SMITHVILLE – Tracy Kasserman watched her two German Shepherds, King and Duke, as they walked through a new private one-acre lot dog park.
The littermates quickly explored the fenced borders before turning their attention to a half-buried tire. They were the first guests at the park, which opened Wednesday, March 30.
When Kasserman entered the park, her dogs rushed towards her. Excited by his presence, they jumped on him with their muddy paws, dirtying his shirt.
“It really is such a great idea,” Kasserman said of the park to owner Rebekah Undersander.
Undersander created the private dog park as a safe place for reactive dogs who would otherwise overreact to the presence of other dogs or people.
Customers can reserve time at the park in hourly intervals for $8 per dog online at Sniff spot, an Airbnb-like app service for private dog parks. It is the first private dog park established by the service in Wayne County.
The location is on his property and will also serve as a park and training ground, said Undersander, a dog trainer at his company. Provide Pawsand.
What is responsiveness? Can it be trained from a dog?
As a reactive dog owner, Undersander said dogs need to be trained otherwise fights can occur between dogs or dogs and people.
Often mistaken for outright aggression, some dogs may become overstimulated or overreact to certain stimuli or situations, depending on the breed. American Kennel Club. Although these reactions can be aggressive, they are usually rooted in fear.
According to the AKC website, triggers can range from bearded men to children or feeling trapped if on a leash.
If an individual encounters a reactive dog, it’s best to give them space and leave them alone, the AKC warns.
Undersander experienced this with his own dog once. He would be in a heightened state of consciousness and anxiety until he returned from the park, she said.
“My dog would be upset all the time,” she said.
The AKC explains that genetics, lack of socialization and training, or scary experiences can lead to reactive canines, but this reaction can be mitigated with enough training.
At Provide Pawsable, Undersander trains service dogs for people with disabilities or those who need a support animal. She is also specialized in reactive canine education.
“Service dogs need to gain the confidence to know they can do their job in any situation, and that’s how we try to train responsive dogs as well,” she said. .
Like humans, service animals can become stressed or anxious in any new situation. Undersander teaches the dog to focus on the job at hand and ignore the stressful environment.
“A lot of what I do is train the owner as well, because what I do won’t stick if he doesn’t continue to train at home,” Undersander said.
She does this by teaching owner and dog how to reduce stress and fear responses using various techniques.
A private dog park for those who cannot afford training
For Undersander, his private dog park is there to fill a service gap in the community.
Although there is an $8 fee to reserve a spot, she wanted to create a safe space for reactive animals and their owners to play without worrying about other people and animals.
“I’m not a big fan of dog parks,” Undersander said. Public dog parks are convenient, she admitted, but dogs need training and not everyone can provide that.
As a student, Undersander was active in sports. It ended when she fell ill in her third year. After four surgeries, she needed a wheelchair.
It was then that she turned to animals.
Undersander soon realized how expensive service animals were, not to mention the job training. With a university budget, she decided to adopt a dog and educate it herself.
“I ran into some hurdles quickly, so I started to teach myself how to train him,” Undersander said.
She quickly decided to make dog training a business.
“At one point, I was taking two course loads,” she said. “One for my major, biochemistry and evening business class with a professor.”
In 2019, she launched Provide Pawsable, where she strives to make dog training and dog ownership possible for everyone, she said.
Now with a team of three employees, including herself and her husband, she mainly gives individual lessons and does some group lessons.
What the private park offers
The one acre dog park is a fenced lot connected to Undersander’s detached garage. A muddy gate near the garage is the main entrance to the lot.
Poop bags and a trash can are available for all guests to pick up their dogs.
“I want to keep the area as clean as possible for people and their dogs,” Undersander said. “I’ve heard complaints about how dirty the dog parks in the area are.” She hopes to avoid this.
Although there is no water or toys available, she aims to remedy this without exposing the dogs to diseases transmitted by other dogs. To avoid creating such a breeding ground, Undersander can provide inexpensive water bottles and toys.
“It could be kind of a take-a-toy, leave-a-toy policy,” she said.
If the dog park becomes more popular, she could provide more things like tires for the dogs to play in the field.
Contact Bryce by email at [email protected]
On Twitter: @Bryce_Buyakie