We need more dog parks not more rules

August 22, 2016 at 6:00 am

I visit dog parks and off-leash areas every day and I usually do it with a small pack of dogs. This is my opinion of what happens at dog parks and why almost every dog and owner should visit them regularly.

I have read many reviews of dog parks by people around the world and it’s interesting to find that many of these places are a big source of fear.  In particular, the common opinion in the UK seems to strongly favour keeping dogs on leads, even at dog parks, to avoid letting dogs approach other dogs. This is all based on ignorance, fear and a litigation society and is actually the opposite of what dogs need to be healthy.

Before I go on with this ‘expose’, I will let you know that I am not a vet and I’m not a dog trainer. I am a professional dog walker who has brought many dogs back from being anti-social to perfect off-lead dogs. I know what dog socialisation looks like. Often owners who have a a fearful energy when they go to a dog park is what causes their dogs to become unstable.

It seems that many councils are trying to make it more difficult for dogs to be off-lead at dog parks. But by restricting dog owners or allowing cyclists and joggers to assume dangerous ‘right of ways’ through parks, councils are discouraging dogs from being walked off-lead. Over the last few years I have witnessed an anti-dog sentiment in the community along with a decrease in dog ownership.  This needs to change for the sake of society and individual dog’s health.

Dogs are a major responsibility and if you can’t care for a dog by walking them, it’s advised you don’t have one. Dogs are not like cats, they are far more social and they require regular contact with other dogs to remain sane and healthy. I am the expert in dog parks, because it’s my day job and I love dogs. I value a dog’s earned freedom and enjoyment and the vast majority of owners are very responsible. Freedom means that social dogs can run as hard and long as they want by themselves or with another consenting dog. And if things change, owners step in to sort things out. I am not talking about dangerous dogs or anarchy. I am talking about dogs expending energy at a park and not being bored at home.

The more that people post nonsense about keeping a dog under complete control at all times, a noble but flawed concept, the more they are fostering the abnormal fear people have of going to parks. Dogs need to learn to make their own wise decisions. That is how they become confident and wise. If a dog is social it should be allowed to be 30, 50 or 100 m from an owner, because it is not a threat. Many professionals recommend medication to stop or prevent a dog’s bad behaviour but I prefer dog walks to burn energy and increase happiness.

The reason that there are so many restrictions in dog parks is that some councils view the parks as litigation hotspot instead of the massive benefit that they are. For example, instead of removing snakes they put up ‘beware of the snake’ signs.  They restrict visiting hours so school children can walk through the parks which helps foster a phobia by lack of contact with social dogs. The one aim of the restrictions might be to absolve the council of any responsibilities of running the parks and to discourage a lot of owners.

The aim seems to be reducing dogs in so there will be less complaints but the truth is that discouraging people by not having parks close by or fostering fears just results in a lot of unhappy and un-walked dogs. These dogs then bark, dig their way out and cause many more issues in the community than if the dogs went to a dog park regularly in the first place!

The term ‘shared spaces’ is council code to mean dogs have the lowest rights, well below joggers, cyclists or anyone who dislikes dogs. How can humans have access to 100% of parks and dogs to near 5% – yet even in those 5% the dogs have no rights?  Instead of shared spaces, we need DOG ONLY (plus owner) parks. This would discourage people putting picnic blankets down in the middle of a park and getting upset when a dog visits them.

It is only through socialisation that dogs lose aggression. The biggest danger I regularly encounter in these parks is by people who do not own dogs, not the dogs themselves! Restrict the park and restrict people visiting increases social dog problems in local suburbs. This a recipe for disaster.

My professional advice to make dog parks a safe haven for dogs and owners alike. Not setting more rules, but making it easier for owners to visit parks. Better opening times, more taps and bins throughout, more safe fences, even lighting for night time.  The complete opposite from the tactics used to discourage visits at the moment.

BIO:  Bruce Dwyer is a professional dog walker based in inner west of Melbourne Australia. From an original career in Electronic Engineering and Corporate Marketing he chose to concentrate on the dog service industry. His company ‘Dog Walkers Melbourne’ has been in business since 2010 and is based on providing the best dog walking and pet sitting solutions for people in Melbourne. The only two times that he has been away from his own dog, he has used his own company’s 24 hour pet sitters.  His own dog Archie (an 8 year old spoodle), enjoys TWO dog walks per day with many of the images and videos from his daily off lead dog pack walks featured on the following sites:

Website - dogwalkersmelbourne.com.au
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