Off Leash Park Issues

It is a common sight in parks frequented by people and dogs in-line skaters tripping over retractable leashes strung across pathways, dogs chasing cyclists or knocking down small children, and people complaining about dog owners not picking up after their pets.

Thankfully, seldom do these accidental encounters result in serious injury, but the behavior of some dog owners leaves much to be desired.
Even if a green space is designated as a legal "Off-Leash Park", dog owners must realize that they share these parks with others, in-line skaters, cyclists, joggers, and families out for a Sunday stroll.

Because of these types of problems, many North American cities have phased out off-leash areas completely. For those of us lucky enough to still have a place to let our dogs run free, we must work together to reduce safety hazards or we also risk losing off leash privileges. The bottom line is that off-leash doesn't mean "out-of-control". These green spaces are for the enjoyment of everyone.

Guidelines to Ensure Safety in Off-Leash Parks

If you're a dog owner:

- Enroll your dog in a training program. At the very least, teach the “come” and "down" commands. Keep dog treats in your pocket. Use them when you practice these commands at random to make obedience fun.

- When on any busy pathway, keep your retractable leash short and locked. Do not allow your dog to criss-cross in front of you.

- Keep your dog within sight at all times so you can recall him to the heel position when necessary.

- Be honest with yourself and fair to others: Is your dog really obedient enough to be allowed off leash? If not, use a retractable leash in open areas to give him more freedom to run and play.

- Don't throw tennis balls, Frisbees, or other toys while in heavy traffic areas or on a pathway. Move to an open area where your dog can scramble after the ball with reckless abandon! You'll both have more fun and won't bother anyone.

- Be courteous and polite when you meet others, remember, it is their park too!

- For more off leash rules for dog owners see the article entitled: "Rules of Etiquette".

If you're a cyclist, in-line skater or jogger:

- Realize that fast moving objects may trigger the prey drive in some dogs and entice them to chase you. To protect yourself, and as an act of general courtesy, consider slowing down when moving past pedestrians and their dogs.

- If you're riding a bike, be sure to ring your bike bell well in advance when approaching pedestrians from behind.

- If you are followed or being chased by a dog, STOP! Continuing to move or trying to move faster only encourages the dog to chase.

- Keep your head up and your eyes wide open to watch for potential traffic hazards. You can usually avoid tripping over a flexi-leash or running over someone's dog if you are alert.

Article submitted by: © Terri Perrin (Biography & Additional Information)

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