The Dog Park.
We are blessed with wide open spaces in Winnipeg, and some of those wide open spaces have been designated as Dog Parks. A listing of these areas can be found in the “Fields for Fido” area of the Winnipeg.ca website.
If you’ve had a chance to use one of these areas, you know how great the experience can be for both you and your pets. As members of the Maple Grove Dog Park Association, our family takes advantage of this awesome area for our daily walks (ok, I don’t get out as much as I should, but I try). It is a social event for humans and canines alike. But, like any social event, there are points of etiquette that need to be maintained for the parks to remain a positive place.
Most evident, maintain the park by cleaning up after your pet. Make sure you bring adequate numbers of bags to ensure you can stoop and scoop when your dog relieves itself. Nothing worse than stepping in a steaming pile of poop, and there is no reason it should happen. And the nicest people in the park are the ones that pick up even when it wasn’t their dog. Those people are awesome, and we should all try to be awesome.
If you’re going to let your dog off leash, please ensure that it is well trained to your commands. It is important that when you call them back, they come. I know that with all the distractions it can be difficult, but if you are going to let them roam you still need to be in control. Many dog’s personalities change between on and off leash. Some can get wilder, while others are more defensive of their owners when they are on leash.
Until you are positive how your dog will react, you can start with extendable leashes (they can go up to 25 feet) until you are satisfied about your dog’s behaviour with others. Alternately, basket muzzles are readily available, which are appropriate for extended walks. Not to be confused with nylon muzzles used to prevent biting when grooming or cutting nails, basket muzzles do not physically hold the mouth closed. This allows a dog to breathe, pant, and drink while stopping them from biting.
Once they are off leash, you are responsible for supervising them. It can be easy for us to get distracted, talking with friends or even meeting new friends, but we need to be vigilant in ensuring our charges are not getting into mischief, or worse, trouble. There are areas that can be hazardous, river banks, fast moving water, even areas of burrs or windfall that can be hazards to our pets. And we have to ever wary of how two dogs that have never met before will react, and if we’re not close by and watching, by the time we can get there, damage can be done.
Bringing a toy to interact with can be enjoyable, but like in a daycare, if you bring a toy, make sure that sharing that toy won’t cause a problem. Aggression over treats, food or toys can end up causing fights resulting in injuries to the pets, sometimes even involving animals not in the conflict that are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We have to be careful not to create problems that endanger others needlessly.
While the park is designated for you and your pet, it is also a public area to be shared with others. Make sure that everyone can enjoy the park, whether they have a pet with them or not. Walkers, joggers and skiers also taxpayers use these city owned areas, be sure to share well.
Many of the off leash areas have Dog Owners Associations that co-ordinate the area, hold fundraisers that allow for improvements, and lobby the city for the continued use of the areas for the pets. Volunteering to help these associations can help ensure the long term success of the dog parks, and can be a rewarding experience as well.
These areas are for us and our pets. Used responsibly, they will be there for us for years to come.