East York is quite dog-friendly, so it’s no wonder there are several off-leash dog parks in the area. People who have dogs love these parks because they give their dogs the opportunity to run around leash-free and get plenty of exercise. I thoroughly enjoy taking my dog to Withrow Park, where I spend about an hour almost every day playing fetch with her and watching her run around the park with other dogs.
Off-leash dog parks aren’t just good for exercising dogs. They’re also places where dog owners can socialize with each other. Whenever I’m at Withrow, I can always overhear fellow dog owners talking about all sorts of things, ranging from personal conversations to discussions about politics and world issues.
But as with any part of city infrastructure, dog parks have their problems. One of those problems is a sheer lack of etiquette and respect for fellow users of the park.
Unfortunately, people who frequent Withrow or any other off-leash dog park aren’t always very responsible. There is rarely a day at the dog park that I don’t see someone doing something that they shouldn’t. From not paying attention to what their dog is doing to not picking up after their canine companions, sharing off-leash parks with careless dog owners can be very frustrating.
So what is proper dog park etiquette?
Well, it involves a few things. The first and perhaps most important rule is that if your dog doesn’t get along with other dogs or humans in the dog park, then don’t bring him to the dog park. No one wants or should have to put up with a dog that’s aggressive towards other dogs or people. If you know your dog isn’t friendly with other dogs, or is aggressive towards strangers, then bringing him to the dog park is irresponsible and disrespectful. Seek help from a professional trainer and learn how to correct your dog’s undesirable behaviour before you go to an off-leash area.
Another important rule is that you should always pay attention to what your dog is doing in the dog park. Just because a dog park is fully fenced and your dog is secure in it doesn’t mean that you get to ignore what your four-legged friend is up to. Oftentimes, I get very frustrated when I see dogs behaving unruly while their owners are off socializing, talking on their cellphones and being totally oblivious to what their dogs are doing. I’m certainly not saying that you shouldn’t socialize or talk on the phone at the dog park, but if you do so, please continue to keep tabs on your canine companion. No one wants to step in your dog’s business because you weren’t watching him while he was going to the bathroom and didn’t pick it up. Nobody wants to have to search for you as you’re off in your own world while your dog is mounting another dog.
I’ve even heard of people who bring their dogs to an off-leash area and leave them there unsupervised while they go off and do something else. This is extremely rude and downright reckless. Don’t do it!
Also, please don’t treat the dog park as if it’s your own private playground. You and your dog are not the only ones there. It makes no sense to get angry because another dog grabs your dog’s ball as you’re playing fetch with her. Just make sure the other dog’s owner gets it back for you. And you shouldn’t complain if your clothes get dirty because someone else’s dog jumps on you, or even if you’ve had the misfortune of a dog giving you his own personal rinse. Consider where you are before wearing clothes you cherish. Expect that you will get dirty. It’s a dog park, people, not a fancy restaurant.
If you’re going to get upset because other dogs are interfering with your fine routine in the dog park, then I suggest that you buy a home with a big, private yard that you and your dog can have all to yourselves. If you can afford one in this market, that is.