Why we fight for ALL dog’s freedom – an off-lead dog park story

January 9, 2017 at 6:00 am

Around Australia there is growing trend for people to fear dogs. Not only because of an increase in pockets of cultures who fear dogs, but from long term Australians who have abandoned visiting parks or owning dogs.

When this happens, dogs in back yards get  bored and bark more, and councils receive more noise complaints.  It is easy to imagine that many councils would prefer that dog parks didn’t exist at all. Many of them have found dog parks to be a potential litigation nightmare so they make it harder and harder to visit good parks (properly fenced, snake free, away from cyclists etc).  Wouldn’t the world be much safer if dogs were never allowed off-lead? That is sadly where we are heading.

Unfortunately that is also the viewpoint of some dog trainers in Melbourne (or at least the posts I see on Facebook). The reasoning seems to be that if you have a large and powerful anxious or aggressive dog, councils and dog trainers advocate you should walk them in off lead dog parks on a leash.  That makes it everyone else’s responsibility to keep away from the unruly dog.

I can certainly see the irony in this train of thought – an off-lead dog park, full of anxious and aggressive dogs walked on lead and dragged away from other dogs at all costs. And the blame falls on social dogs and owners for any conflict that arises.

What dogs really want

I come from the completely opposite view point.  I know it’s unfashionable to recommend that dogs get off-lead exercise daily in dog parks, and should be allowed to freely associate with each other, but that is the stand I make for all dogs in Australia. I have even read that some people recommend that your dog should never be more than 10m away from you and instantly run hard to you on first recall.  No mention of the dogs happily playing with each other and increasing their social skills so they are a valuable member of society.

Not all dogs automatically start their journey with their new human social and happy. Sometimes a lot of work needs to be put in before a dog, small or large, is social enough to visit an off-lead dog park.

However, the parks I visit in the west of Melbourne are mostly visited by responsible owners with social dogs that can be trusted to run around off-lead and sniff each other or ask for play invitations! This is the natural order of social dogs in newly formed packs. The closest they will ever get to real friendly freedom in our human constrained society. Dogs benefit from mental stimulation, physical exercise and the massive benefits that meeting other social dogs give to their state of mind.

The point where dog training and off-lead dog walking by a professional comes together is that the dogs for both aspects need constant work to achieve their goals. If your dog has no recall, then yes, it needs a lot of training to get that in order. But once your dog has recall, and is social, it needs regular off-lead dog park experience to keep it social. This is one of the simplest things that is completely neglected in most dog health guidelines.

You can’t have a fully social dog without regularly taking them to an off lead dog park. I find that most owners of large breed dogs that overplay and break social convention usually get the message from other off-lead dog walkers on their first visit. I find the risk is far higher from the rare aggressive powerful breed dog on lead (often recommended to be in the park by a dog trainer) than any dog that runs over to you and wants to lick or play with you. Yes it should stop if you want them to stop, that is common sense, nothing to legislate about!

DOGS need to meet new dogs to gain a level of fun and tolerance and remain social.

I walk dogs daily in off-lead dog parks. I post pics and videos on my social media blogs in an attempt to spread the good work of social dogs.  I see the joy that the dogs and owners get, but these kinds of dogs are moderately rare in Melbourne. I can’t help but wonder if it’s because of all the fear that some council ‘dog catchers’ and ‘dog trainers’ seem to be peddling or if it’s just modern owners preference for not exercising?

BIO:  Bruce Dwyer researches and sources healthy meat based dog treats in Australia for his own dog and others. From an original career in Electronic engineering his analysis and research skills had him well sort after in Corporate Australia until he chose to concentrate on the dog service industry. His company ‘Healthy Dog Treats’ has been in business since 2011 and was based on finding the best dog food natural supplement nutrition for his own dog (Archie the 8 year old spoodle). Archie not only approves of the selections but is featured on many videos on site trialling these ‘treats’.  Understanding that people also enjoy dog treat news and free dog treat coupons he has a weekly email newsletter that can be subscribed on his site.   Bruce is also a professional dog walker and besides his regular blog on his main website his daily dog walk adventure images and videos and dog treat news can be found on these places:

Website - dogwalkersmelbourne.com.au 
Facebook - HealthyDogTreatsShop
Twitter - DogTreatMan
Google + - HealthydogtreatsAu1