Dog owners in the Greater Victoria area are fortunate to have many leash optional areas to take their companions.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of “dog parks”  – I’ve seen too much conflict and inappropriate behaviour (both canine and human).

Here’s a list of suggestions to keep your dog out of trouble at the dog park.

  • Familiarize yourself with local bylaws and animal control organizations (i.e. who to ask a question to or call if there’s a problem).
  • Pick up after your dog – no one likes stepping in a “land mine” and picking up helps to control the spread of disease and parasites.
  • Do not bring young puppies (under four months of age) to the dog park. Your puppy is at a very impressionable age – good experiences can go a long way however a bad experience or two can set them up for a lifetime of problems. Instead, arrange “play dates” with well socialized, appropriate adult dogs or puppies of a similar age (keep age grouping very tight – allowing nine month old teenagers to play with 16 week old puppies is like putting teenagers with toddlers)  in back yards or baseball diamonds (most baseball diamonds allow dogs in the fall and winter months).
  • Do not bring young children to a dog park – lots of reasons for this.
  • No collars with chain – choke collars or martingale collars. If your dog is playing/wrestling with other dogs they should have a collar with a quick release buckle.  I’ve heard of numerous instances where two dogs playing have ended up with a tooth caught in a chain collar.  Dogs panic, owners intervene and get badly bit.
  • Don’t let dogs congregate/play near the main entrances to the dog park.  This tends to be a “hot zone” for conflict with many newcomers being overwhelmed by the exising playgroup.
  • Don’t let your dogs approach on leash dogs.  On leash dogs have just as much right to be at “leash optional” parks as you and your dog do.  If you can’t call your dog back, your dog hasn’t earned the privelege of being off leash.  The on leash dog may be injured, sick, old or simply not appreciate other dogs getting in their face.  Be respectful of their space.
  • Do not let your dog chase wildlife, joggers, bikers or horses.  This is a very real source of conflict in multi-use parks.  If your dog does any of the foregoing, you need to do more training before allowing your dog off leash.
  • Do familiarize yourself with normal dog behaviour and don’t allow your dog to bully others or be bullied.
  • Do keep moving – most of the conflicts I have witnessed firsthand occur when owners and their dogs “hang out” in one spot  (often the owners are chatting and not paying attention to their dogs).
  • Do interrupt rough play – yes…the dogs will “work it out”…you just might not like how they do it – someone may be off to the vet as a result of the dogs being left to their own devices.
  • Do not bring toys to the dog park especially if your dog is a resource guarder.
  • Don’t bring more dogs than you can handle – depends on the dogs but in my opinion four should be the maximum.
  • Teach your dog not to jump on people.
  • Local bylaws prohibit females in heat from being anywhere other than on their owner’s property.
  • If your dog is having trouble at the dog park, consult a professional.

Contrary to popular belief, dog parks are not the best place to socialize a dog.

If your dog:

  • Is under four months of age
  • Is not appropriately vaccinated (more on that in an upcoming post)
  • Is fearful/uncomfortable /overwhelmed with other dogs or people i.e.  barks at, runs from, gets into conflict with
  • Chases horses, joggers, skateboarders, bikers
  • Is not healthy
  • Is in heat
  • Does not come when called
  • Has seriously injured a person or dog
  • Has repeatedly gotten into confrontations at the dog park

Don’t take them to a dog park!!

Watch for an upcoming blog article on how to appropriately socialize a dog or puppy.

More on dog park etiquette:

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers

WebMD – Dog Park Etiquette and Tips

 Dog Star Daily – Training in the Dog Park

Dog Star Daily – Dog Parks and Why You Should Avoid Them