How might one beat the “middle-of-winter-blues?” Once the chill of winter passes, Washingtonians are no stranger to the next few months of rain and gray that follow. We humans are not the only ones susceptible to cabin fever. Our furry friends endure the winter indoors with us as well.

olympia supplyFortunately for us, our community is full of dog friendly, beautiful, and luscious green parks and forests perfect for a romp with your four-legged friend. Getting out and about might be just the thing you both need. Thurston County offers many parks, almost all of which are dog friendly. While there aren’t very many places you can’t take your dog, there is definitely one place you can’t go without them in tow.

The Thurston County Off-Leash Dog Park in Hawks Prairie is one of the few in the area that gives Fido room to run off-leash. The five-acre facility is open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week, and features a special area for small dogs, water stations, a sand and gravel area for digging, paths and fencing.

thurston county dog park
At the Thurston County Off-Leash Dog Park, your furry friend is able to run, fetch, and dig to their heart’s desire in the vast five acres.

Since 2010, Thurston County’s Off-Leash Dog Park has been meeting the needs of dog owners who want to let their canine companions run free. It is located on the Waste and Recovery Center campus just north of the Marvin Road exit at Interstate 5 in Hawks Prairie.

Lisa and Bryan Smith, who have been bringing their dog Tucker to the park for close to three years, have nothing but great things to say. “We love bringing Tucker to this park. It keeps him interacting with a lot of other dogs. Everyone here is responsible with their pets and super friendly,” shares Lisa. “Maybe one day he’ll even get good at the agility courses,” jokes Bryan.

The Off-Leash Dog Park is equipped with many activities for your furry friend to enjoy while playing with the other dogs such as pipes and wooden platforms, places to dig, and of course big open space to run. Thurston County’s Off-Leash Dog Park is specifically designed to exercise, stimulate, and socialize your dog. This might be just what your pet needs after spending cold winter days indoors.

Dogs are free to run, play and interact with other dogs at the Off-Leash Dog Park, however owners are asked to be attentive and follow common etiquette rules to ensure everyone has fun.
Owners are asked to be attentive and follow common etiquette rules to ensure everyone has fun at the Off-Leash Park.

Naturally, a place where dogs are able to freely socialize is accompanied by a set of rules. Guidelines are set so that hostile situations may be avoided or subdued if the feistier dogs get out of hand. While the rules may be obvious or even over generalized such as “pick up after your pet” and “skittish dogs are better left at home,” there is an underlying set of standards for you and your furry friend to follow.

Dog park etiquette plays a vital role when introducing your dog to others in an open environment such as the Off-Leash Dog Park. Once you and your furry friend get to the park, it may be tempting to simply stand back and watch all the commotion (or your phone) while your dog runs around. In actuality, everybody will have a much better experience if you observe basic etiquette when visiting a dog park. The suggestions below are common sense guidelines to consider next time you go to a park with your pet.

  • Always keep your attention on your dog.
  • Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date.
  • Always clean up after your pet.
  • Don’t bring puppies under six months old.
  • Pick up any trash or debris you may find inside the park so dogs don’t mistake it for a snack.
  • Close all doors and gates when entering or leaving the park to prevent run-aways.
  • If your dog starts to play rough or becomes unruly, put a leash on them and leave the park.

These are just a few tips of etiquette to follow that will help make your time spent at the park worthwhile and your dog’s experience more enjoyable.

Heidi Hoffman can attest to the benefits of park etiquette in action.

thurston county dog park
Tucker loves spending a day at the park playing with his owners and socializing with the other dogs.

For the past two years Heidi has been an avid and frequent dog park visitor. In fact, she credits dog parks with her dog’s friendly and personable attitude. “I decided to start taking Tito there [Off-Leash Dog Park] so that he could become well rounded and socialized,” says Heidi. “He not only was able to become accustomed to other dogs, but also to other people. That’s something that is really important when owning a dog: making sure they are comfortable with their surroundings.” Heidi is a firm believer in the dog park etiquette. “With everyone following it [etiquette], we all have a better time bonding with our pets and letting our pets socialize.”

Don’t stay pent up for the remainder of the rainy season and keep your dog cooped up as well. Take your furry friend down to Thurston County’s Off-Leash Dog Park so they can run, play, and dig off some of that canine energy.

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