By Amy Wakley-Ahearn
Off-leash dog parks can be a great way to socialise your pooch. They provide an opportunity for your pet to run around with other dogs, experience a variety of smells and sounds and generally enjoy themselves. And they give you a chance to meet other dog lovers and have a bit of a chat.
Like all social things, there’s a bit of etiquette involved.
- Make sure you’re your dog will respond to their name or your voice. You need to have a good level of control over your dog to ensure you can keep him, and other dogs, safe.
- Know your breed. Certain dogs, like greyhounds, should only ever be off-leash in fully enclosed areas because they are sight-hounds. They may spot something in the distance and tear off, ending up lost or in a dangerous situation. We also recommend that even if your greyhound has its Greenhound collar, that you keep its muzzle on while in off-leash dog parks due to the heightened level of activity and excitement! Be sure to follow muzzling laws at all times.
- Be respectful of other dog owners and their comfort levels. If your dog likes to play chase but this makes their owner uncomfortable, step in and divert your dog’s behaviour.
- Only take your dog to an off-leash park once he’s shown you that he’s OK with meeting other dogs. Don’t make his first experience with other animals an overwhelming one.
- Watch your dog’s behaviour and cues. If they are refusing to leave your side, they probably aren’t enjoying the experience. That’s OK! Take them home and maybe try again when there are fewer pooches in the park.
- Exercise your dog before you go. That way, they aren’t full of beans on arrival and can be a bit more chilled with the other dogs.
- Make sure your doggo is up to date with their vaccinations. You’ll be protecting them from illness as well as any other dogs they might encounter.
- Assess the numbers. If there is a big crowd already in the enclosure, come back at another time.
- Don’t get too distracted chatting with other dog owners. It’s a great place to make new friends but it’s even more important that you keep an eye on your pup to make sure they are safe and well behaved.
- Consider your dog’s personality. Are they very shy or do they tend towards aggression under certain circumstances? Dog parks are a positive experience for many pooches, but they won’t suit all dogs – and that’s OK! Stick to the on-leash walks you know your dog enjoys.