We love dog parks. Especially now that we live in a city and don’t have nearly as much access to open space. When we lived in Boulder, our dogs almost never went to dog parks since we could take them hiking on many of the local trails. They didn’t have to be on leash and they could run, sniff, and play as much as they liked. It was great for them and terrific for us. It’s how we taught our dogs to pay attention and keep close to us. Since they weren’t on the leash, they had to stick around on their own. We didn’t yell or chase after them when they wandered off. It was a leap of faith, but if you just keep going your dog will almost always come chasing after you.
But now we visit two of the local and large dog parks located at the reservoirs. I’m not sure of the acreage, but when we circumnavigate them on the trails, one is about a mile-and-a-half, and the other is a little over 2 miles. If you do a couple laps or criss-cross the trails a bit, we usually walk about 3 miles, and since the dogs are off-leash and running free, goodness knows how many miles they are logging. They both have water access. One has a couple ponds and the other has a stream.
The rules are the same at both. If you have your dog off leash they are supposed to be under voice and sight control, and of course they can’t be aggressive towards other dogs or humans. Non-aggressive is a must, but I can let the voice-and-sight control slide a bit. To the letter of the rule, this means you can stop them on a dime and they are NEVER out of your sight. Not just around a corner, or behind a rock or tree, etc. That’s a great goal and I’m envious of those who have truly achieved it, but I figure as long as my dogs are sticking with me and don’t cause trouble, all is good.
For the most part, the dogs we encounter at the park are at worst overly excited. Some don’t get out as much as necessary, so when they do they go a bit nuts. This is okay. The humans, however, can be another matter. Here are some behaviors we’ve observed which leave you wondering…
1. It should go without saying, but when you go to a dog park, you’re going to encounter dogs. If you don’t like dogs, don’t get one and definitely don’t show up at the park. It’s amazing how often you’ll see folks expressing dislike when other dogs come nearby. And I’m not talking about jumping on them or humping their leg, I’m talking about just being there in close proximity.
2. Akin to #1, don’t wear clothes to the dog park you wish to keep clean. It’s just not going to happen. Again, this doesn’t mean you should expect and allow dogs to jump on you, as that doesn’t really happen. But they do run by, kicking up dirt and mud, and they do come over to get petted, and they definitely tend to shake off water near you. That’s just a dog being a dog.
3. Pick up after your dog. As stated earlier, it’s okay to be a bit flexible on the voice and sight control, but if you are regularly walking with your back to your dog, then you’re just being both foolish and irresponsible. Not seeing your dog use the bathroom because you’re intentionally ignoring them and not paying attention is no excuse. We all know what you’re doing and you are being a jerk.
4. Also, if you’re continually ignoring your dog and not paying attention, then you don’t know how they are interacting with the other dogs and humans. You need to pay attention and deal with any behavior issues or encounters.
5. If you run with your dog in the park, don’t be surprised when other dogs decide to chase or run along with you. It’s basic dog DNA and you cannot become annoyed unless the dog is overly persistent or actually trying to tackle you. That’s aggression and not tolerable, but a dog chasing a running person or animal is just what they do – especially when they’ve come to a park to play.
6. Like running, if you bring your bike to a dog park, it is your responsibility to ride slow enough to be able to stop immediately. I won’t even go into the hazards of over-running your dog (quick note – just because they are still running behind you doesn’t mean they are fine. You are their owner and pack leader, and they will run after you until they die – it’s a dog thing), but there are other dogs there and like runners, they love chasing the faster moving object. Dogs like shepherds will do their shepherd thing and attempt to cut you off and change your path.
7. Along with number five and six, if you’re not running or biking with a dog at all, stay the hell out of the park. You can run just about everywhere, and there are definitely multiple options for biking. Don’t be an ass and stay out of the dog park. And if you really, really, must ride or run in a dog park, please respect where you are and understand, and expect, there are dogs there.
8. Almost all dog parks have a rule about keeping your dog on leash when in the parking lot. Respect that rule. If not for the safety of your own dog, think about the others driving in and out. None of them want to hit, injure, or kill your dog because you didn’t bother to look out for their safety. They’ll be devastated, and it will be your fault.
9. This last tip is not exclusive to dog parks, and it shouldn’t even have to be said, but if you are in an open space with field grass, trees, and bushes, don’t smoke – and definitely don’t drop your cigarette butt on the ground. I see them every time I’m at the park, and it never ceases to amaze me how foolish and selfish some smokers are.
Just a few my observations. Hope to see you all at the dog park.