Author; husband teaches ESL; dog sniffs a lot
Dog Park Done Right!Morgan Hill Dog Park
We live in the East Bay (north of Berkeley, CA), and went southwards, for a weekend in & around San Jose (to visit a friend there, and to get away from the fog in our region). On our one full day, decided to drive down to Carmel Beach, and to break up the drive with a stop at this dog park. It was so beautiful, clean and enjoyable, we decided to stop there again, on our way home, after a run on Carmel Beach! The whole space is beautifully arranged, with some gentle contours and slopes, green grass, and a good number of big, shady trees. All the dogs were so good-natured, and all the people appeared to be very engaged, whether just walking through the park, throwing a ball, or conscientiously "picking up". Our dog is "large" 65 lbs, but we were also glad to see there is an equally lovely, & very spacious, adjacent small-dogs-only section, which is the best-size one of those we've ever seen. We wish there were a park even half as nice as this, within a quick drive from our home! Certainly whenever we head southwards from now on, we'll be working out scheduling so we can definitely fit in a visit to Morgan Hill, both coming & going! Abundant kudos to all the dedicated people who worked to get this dream park made, and to the City for having the enlightenment to help make it happen, and to the many, obviously very committed people who are keeping it so well-maintained and welcoming!
Sure hope park doesn't live up to its name one dayButcher Dog Park
I'm writing this as a public service to people who may be considering going here, while on a visit to San Jose, or passing through. We actually live in the Bay Area (East Bay, N of Berkkeley) but planned a 2-day weekend in SJ, partly just to get away from the fog & cold of July (yes, really) and partly to visit a friend of mine. This one is only 8 min's from my friend's house, and sounded decent. We went there twice, and that was plenty. 1st time, not too bad. Got there about noon. There were a couple dozen dogs. It was hard to tell which people went with with dogs. No-one but us was directly engaged with their own dog. Some busy talking, others texting. That bunch of dogs were all pretty friendly, although some were young & pushy, and should have been getting corrections so they would grow up into decent canine citizens. 2 days later, 2nd visit, about 11am. We were walking around the outside to the entry gate, and noticed a scuffle of 4 or 5 dogs, that kept escalating. Nobody did anything. I've been around dogs all my life, and I could see a fight brewing. So we stayed outside and watched to see if anyone was going to act responsibly. Nope. The main aggressor in "play" became the fight initiator. This was a medium size pit mix, white with light tan patches on head, back & flanks. The dog went from rough play to a real, snarling fight in a blink. My husband and I both shouted "That's a FIGHT! Somebody needs to break that up NOW!" So finally the caregiver of the attackee showed up, and the irresponsible owner of the hair-trigger aggressor went and pulled his dog off the other. He was a guy with a cowboy-type hat & curly hair down past his collar. He hauled the dog by the collar back to the chair he'd been lounging in in the shade. I saw him pet and caress the dog, thereby rewarding it for its behavior. Instant removal, by leash, would have been much more useful. A minute later, he'd let go of the animal again, and it was already running aggressively, chivvying another dog. Hat guy was still sitting on his behind in the shade. Seeing the dog now running wild so soon after getting worked up to what would be a big release of cortesol, we kept our dog (who is under good voice control) at the other end of the park, just long enough for her to relieve herself (since we were going to be in the car for a while, going home). Then we got out of there. Outside the fencing, we went past the same guy & dog, I saw that dog's lips writhe back in a full snarl, showing all the teeth, at someone's dog. Those reading this who have trained multiple dogs, and attended many hours of training and handling classes throughout several decades (as we have) will understand why these details are significant, and why I'm afraid the presence of that dog, in what is a very small enclosed space, is in fact a tragedy waiting to happen. If you don't want your young, inexperienced pup or your older, fragile companion chewed up some day beyond repair, just don't go there. And if you know Mr. Cowboy Hat, tell him for Christ's sake, get his act together and hire a behaviorist. He knows dip about that animal he's in charge of.
Well, it's near our house anywayPoint Isabel Regional Shoreline Dog Park
My husband and I happen to live about 10 minutes away from Pt. Isabel, and over the past 30 years, we’ve been there many thousands of times, with a total of 8 dogs of our own (and several long-term fosters). Unfortunately, the best I can still say about it, is that it’s a very quick drive from our house. Yes, there are pros and cons, but they are at best equally balanced, and at worst, the cons can ruin your day.
