.

Many neighbourhoods have boarded outdoor hockey rinks, so letting dog owners use them from spring to fall seems like a simple, low-cost solution to creating more off-leash areas.  However, when considered more closely, it becomes apparent that this is not a suitable solution.

For one thing, there are only 23 boarded rinks in Regina (according to what is listed on the City of Regina website), and many are inappropriate because of play structures nearby or because the rinks are on school property and cannot be used during school hours. Even if there were as many as a dozen suitable boarded rinks in Regina, it would still not be nearly enough to serve dog owners in Regina. It’s a start, but it’s not enough.

A boarded hockey rink is adequate for a quick 5 minute romp or some ball tossing, but not for much else unless the dogs there are well-suited to each other for play (e.g. size, play style, social skills). A rink is certainly not big enough for a large dog or a breed that needs to run. As well, the crusher-dust type substrate in many rinks is hard on a dog’s footpads and will cause cuts/abrasions if the dog spends too much time running on it or making sharp turns and skidding stops.

The inside of a hockey rink is not a mentally stimulating environment and this leads to problems. Unless a dog is meeting dog friends there for play, after a dog has sniffed the interesting spots, done some “business”, and left some pee-mail, a dog will generally stand around (along with their humans who are standing around in the barren hockey rink).  Trouble often happens when dogs are not engaged with the environment and are standing about. A similar thing happens with children in an empty, boring playground or in a room without toys. It’s not hard to visualize the problems that will occur when dogs (often with mismatched play styles) are enclosed in a small, boring space and then forced to interact by owners who want them to play or get tired out.

Dog owners deserve a sufficient number of locations with sufficient space to allow their dogs to run off leash. These locations should be safe and pleasant for the dogs and the humans.  An empty hockey rink can be useful but a empty hockey rink is not a “park” as some may suggest.

Links referencing hockey rinks as dog parks:

City is inconsistent in terminology, sometimes using “off-leash area” and sometimes using “dog park”. Seasonal off-leash areas (hockey rinks) are listed under the headings “Dog Parks” in the text and on a map.

City considering additional off-leash dog parks in Regina’s North end (April 11, 2019)

City of Regina considers 6 new off-leash dog parks (March 7, 2016)

Dog Parks: Behaviour Modification Through Environmental Design

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Photo credit Ryan Stone

What if the problems that plague dog parks could be dramatically reduced (even prevented) simply by altering the design of the dog park?

Well-known to architects, criminologists, and city planners, a concept called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) has been utilized for decades to help create safer neighbourhoods. A similar approach that considers dog behaviour and communication can create safer and more enjoyable dog parks — Behaviour Modification Through Environmental Design (BMTED), if you will.

Keep the Dogs Moving 

Dog-dog conflict often occurs when dogs stop moving. Keeping the dogs moving along from one interesting area to the next interesting area can do a lot to prevent stressful situations for dogs. Let the dogs’ attention be redirected to the environment a bit more and you’ll have fewer cases of escalating stress directed at other dogs. What does this mean for the design of dog parks? Well, fewer benches for people to sit and chat. This is not going to sit well (sorry for the pun) for dog owners who want to socialize with other dog owners. A dog park should be designed for dogs foremost, and it’s essential that dog owners pay attention to their dogs. Too many benches make it too tempting for some owners to just ignore their dogs until trouble happens.

Avoiding Head On Approaches and Tight Spaces

Dogs need space to communicate clearly to other dogs, and they need to be able to avoid head-on approaches. Dog parks with areas of congestion or narrow spaces where dogs are moving in opposite directions are to be avoided. Landscaping to encourage curved approaches is one simple design element that is often overlooked, yet it can help prevent so much stress and trouble for dogs. Placement of different elements to avoid creating a corner or narrow space that could cause a dog to feel trapped is also essential.  What if the dog  park was designed so that dogs entered the park in one area and exited the park in a different area? This could reduce the congestion AND help with avoiding head-on approaches and the chaos of an over-excited or nervous dog entering the park and encountering a dog exiting the park — one with an exhausted nervous system after spending time in the park in a high state of arousal (like kids when they get too much Christmas, or like a group of rowdy sports fans or players after an intense game).

Keeping Gate Areas Clear

A common problem with dog parks is the entrance area. When a new dog enters a dog park, it’s natural for the other dogs nearby to rush towards the new dog to get a sniff. One dog rushing over to meet the new dog can be a tense experience; having multiple dogs rush the new dog is very stressful for all, and if you combine that with a crowded area where the dogs cannot find space to move away, you’ve got a perfect storm brewing for a dog fight.

