Many dog owners love to watch their dogs run and play with other dogs. Off-leash dog parks and dog beaches are popular for this very reason – cheerful dogs romping around, socializing with their canine pals, is a sight that makes many a dog owner’s heart happy.
Leash-free parks can be a great resource for dog owners, and for their dogs who can enjoy some freedom and extra exercise. But off-leash dog parks aren’t suitable for every dog (or for every owner). In particular, small, fenced areas with lots of loose dogs sporting many different personalities can be overwhelming and stressful for many dogs. Don’t force the issue; if your dog isn’t comfortable with these types of parks or dog-to-dog interactions, don’t go – there are other options like off-leash trails (unfenced), leashed walks and hikes, supervised dog daycares, and dog sports like dog agility or flyball. All of these options can provide both physical and mental stimulation, and result in a well-exercised and happy dog!
PAY ATTENTION. Your dog is your responsibility. Too many times, dogs get into trouble while their owners are busy doing something else. It’s tempting to stand around and chat with other dog owners, or catch up on your voice mails or texts, but every owner needs to watch their dogs for signs of stress or aggression, and must be ready to take appropriate steps. This is for the safety of everyone at the park – including your own dog!
Keep your pet on leash if there isn’t a sign stating that dogs may run off-leash.
Always carry a leash even in a leash-free area. You never know when you may need it.
Don’t let your dog intimidate, pester or harass other dogs (or people). Even if you think your dog is being friendly, at the first sign that the other dog (or person) is feeling annoyed, stressed or uncomfortable, recall your dog and keep him engaged with you for a few moments (to let him calm down) before releasing him to play again. If he continues to repeat the behaviour, it’s time to leave the park.
Make sure your dog has a good recall, even with distractions.
Always keep your dog close and within sight. Ideally, your dog would be close enough for you to quickly intervene should you need to.
Don’t bring sick dogs to the dog park. Contagious dogs can infect other dogs; and dogs who are feeling ill or who have been weakened by illness could be injured by the rough-and-tumble play-styles of other dogs in the park.
Don’t bring female dogs in heat to the dog park.
Don’t bring young puppies. Their immune systems are not yet fully developed.
Never bring more dogs than you can handle if a situation were to arise.
Dog parks aren’t typically a suitable environment for children. If children are permitted within the park, they should be accompanied by an adult.
Don’t bring toys – they may cause guarding or territorial issues.
If your dog starts behaving aggressively, leash him immediately and leave.
Leash-free areas are not suitable for aggressive dogs.
If you notice other dogs (or owners) behaving in a way that makes you or your dog uncomfortable, leave immediately.
No digging! Fill in any holes your dog has created. No one wants to trip in a hole and potentially sprain or break something.
Respect the rules of the dog park. Many parks have signage at the entrance that clearly states the rules.
Clean up after your dog… every time!
Always be present and attentive. It bears stating one more time – your dog relies on you to keep him safe.
In Canada, dogs are usually permitted in most regional, provincial, and national parks, but must be leashed. Signs are generally posted where dogs are not permitted in these parks (for example, in environmentally-sensitive areas). Likewise, signs are posted to indicate “off-leash” areas. Dogs are generally not permitted on public beaches except where posted. If in doubt, contact the park office.