First, the pros: It is big. And it is off-leash. There are poop bags and trash cans. There is parking. It’s right on the edge of San Francisco Bay (East Bay side), so the views are often spectacular; a wide variety of shoreline-type birds can often be seen. And on the whole, most of the dog-people who visit are very nice. Over the years, we’ve acquired about a dozen “contextual friends” (people we don’t have a relationship with outside of the park, but like a lot, and will join up and walk together any time we meet). Many more people are very friendly in passing. We admire each other’s dogs, comment on the weather, smile & move on. Like, normal human life should be.
Now, the cons. It’s big, off-leash, AND not fenced. So, if you have a dog that’s not great at recall and easily distracted, you could spend some harrowing minutes (or hours) walking all those acres, shouting yourself hoarse.
The main drawback, though, in my opinion, is the occasional dolt on the other end of the human-dog relationship. There aren’t that many, but all it takes is ONE, to ruin your day. Our happy, playful, dog-loving golden-aussie mix has been attacked there twice. Most recently, at age 6, by the personal husky-mix of a “professional” dogwalker (the park is full of them – if they pay a special fee, they can legally bring up to 6 dogs in). The dog raised hackles, bared teeth, and went for my dog’s neck, all within seconds. I ran into the middle, yelling “NO!” and the dog did back off. The owner/dogwalker was useless - many yards away, trying to manage 5 other dogs. About 2.5 years earlier, ours was stalked and attacked by 2 shepherd-mixes belonging to a tall guy with white hair, who tends to be on his phone and ignoring the dogs. Bozos like him always claim “never happened before”. I found out that it had happened to at least 4 other dogs before mine. Since then, she still loves other dogs one-on-one, but if two or more start to close around her, she gets nervous and retreats to my side.
That is the downside – if you run into a human problem, it’s a doozy. The park is ONLY policed by the vast East Bay Parks & Rec system. There is NO officer permanently on-site/on-duty at this huge park. If something “happens”, you have to know the right number to call (not 911). And then wait for someone to be sent from 2 or 3 towns over. Good luck on that. Once when my husband tried to let some other guy know that we saw his dog poop, the guy almost came after him physically (and never did pick it up). I’ve had several risky incidents. Some guy was walking his “teenage” shepherd mix on leash (and 2 human teens, on a psychological leash). The dog was desperate to run & play, and rearing up against the leash continually, at every other dog. Walking past this display (the guy was making it worse with strong-arm “techniques”) I said that if the dog cold be off leash a little, there was less chance of developing leash-aggression. The guy’s response was to start screaming filthy names at me (a solitary older woman). Well, it’s a public park, so I told him off. He was working himself up into a psychotic rage, which led to the daughter coming close and begging ME to “please stop”. I could see in her eyes that however bad it was now, it was going to be a lot worse back home.
Other issues: The San Francisco Bay Trail (multi-use) skirts the off-leash area. There are always a few dumb bicyclists who end up biking THROUGH the dog park (which is clearly posted as “no bikes”). So your little dog or little child could be at risk for being run down.
There are several places where dogs who like to swim can get into the water. But be aware, this place used to be called “Battery Point” and the whole park is a former garbage dump, which got capped with clay soil. There’s really no way of knowing what’s leaching into those shallow waters that ring the mound of landfill.
During the rainy months, the entire park is a muddy morass, with many broad, filthy-looking puddles of black mud (and less savory substances – not every park user bothers to make use of the free poop-bags). I call those puddles “Giardia Soup”. By early June, all that “grass” has turned into a sea of foxtails. There are a couple of walkways – paved in one area, just rocks and dirt in the other. But most dogs will run across the wide-open spaces, which are riddled with big holes that other people’s dogs have dug, and left as deadly ankle-traps hidden under the weed-grasses. If you think you might have to run fast through the open acreage (to catch your dog or to save her), be aware there can be an ankle-breaking hole hidden almost anywhere.
Bottom line – “Pt Is” can be a fun place for confident dogs with good recall, and a responsible caregiver who is willing to follow the rules AND be constantly vigilant in watching out and protecting their own companion(s).
