The Dog Park: Can we make it better?
To dog owners, nothing is quite so alluring, or intimidating, as “The Leash-Free” or “The Dog Park”. It
sounds so innocent and care-free, and you head there with the thought of a fun outing for your dog.
Maybe even with the bonus of meeting other families who share your love of dogs! Your hope for a safe
place to take your dog for some time off leash, and time to be social with the other canines, seems
reasonable. So why does this not always play out? And why the nagging doubt?
Not so long ago, there seemed to be more options for some open space without needing to leave the
city. In my youth I used to take my bike along Ford Drive to a riding stable where now there is constant
heavy traffic and an ever-expanding strip mall (because we can’t have too many of those). It was so
great, but now long gone. Large fenced in spaces are needed now more than ever to allow some dogs
freedom beyond the confines of the backyard.
Consider how these spaces could work better for you and your canine companion:
1) Don’t even think about a leash-free situation if you can’t successfully recall your dog;
2) It’s your responsibility to keep your aggressive dog (and you know who you are) out of the leash
free area; Not everyone has a “right” to that space, and your aggressive dog does not belong
3) Your fearful dog will not become more confident by being left to their own devices in a group
(read pack) of boisterous and confident dogs; Not every personality can cope with it;
4) Dogs will not “work things out” amongst themselves; if you have controlled everything your dog
has ever done, don’t assume they will be able to make the right decisions in a pack
5) Never allow a small dog in a group of large dogs; Come back later when things are quieter;
6) Keep your dog vaccinated and dewormed; We don’t appreciate your dog pooping parasite eggs
and spreading Kennel Cough where everyone is playing;
7) Pay attention to your dog at all times! Nothing is more frustrating than “that owner” who is not
paying any attention while their dog is driving everyone else crazy;
8) Take care of this shared area and help keep it safe for everyone to enjoy; If you spot a hazard
throw it out!
Every year at our pet hospital we have dog bites that need suturing from a traumatic event at the dog
park. Un-neutered young male dogs are often the victims of aggression. Young dogs who are attacked
are often left with a life-long fear and a changed personality because of an encounter with an aggressive
dog. The families involved are often traumatized as well, it is shocking and upsetting. Injuries can also
happen during rough play that is not necessarily aggressive, but the “big-dog-little-dog” scenario can
have serious consequences for the little-dog.
Help keep the park a source of fun by investing in proper training (I have never met an over-trained
dog), knowing when to give it a miss (listen to your little voice and know when not to take chances), and
making sure your dog is in a safe situation (because no one needs more medical bills). Dogs can learn
aggression from other dogs and avoiding it in the first place is so very important. Your dog(s) are relying
on you and your common sense, and that can make the world of difference on how you enjoy your time
at the park!