Bringing your dog to an off-leash dog park can be a great way for them to exercise and socialize. Dogs (most of them anyway) were made to run! Having a nearby off-leash park is a great asset to a community. When you visit a dog park though, you should be aware of a few things. Everybody wants to a have a fun, safe time with their pup! Here are the top 5 things to keep in mind when going to hang out at your local dog park.
#1 Safety is key
While the park can seem like dog paradise, there will always be some hazards around. You may notice that dog walkers are ALWAYS watching. Sometimes it seems like they have eyes in the back of their heads! They are looking for a few key things:
Changes in dog behaviour (theirs and others)
Newcomers to the park
Gates opening and closing
Poop eaters (The dogs not the humans. Hopefully.)
In order to keep your dog safe, practice watching for these things and proactively dealing with them.
#2 Toys are not always welcome
"What!?!?" you gasp. Yeah. Toys suck sometimes. Your dog may be a classic ball chaser, and loves to do nothing but that. But not every dog has manners when it comes to toys. Now some people might say "Well they shouldn't bring that dog in". Maybe they're right. But until that ball-obsessed dog isn't in the park anymore, your dog's safety is at risk. If you want to minimize the risk, minimize the triggers. The park can still be a fun place without toys!
#3 Dogs LOVE food
When bringing treats/food into the park, be aware that some dogs may follow you around, constantly begging. Don’t get annoyed at them! YOU’RE the one that brought food into the park. Gently say no, go away, no more, etc.
#4 Be honest with yourself
Not every dog is a good fit for the dog park. Your dog may not be a good fit for the dog park if:
• Your dog is shows signs of fear in the dog park and does not leave your side (or the corner, or the gate, or the bench, etc.)
• You have an aggressive dog that picks fights
• You have a resource-guarding dog (i.e. they aggressively guard objects/locations)
• Your dog is sick or not up to date on vaccinations
• You have an un-neutered male that triggers other dogs bad behaviours
#5 You are responsible for your dog
Your dog is YOUR dog. If your dog is in the park, you need to be too. If your dog poops, you need to pick it up (barring any medical/health issue that does not allow you to). On the other side of that coin, when you enter a dog park, know that there might be a dog or dogs in there that are not as perfect as yours obviously is. Keep your wits about you, and keep your knees bent (getting knocked over by running dogs is just not fun)!
“Dog owners/ walkers and or commercial dog walkers are legally responsible for their own dog(s) and any injuries or damage caused by their dog(s). Individuals who choose to use off-leash areas do so at their own risk. “ 1
If you want more information on dog park etiquette, check out this article by the OSPCA: Dog Park Etiquette
Click here for a link to the Toronto City List of Off-Leash Dog Parks
We also LOVE this infographic made by "My Kid has Paws" What do you think?