Putting up signs asking people not to loiter near the entrance is one method to try to address this problem, but, sadly, it’s as effective as signs asking people to pick up their dog’s poop (more on that later). A dog park designed with dogs in mind would have multiple entrances, a transition area that allows the new dogs to enter the park and acclimate a bit before mixing with the other dogs, and landscaping that encourages the dog owners to move along further inside the park area, rather than congregating at the entrance/exits.

Dog Poop: Changing Human Behaviour

A common problem in dog parks is people not picking up their dog’s poop.  Obvious design elements to help change this behaviour would include plentiful and well-placed waste disposal bins and poop bag dispensers. Another could be to incorporate landscaping elements that allow dogs to romp and explore but reduce the chances of the dog pooping out of the owner’s view.

Noise, Damage to Vegetation, Nuisances to Residents

Purposeful landscaping with dog behaviour in mind such as using slopes, trees, shrubs, multiple pathways, etc. can reduce noise, minimize barking (usually through reducing opportunities for over-stimulation), and limit the impact of the foot/paw traffic on ground cover.  Dog-centered enrichment amenities could be added to reduce digging in unwanted areas or  encouraging dogs away from nearby residential areas.  Planning that takes into account drainage and run-off would help to avoid damage from over-use after a rain or melt.

Behaviour Modification Through Environmental Design (BMTED) is a concept that, when combined with an awareness of dog behaviour and communication, can help improve dog parks for everyone: dogs, dog owners, and residents nearby.

Heat Exhaustion/Stroke in Dogs

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photo credit Mel Elias

 

This is general information only gathered from various resources and is not intended as veterinary advice.  Please consult a veterinarian if you have concerns about the health of your dog. 

Dogs that are at higher risk for heat exhaustion and heatstroke include breeds with shorter snouts (e.g. Shih Tzus, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Bulldogs) and those with weaker bodies like older dogs, young puppies, and ill dogs.

Dogs cool themselves by panting to maintain their normal body temperature (101 to 102.5 F ; 38 to 39 C). Dogs can sweat through their noses and pads but this doesn’t do much to cool them. Overheating can cause severe tissue damage in minutes, affecting important organs like the brain, kidneys, liver, and the digestive system in minutes.

Heatstroke occurs when the dog’s temperature reaches 109 F (42.8 C) or above.

Symptoms can include:

  • Heavy panting (often accompanied by a refusal to drink)
  • spoon-shaped tongue can be an early sign of dog overheating
  • Excessive thirst
  • Glazed eyes
  • Vomiting and bloody diarrhea
  • Bright or dark red tongue, gums
  • Staggering
  • Elevated body temperature (104ÂşF and up)
  • Weakness, collapse
  • Increased pulse and heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Excessive drooling
  • Unconsciousness

What to do:

Move dog out of heat and to the shade or air conditioning. Keep offering water. Sometimes dogs are panting too heavily to want to pause for a drink, but keep it available for when the dog wants it.

If the dog can stand and is conscious,

  • give small drinks of water (too much too fast can cause vomiting)
  • Take temperature. If the dog is 104 F (40 C) or lower, continue to monitor temperature
  • contact vet for further instructions even if dog seems recovered

If the dog cannot stand, seems unresponsive, or if the dog is having seizures:

  • confirm the dog is breathing it has a heartbeat
  • stay with dog (don’t try to immobilize a dog having seizures, just supervise to keep the area around the dog clear to avoid injury to the dog and anyone nearby; time the seizure and observe details that your vet may ask you about)
  • notify vet that you are bringing in the dog
  • begin to cool the dog gradually with COOL water (NOT COLD water) by placing wet towels or gently pouring COOL (NOT COLD) water on belly area, back of head and the underside of neck. Do not pour water into dog’s mouth.
  • DO NOT PUT DOG IN A POOL OR TUB OF COLD WATER
  • Take dog’s temperature. If it is at 104 F (40 C) or lower, STOP THE COOLING PROCESS (to avoid risk of blood clotting or temperature dropping too low)
  • Take dog to vet ASAP even if the dog seems to be getting better

PREVENTING HEAT EXHAUSTION & HEATSTROKE:

  • Provide LOTS of fresh, clean water at all times.
  • On warm days, dogs outside should have access to shade.
  • There is mixed opinion on the effects of “summer haircuts” (not suitable for all dogs). It has been suggested that in order to protect the dog’s skin from the sun, the dog’s fur should be trimmed no shorter than an inch (a few centimetres).
  • Exercise dogs during the coolest parts of the day. Stay in the shade when possible.
  • 32 C or hotter, dog should be kept indoors.
  • Limit exercise or play sessions; keep them short; take lots of breaks to cool down.
  • The heat from the concrete or asphalt can overheat your dog (and burn paws).
  • Never put dog in a hot vehicle (parked or being driven). It’s better to leave the dog at home where it’s cool and there is fresh water to drink.
  • Cooling Vests for dogs may be an option. The Whole Dog Journal shares some feedback on these vests (halfway through the article).

