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Finding a dog-friendly play space

When people welcome a dog into the home they try their best to offer proper care to the new pet. Food, companionship and veterinary visits are important components of dog care, but exercise must also be a priority. Finding a dog-friendly park or safe area for pets to play is essential to ensuring your four-legged friend is as happy as possible.

Dogs, particularly young dogs, need exercise to ward off any potential bad behavior. Dogs that have not had a chance to run or play and get their energy out may engage in destructive behavior, such as digging holes in your prized garden, chewing at the arms of the sofa, or barking and whining.

The amount of exercise a dog needs depends on breed and age. Some sporting breeds that are used to being on the move all the time may need more than a guard dog who has grown acclimated to less time on the go. Puppies will generally need more exercise than geriatric dogs. In general, most dogs need 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day, so that 5-minute jaunt around the block isn't adequate. Therefore you have to plan for exercise another way, like taking a dog to the park or another place for socialization and exercise.

Some of the best exercise a dog can get is to run around freely in an open space. Add in the opportunity to frolic with other dogs and you can have a day made in doggy heaven. The trouble is, not all places allow pets, and if they do, they usually have leash laws. You'll have to find out which, if any, parks in the area allow off-leash fun for your pet.

For people with access to the Internet, finding a dog park or play space could be a few clicks away. Web sites like, and enable you to search your specific area to find locations that allow dog fun in the U.S. and Canada. Also, word-of-mouth tips from neighbors and friends can yield options on the best places to take dogs for exercise and play off-leash.

Another option is to investigate off-season beaches. The open space by the shoreline is a prime place to let dogs run. While dogs may not be allowed on the beach during peak beach season, once the season ends the restrictions may lift. Check with the parks authority or another official before bringing a dog on the beach. You don't want to risk a fine.

Busy, working pet parents are increasingly turning to doggy daycare options for their pets. These facilities enable you to drop off your pet for the day where they can exercise and socialize inside of a contained indoor or outdoor space. These facilities may have strict requirements for dogs, including proof of updated vaccination records before a dog is allowed inside. They also aren't free. But with different activities and courses, plus the opportunity to play with other dogs, many people rave about doggy daycares.

If you cannot find an off-leash place near your home, think about other ways to exercise your pet. Take him or her along when you bike ride or go for a run. Hiking trails can provide a variety of sights and varied terrain that can stimulate a dog in many ways. Some dogs are water-lovers and will enjoy a day splashing around in the pool, lake or stream. Tossing a ball around the backyard is another way to exercise your pet.

Keep in mind some guidelines when exercising a dog.

* Don't go out in extremely hot or cold weather or you risk injury or illness.

* Good exercise will use both mental and physical capabilities.

* Having a smaller dog does not necessarily mean the dog needs less time to exercise. Many toy breeds risk obesity because of lack of exercise in the home.

* A tired dog is often a well behaved dog.

* If a dog is not prone to good behavior around other dogs, it's best to avoid these social situations. Otherwise you can end up in a fight with another dog owner.

* Some dogs excel at agility training, which also can be a good form of exercise.

Don't underestimate a dog's need for exercise. Finding a safe place for your pet to run free is an essential component of good health.