Maintaining a positive relationship between dog owners and other park users

Being granted to use an off leash parks is a privilege but many dog owners don’t seem understand this and are letting their dogs become more and more of a nuisance in these areas.

Just because the park is off leash for your dog doesn’t mean that your dog can do anything it likes. In most council areas dog owners are required to share the park with walkers, joggers, cyclists and parents with prams, children and other dogs.

Dog owners’ cannot assume that because their dog is friendly that every other dog at the park is going to enjoy running around with it. Also parents may not appreciate your dog sticking its nose into their baby’s pram and having a good sniff! Dogs off leash are also a hazard getting in the way of joggers and cyclists or, even worse, chasing them.

Here is a list of tips that will maintain positive relationships between dog owners and other park users.

Practise recalling your dog to you even when you don’t need to. Use a whistle or a squeaker over long distances and always reward your dog for coming back. Always give your dog lots of pats. It’s up to you if you want to use treats; however, the best reward is being allowed to run free again. If you scold or punish your dog for coming back it simply won’t and you can’t blame it. If you train your dog to return to you and reward it with lots of pats and let it run free again your dog will always want to come to you. There will be a time when you’ll need to put it on leash but that’s okay if you let it go during training.

If you see someone approaching with a dog ask if they are happy for your dog to meet theirs. Many dogs are over whelmed when they meet new dogs and this can encourage aggression. It is best to make sure the other person’s dog is friendly. It might be your dog that ends up being bitten and this can lead to fear based aggression later on.

If you see someone put their dog on leash when they see you do the same. They know their dog and may feel they need to protect it. It is safe practise for you to do the same.

If there are houses that back onto the park make sure that your dog doesn’t go up to fences and start barking at the dogs on the other side. Their owners may get complaints from neighbours if their dog is barking excessively. It would be unfair for a dog in this situation to get into trouble because another dog is goading it through the fence.

If your dog runs after a cyclist or jogger walk away while you are calling it. If you try to catch your dog and / or chase it your dog might think it is some kind of game and think you are rewarding it for chasing the bike or jogger. If you walk in the other direction your dog will more than likely want to follow you. If this happens please yell out an apology to the other person – it’s just good manners!

If your dog does runs off and simply won’t come back then use a long line or lunge line. You might use one if your dog is aggressive too. A nice long 20 metre leash will give your dog the freedom to wander around and take in or the smells at the park while you have the added security of being able to reel it in if necessary.

Start training your dog to run off leash as early as possible. As young puppies are easier to train don’t be afraid of starting this type of training as soon as you get him or her. They will respond to lots of affection and it will help build your relationship with it more.

Being a responsible dog owner is about taking the rights of others into consideration and ensuring that they are left alone to use the park in any way they want. If this doesn’t happen then authorities are well within their rights to deny our dogs access to these areas and that would be a terrible shame.

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