Car Ride Rules: Entering/Exiting the Car

wade-lambert-dog on leash and carPhoto credit Wade Lambert

First off, it’s essential that your dog does not have anxiety/fear associated with car rides. See this post for how to condition a dog to enjoy car rides.

It’s best to have your dog secured in a travel crate or a suitable dog seat belt. A loose dog has the potential of becoming a “flying projectile” resulting in serious injuries to the dog and the other occupants. Consider crash-test rated equipment. Most dog car harnesses and crates do not pass crash-tests, despite the product’s marketing claims.

A barking dog, a major distraction for the driver, is a sign that the dog is stressed (due to anxiety or over stimulation). If your dog is barking because he LOVES car rides, you need to teach him that his barking makes the car stop (or makes him have to leave the car if the car isn’t moving). Resume immediately when dog stops barking so your dog learns that his behaviour can make good things happen. If your dog is barking because of anxiety about being in the car, then you need to teach him to enjoy the car rides through a gentle desensitization program. If your dog is barking because of the things he sees out the window, then teach him to ride in a crate to block much of his view. Working separately on desensitizing him to the things he sees out the window can be another approach but it is beyond the scope of this post.

1. Wait for Permission to Enter/Exit

PROTECT GROWTH PLATES IN PUPPIES: Lift your puppy in/out of the car until your puppy reaches a certain height or when growth plates fully close.

Once you and your dog have reached the car on a loose leash, instruct your dog to wait or stay (if he knows the commands); if he doesn’t know the commands, ask for a sit or lure him to sit with a treat while you and he are in front of the car door. When the dog is not moving towards the door, begin to open the door. If at any point he moves towards the door, stop and gently close the door (not on his head or nose). Reset him (or wait for him to self-correct after some repetitions and he’s starting to “get it”). When he’s not moving towards the door, then start to open the door again.

Once you are able to open the door all the way, give your dog permission to enter the car. Don’t make him wait too long with the door open at the beginning; it may be too difficult for him. As he improves, you can extend his wait time with the open door to a second or two or more.

 

You can help your dog through the early stages by opening the door only as far as your dog is able to remain in the stay position. (Reaching for the door handle might be your starting point.) Close the door (or remove your hand from the door handle) and give your dog a small piece of food while he is still in stay position. Each time you go a little further towards being able to open the door all the way.

Exiting the Car:

Use the procedure above and don’t begin to open the door until the dog is NOT moving towards the door. Ideally, your dog will be secured in a crate or by a seatbelt. If your dog is not secured inside the car, be sure to use your body and block your dog from escaping while you attach his leash. If your dog tends to bolt, secure his leash before you exit the car, then you can grab his leash when you open the car door a few inches. You can then hold the door shut while you hang onto your dog’s leash and work on opening the door slowly while your dog stays and doesn’t move toward the car door. Practice this at home before trying to teach this in an exciting location.

2. Wait for Instruction After Exiting Car

After your leashed dog exits the car, stop and wait for your dog to turn to look at you. When he looks at you, say “yes!” to immediately mark that behaviour and give him a piece of food within one or two seconds. Be sure to bring out the food after he turns to look at you.

It’s important to set things up so your dog is able to figure things out without any prompting. If your dog frustrates easily or if the environment is super exciting to your dog, you can help him a bit by sticking a piece of food in front of his nose immediately after he exits the car (or as he exits the car) and luring him to face you and then letting him eat the food.

After several repetitions, your dog will begin to predict that a treat is coming and within 3 seconds will turn to look at you (if only for a split second). You can extend that attention to you from a split second to a few seconds by giving him a few pieces of food in a row. Eventually you will fade the food and his behaviour will be maintained over time because you will consistently wait for him to look at you before proceeding. If he wants to proceed further, he will have to look at you and wait for you.