Worthwhile splurgeRevolution Wines
We went to Sacramento on a weekend getaway from the Bay Area. We're vegans, and our dog goes everywhere with us due to separation anxiety. So we were very happy to find somewhere that met both requirements. Our 70 lb Aussie-Golden was one of several dogs in the patio area, and curled up happily underneath a table for 2 that we found against the restaurant wall. The menu doesn't have a huge vegan section, but it was varied enough, that we each found something we really wanted (husband had the "impossible burger" & fries; I had the "vegan charcuterie", and we shared the vegan chocolate mousse - everything was delicious). The waitress brought our dog a bowl of water. The place is pricey ($50 including tip, for what I've described; and we only drank the free water). But for a vacation splurge, and being able to enjoy actual table service, well-prepared food, & keeping our dog with us, we felt it was worth every penny. Would go again, any time we're up that way!
Friendly dogs & people!Glenbrook Dog Park
My husband & I & our 6 year old Aussie-Golden just had a weekend in Sacramento (about 1.25 hrs from our Bay Area home). Our dog is never happier than running off leash in a safe park & meeting other friendly dogs. So we were all so pleased to find this park within easy driving distance of our lodging. Visited 3 times in 3 days, and each time had a really good time! Lots of green grass and big shade trees for comfortable ball chasing, and 2 agility-type challenges (A-frame & tunnel). Our girl did it all! We met many sweet friendly dogs & friendly, open, outgoing people who were happy to casually "talk dogs" with us. The fencing is secure. Sure, there were kids playing baseball in an adjacent area one day, but it didn't bother our girl, and some dogs seem to find it entertaining. I see that someone writes here that there's no small dog section, but there is. It's at the far end of the long narrow big-dog section. It can be accessed by walking to the end of the big-dog section, but I noticed that its separate double-gate entrance can also be reached directly, avoiding the big dogs, through an open grassy field, along a path. There must be more parking where that path starts. So everyone's needs are met! One update - there's a posted sign explaining that poop bags aren't being funded any more, so best to bring your own. But there is a dispenser near the double-gate, where thoughtful people have stuffed in lots of spare plastic bags. So even if you find yourself bagless, you're sure to still be able to do your responsible pick-up. In my view, this was the most cleaned-up dog park we've ever visited. I only wish it were a lot closer to our home!
Nice park except for the people & dogsOhlone Dog Park
We live close to Pt. Isabel, but a few timesin the past year, when we couldn't stand the frigid Bay winds at Isabel any more, we've tried Ohlone, since central Berkeley's warmer & less windy. For a fenced urban dog park it's a pretty good size, and has nice features. Unfortunately, we've had too many unpleasant situations with aggressive, out-of-control dogs that belonged to deliberately oblivious people who seem to think it's against their principles, to actually do any training, break up fights, OR even try to learn any facts about canine behavior & psychology. Last time we were there, some old guy sat silent on a bench while his nasty dog repeatedly attacked some other guy's 4 month old puppy which ended up limping. No apology, no offer of a phone # in case there was a vet bill. Same dog had made some snarky moves at our own dog when we first went in. Lucky ours is always willing to be called away from potential trouble. Park is long & narrow, so we went to the other end. But soon a couple more pushy dogs arrived, so that was our cue to leave. This time, for good.
Worth the drive!Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline
We and our Aussie-Golden live only 5 min's away from Pt. Isabel. But we won't go to Pt. Is on weekends any more - too crowded & crazy. I found this park here on B'Fido, and it was SO worth about 1/2 hr drive each way on a Sunday! Our dog has a good recall, and is mellow with other dogs. She also loves exploring, and this was a peak experience for her. We enjoyed the varied terrain, and even the sound & sight of occasional jets landing at the airport. Two caveats: watch for "no off-leash dogs beyond this point" signs - (there's plenty of ways to go that are unimproved & allowed), and be aware that there seem to be hares living there. At least, we saw one, which saw us & ran. (At midday! Luckily, before our dog did! Not sure if her recall is THAT good.) So if yours has strong prey drive and poor recall, maybe not the park for you. Of course, always best to bring water, bowl and poop bags to every dog park.