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SHAG HARBOUR, N.S. —
Socialized dogs in the Municipality of Barrington will soon have a place to call their own and possibly a league of their own.
The Shag Harbour ballfield, which has been seldom used in recent years, will become a multi-use space in January 2023 with the opening of the Shag Harbour Off Leash Dog Park.
“Hopefully we can make it a success. It’s something that’s needed and the rules have to be followed,” says volunteer Carl Dixon, who is spearheading the project.
Dixon, who ran a therapy dog program in Toronto for 10 years, said other than a few repairs to places along the fence where dogs can get out, the field is fully enclosed.
“It’s a great space. It’s isolated. It’s safe and that’s important with an off-leash park is the dogs are safe and the handlers feel comfortable coming here. It’s a win-win situation,” Dixon says. “We’re going to have a place for dogs to socialize and people to socialize which is very important to the dogs’ behavior. We want them to be able to come here and have a good time.”
There will be strict rules in place for the dog park. Signs will be posted.
“It’s going to be very well controlled. It’s on the honour system. We don’t want any aggressive dogs in here at all and we will not allow unsupervised kids to come here because we don’t want the kids playing with the dogs,” Dixon says. “It’s a place for dogs to play and have fun and we really don’t want (unsupervised) kids in the mix.”
Once open, the dog park will be open from 2 to 4 p.m. daily from December to March and 6 to 8 p.m. daily from April to the end of November. (These times are when ball games are not taking place.)
“It’s going to be an honour-system dog park. We’re not going to have somebody here all the time to watch and observe. There will be a number on the poster to call if people find there are dogs that are coming here that are not fitting in. We will ask people not to bring their dogs until they get them socialized,” says Dixon.
Dixon’s niece Kylie Dixon is hoping to not only help dog owners with getting their canines socialized, but also to introduce dog sports to area.
“I do one-on-one in-home training right now for dogs with behavioral problems or disobedience so when Carl said he was starting this, I think it will be good for me to come and kind of help people out,” says Dixon, who is a school teacher.
She is continuing her studies in canine behavior and is currently trying to get enough hours in to be able to write her certification.
“I worked all last year under the supervision of a certified trainer and now I’m on my own trying to get enough hours to write my exam and taking courses,” she says.
After Christmas when everything slows down, she says her goal is to get some group classes going at the Shag Harbour Community Hall.
“I do one-on-one but there’s probably a lot of people who don’t need specific stuff so we can work on puppy classes with a group of puppies or basic obedience classes with a group. Eventually the goal is to get sports going down here like scent work, agility or rally obedience, which I’ve done with my dogs but we don’t have that around here. I think it would be good for us and them. There’s all kinds of things you can do.”
She says eventually she hopes to get some sort of training initiatives going on at the dog park as well.
Meanwhile, the dog park is “a triple-edge sword,” says Carl Dixon.
“It’s a way to socialize the dogs. It’s a way Kylie, as a trainer, can come here and help people socialize their dogs and give them some tips on how to get their dogs used to other dogs; plus I’m an evaluator for St. John Ambulance so I’m going to be watching very closely to see if there are any pups here that have the qualification or the tentation to become therapy dogs and we’ll recruit from here,” he says.
“We have no therapy dogs in this immediate area. Where I see it coming in handy, I will refer the dogs that I feel could be good therapy dogs to St. John Ambulance in Halifax and we’ll get some dogs to visit Roseway Manor, Roseway Hospital, Bay Side Home, the group home in Barrington, Mary’s Abide Awhile in Shelburne the Cape senior’s home and others that could benefit from therapy dog visits.”
Dixon had a therapy dog for nine years and will soon begin training his new dog Elijah as a therapy dog.
“We’ll be here a lot with Elijah and see how it unfolds and making sure everything goes the way we want it to go because the whole area has to be safe and we have to have dogs that are socialized and if they’re not socialized and they’re timid they’ll come along. They will get used to the other dogs. It will be a fun time for everybody.”
DOG PARK RULES
• Use park at own risk.
• Owners are legally responsible for the behavior of their dog.
• At all times dogs must be leashed when entering or exiting the park.
• Dog waste must be cleaned up by their owners immediately.
• Owners must be inside the park and supervising their dog with leash readily available.
• Dog handlers must be 16 years old.
• Children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult and supervised at all times.
• Aggressive dogs must be removed immediately dogs should be under voice control.
• Human and dog food/treats.
• Glass containers.
• Dogs in heat, sick dogs, aggressive dogs and puppies under 6 months.