Happy First Day of Spring! For those of us with urban and inside dogs, we can’t wait to get out into the dog parks, especially the off leash dog parks, and re-establish all the wonderful social connections that tend to fall by the wayside over winter. We will all do well by our pooches when we keep some basic dog park etiquette in mind, so that everyone involved can enjoy the experience, most especially the dogs!
Dog Park Etiquette
Some cities and neighbourhoods, like Richmond Hill in Ontario, have an wonderful volunteer group called Richmond Hill K9 Klub, that helps the City supervise the off leash dog parks in their area. The group also lobbies the City to add more when and where there is an obvious need. Just last month another dog park was made permanent, and you can read more about it here.
The rules they have established for their off leash and dog parks provide an excellent guideline for dog park etiquette anywhere.
For instance, there are some dogs that should not be brought to an off leash dog park for saftey reasons. Those include female dogs in heat and male dogs that have not been neutered. Similarly dogs without up-to-date vaccinations can put others at jeopardy should there be a scuffle. Unfortunately in Ontario, our government enforces Breed Specific Legislation, so there are some breeds of dogs that need to be muzzled when out and about, specifically pit bull and pit bull breed mixes.
Some etiquette is based on common sense, and the ability of owners or dog handlers to manage the dogs under their care. In Richmond Hill, they mandate that dogs be accompanied by an owner of at least 16 years of age, and that no one owner be solely responsible for more than 3 dogs in the off leash area. When the dogs are leashed coming into and leaving the off-leash area, it helps manage the level of over-excitability and sometimes the bit of chaos that ensues when new visitors arrive and current visitors rush to greet.
It goes without saying that every dog owner and handler is responsible for picking up after the dog or dogs in their care – that stuff really piles up quick when unattended, and can become a health hazard for people and dogs. Believe it or not up to 100 children become partially blinded from a parasite in dog poop.
Not all dog parks are off-limits to very young children, particularly those that are not fenced off leash dog parks. The decision is ultimately up to parents, and there are pros and cons to commingling. Some cities, like Richmond Hill, do actually go so far as to state children under the age of 12 are not permitted within their off leash dog parks. If you have kids and dogs and are heading out, best to check in advance. Services like condopuppy.com have listings of dog parks in a number of Canadian cities.
Additional tips for the dog park
An off-leash dog park is obviously a place dedicated to the dogs, but those who may be new to ownership benefit from friendly advice. If you see someone that seems unsure of themselves, or whose dog may be acting a little inappropriately on a sustained and ongoing basis, think back to when you were in their shoes (or paws!) and help them with gentle suggestions. For example, dogs playing do not watch out for people in their way, that means you watch out for them! Everyone needs to be ready to take control of any situation – you are responsible for your dogs behaviour. Never give a treat to someone else’s dog without their permission – some dogs are so sensitive even a small bit of something could send them into serious medical crisis. Many dog afflictions are brought on by sharing edibles and drinkables, so bring water for your dog and be sure to take it with you when you leave. And of course, if a dog is continually aggressive towards other dogs and people, they will need to leave the park.
Dog Park Resources
- CondoPuppy.com provides a list of Off Leash Parks in a number of Canada’s major cities