A recent visit to the dog park inspired me to write about the responsibilities of dog owners who take their furry companions to play there. It’s important to note that I have very mixed feelings about dog parks in the first place. The idea of a place to bring dogs that is safe for off leash play and interactions with other dogs and people is great. In theory, it should be a place for exercise, socialization, and even a ideal spot for like minded (dog loving) people to mingle. However, there are a lot of things that people don’t consider (or fail to understand) when it comes to dog parks and the dangers of such a seemingly wonderful place…
First off, dog parks are for dogs! I know this may seem obvious to a lot of you, but what isn’t necessarily obvious is all that this entails. Anyone bringing their dog(s) here should have a basic understanding of who their dog gets along with and who their dog doesn’t get along with. If you go to the park knowing, for example, that your dog doesn’t like men with hats on. Noticing a man with a hat inside the park should be enough to deter you from entering. Same goes for any other type of person or dog that you know your dog may have a hard time with. When in doubt, LEAVE!
That being said, there are usually (and should ALWAYS be) restrictions on what types of humans are allowed in the dog park. Small children have no business being there. As much as a toddler would love to be surrounded by dogs in a park where he/she can run around and pet new furry friends, it is an extremely dangerous place for a them! This is the encounter that I had at my last visit to the dog park. My dogs and I were first greeted by a two year old when entering the park. Luckily, Kona and Hobbes are used to children, so this little girl escaped with just a few licks to the face from Hobbes. I wouldn’t be surprised though, if even my own kid loving pups had knocked her down on their way to chase a ball or meet another dog in sight. Any dogs that are afraid of or aggressive towards children could posed a much worse threat. As one other dog parent said so eloquently ‘Children aren’t allowed here. If my dog jumps up and nips her, it’s not my fault, it’s her idiot mom’s fault.’
As much as I agreed with this lady’s statement, I decided to take a calmer, nicer approach to try and teach this family about the danger they were putting their toddler in. The little girl was being escorted by what seemed to be her older teenage sister while the mom sat in the small dog area with the stroller. I approached the teenage girl and calmly stated, “from a dog trainer’s perspective, that little girl is in a very dangerous position. This park is for people to bring dogs to, and those dogs don’t always feel comfortable around children. She could get bit or even knocked over by a couple of dogs playing. Children aren’t allowed here for a reason, I wouldn’t want to see her get hurt.” The teenage girl honestly hadn’t thought about all this and seemed to understand what I was trying to say. She immediately went back to the other park with the little girl (still not out of the woods, but at least only the family’s small dogs were in there).
It dawned on me that dog parks are dangerous because of either people that don’t understand what the parks are for or people that just don’t understand dogs (including their own). Either way, I would love to see more education out there in regard to dog parks and how to use them responsibly. I plan on educating as many people as I possibly can! Please make sure you understand your dog well enough to know that they will be comfortable in this setting, and that you are always ready to walk away if there is ever a moment of tension.