I 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,