TIP: to help teach him to wait for you while you lock the door, etc. give him little bits of food in between the small actions. For example, lock car. Treat. Put keys in pocket and adjust clothing, dog equipment, etc. Treat. Wait for dog to give you attention before proceeding on your way. Treat and then go. Fade treats gradually when the dog is consistently performing to an acceptable level of performance. 

 

Teach Your Dog to Like Riding in a Vehicle

Car Rides & The Dog: Teaching Your Dog to Like Car Rides

tim-mossholder-dogs in carPhoto credit Tim Mossholder

Your dog needs to learn two important things about the car:

1. Riding in the car is enjoyable

2. There are rules in the car (for safety and impulse control training)

 

Teach Your Dog to Like Riding in a Car:

Car rides can be overwhelming experiences for dogs, and continuous overexposure can cause a dog to become anxious, fearful, or out of control. Ideally you want to start car training when your dog is under 12 weeks (before the socialization window closes) and BEFORE your dog develops a negative emotional response to riding in the car. If your dog already has a negative emotional response to car rides or if your dog is anxious/fearful of new things (or if your puppy is in a fear period) you will have to be very observant and be very careful about taking things slowly. Watch your dog for subtle signs of stress and don’t push your dog too far in a session. Work with the dog you have that day. This means that some days your dog will be more anxious than other days and you will need to slow things down for your dog.

How long does it take?

This whole process could take 20 minutes in one session or it could take a few days or weeks. It takes as long as your dog needs it to take. You can’t rush it because it is dependent upon the dog’s emotional responses. Using food can help speed up the process.

STEPS:

  • Find the starting point and begin to build a positive emotional response.
  • Gradually increase the intensity of the experience by increasing exposure time and adding the elements (e.g. car, sounds, movement).

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Find the starting point for your dog.

Find the point where your dog first figures out that the car is going to be part of the outing. For some dogs this happens when you pick up your car keys. For other dogs it might be when you open the garage door or walk towards the car. For dogs with no previous experiences with the car, it may mean walking up to the car door.

 

2. Build a positive emotional response to the car using food.

From the starting point, begin to associate food with each stage in the process of “going for a car ride.” Eventually you want to get to the point where you are standing beside the car door (car door closed). If at any point your dog shows any subtle sign of stress, back off and take a short break. When you try again, go more slowly. In cases of extreme fear, it might be that you are only able to open the garage door and let the dog look at the car. Treat. Then close the door. Repeat. Work gradually and at a pace your dog can easily handle. You can do things such as sprinkle a trail of food to the car, stick a piece of food in the dog’s mouth immediately after you pick up your keys or when he looks at the car, feed him a piece of food when your hand is resting on the car, treat as you open the car door a few inches, put pieces of food on the car seat.

Build up a positive emotional response to the car in these steps:

  • Approaching the car
  • Opening the car door
  • Getting inside the car
  • Being inside the car when it’s not running
  • Being inside the car when it’s running but not moving.
  • Being inside the car when it’s moving

Be sure to add elements slowly and try to reduce the intensity of some elements. For example, windshield wipers can be scary. Turning them on BEFORE your dog enters the car can make the sound and movement less intense for the dog, and making sure they are on a low speed will help. Another way to make them less intense is to shorten the duration.  For example, if your dog is happy and calm, turn on the windshield wipers and immediately give a treat. Turn off the wipers after a second or so. Teach your dog that the windshield wipers are good things because they make treats appear. Do the same with various sounds and things that move in the car (e.g. windows).

Start with short sessions and increase the exposure time gradually before proceeding to the next stage. When you go to the next stage, you will have to decrease the exposure time. For example, if your dog is relaxed inside the car when it’s not running and you can hang out with him for 10 minutes (e.g. he’s enjoying a chew while you read), drop the time drastically when you move the next step of turning on the car. Turn it on briefly (e.g. 20 seconds) and sprinkle treats the entire time and then turn it off and stop the treats. Eventually you will not need so many treats and then none at all; continue to work on this stage (over days if you have to) until your dog is able to tolerate sitting in the running car for 5 minutes. When you first start to drive the car, drive down the driveway and park or drive down the street a few houses and return home. Leave the car and do something your dog enjoys.

 

NOTE: Your dog’s first car rides should be to places where he has a positive experience. (NOTE: you might think it would be a positive place for a dog, such as dog supply store, but if your dog is overwhelmed, then this is not a positive experience for the dog.) You can take him to the vet or the groomer to have a cookie and get some affection from the staff, and then leave. You can take him for a drive through a park. Have several positive experiences before he has to go for a car ride for something he doesn’t like.

CAR RIDE RULES (for Entering and Exiting the Car)