Off-Leash Dog Parks: Part II – A Caution to Owners

Fall 2012 057I have found off-leash dog parks a great way to meet like minded individuals who are only more than happy to share their passion for dogs. If you are new to town or just looking to meet some new people your local dog park is a great place to do it. Not only does your dog get to meet new friends but so do you! I have met lots of people and lots of dogs, some of whom have become friends and even clients, an added bonus.

Meeting and chatting with people at the dog park is great BUT you still have to pay attention to your dog! Too often I have observed large groups of people chatting away and no one is paying attention to what their dogs are doing. This can be dangerous, and I caution all off-leash dog park users to ALWAYS watch your dog and any dog within close proximity to your own.  Now I must clarify that this is not all people at the park and I have met many responsible dog owners who do indeed pay attention to what their dog is doing, who they are playing with, and always keep an eye open for potential mishaps. Unfortunately, I have seen an awful lot of the other side too.

I think some dog owners tend to assume that every dog at the park will love each other and romp and play happily ever after. This is not so, wish it were, but no dice. We don’t expect each other to like everyone we meet and we can’t expect our dogs to either.  Like people, dogs vary when it comes to personality, likes and dislikes, quirks, triggers etc…  . Therefore, when at the park we should expect the occasional personality clash. Prevention is key and the onus falls on us as owners to do our part and pay attention. More specifically, here are a few things to consider when at the park:  your dog’s body language, the body language of all dogs in a pack, the arrival of new dogs entering an established pack, dog’s on leash (FYI – the off-leash dog park is NOT the exclusive domain of off-leash dogs), small furry creatures our dog’s may decide to bolt after, parking lots (NOT a play area), foreign objects on the field that our dogs may ingest. I could go on and on and on and on and on, and on…  but I won’t, lol. There are many unfortunate situations that can arise due to negligence, but I trust that most of us can probably ascertain the consequences without me going into detail.

This is probably the only situation where I think that people SHOULD treat their dogs like they are children. You would never take a small child to a park and turn your back on them, and as parents we are always watching to ensure that are children are behaving appropriately towards their playmates and are quick to intervene if we see are child being bullied or being the bully. We don’t let our children run into parking lots and heaven forbid they try and eat something they found on the ground, yikes!!  And, yes, I have even seen children on leash (bolters I assume ;)). The point is that as parents we are always diligent, and the goal is to give our children the confidence to explore the world and make new friends while learning to behave in a safe and appropriate manner. Why not afford the same care and attention to our dogs?

In any case, what I am getting at is very simple and easy to do. So I encourage all dog owners who choose to frequent off-leash parks to keep at it, have fun and mingle away, but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, KEEP YOUR EYES ON YOUR DOG!

Just a thought,

Anthea

Off-Leash Dog Parks – Part I

To Play or Not to Play?

In my opinion off-leash dog parks are not the best choice for toy play. Your dog may love their Frisbee or ball and both are excellent options to exercise your dog, however, the off-leash dog park is not the best place to bring out your bag of toys.

Even if your dog does not have guarding issues and is more then happy to share toys, other dogs may not. I have seen more than one dog fight break out over sticks, frisbees and the infamous orange Chuck it balls and frankly the risk is not worth it. The dogs on the field may be great playing and wrestling with other dogs and show no signs of aggression until….. toss a loose ball into the mix and all hell breaks loose. Even if you are lucky enough to be on the field with dogs that don’t have guarding issues there are always plenty of ball thieves at the park (Boomer is guilty as charged!) and you may find yourself chasing said thieves all over the field more then playing with your own dog.

Also worth mentioning, it has been my observation that many dogs don’t show any interest in socializing with other dogs when a toy is in their field of vision. So, if you head to the park in hopes to help socialize your dog and romp around with some doggie friends, your efforts may be foiled if you have a toy out on the field.

Right about now you might be thinking, why not bring my toys to the park?  It’s a public park and I can use it as I see fit. Yes, it is a public park and by definition, YOU are not  the only person using it. As members of the public it is our responsibility to use it in a respectful manner that is safe for all.

Personally, I like to leave the ball in the truck or in my jacket and will have a toss if dog friends are few and far between BUT  if the dog park is teeming with dogs , the toys go away. It is a personal pet peeve of mine to find someone throwing toys right through a pack of playing dogs; it’s just an accident waiting to happen. Unless you are fortunate enough to know all the dogs and owners well enough to ensure you won’t have an issue, use your judgement, play it safe, and find a quiet end of the park to pull out your toys or just keep the toys under wraps.

Just a thought,

Anthea

Off Leash Dog Parks – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The off leash dog park concept has grown in popularity over the past decade.  With an increase in the call to responsible dog ownership, the importance of socialization and conditioning to your dogs overall well being, and the increase in urban development and subsequent decrease in green space, the off leash dog park can be an excellent resource to dog enthusiasts.

I have frequented many off leash dog parks and as much as they can be an excellent way to exercise and socialize your dog, I have also observed many downfalls to this concept. I am by no means saying that dog parks are bad, I have enjoyed many hours watching my dog ripping around with his new found friends and overall I would say my experience has been positive. That being said, there are definite cons to this type of environment, all preventable in my opinion, and it is up to us as responsible dog owners to ensure that ALL patrons of the off leash dog park, two and four legged alike, are doing our part to provide a safe and positive environment for all.

My top three pet peeves when at the Dog Park: Owners (some, not all!), Toys, and Doggie Doo.

Stay Tuned,

Anthea