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Dog Parks: Do or Don't?

Just saying those words gets very many different responses depending on the who you're talking to.

I am often asked whether or not I recommend attending dog parks.  The first consideration is what type of park you are attending.

There are 2 different style of dog parks in Thunder bay, the fenced in ball diamond, or off leash trail for walking. Each have pros and cons.

The nice thing about the fenced-in ball diamond parks is that they are a wide open, fully fenced space to have a few dogs running and playing together. There are a few downsides to consider as well, such as entering the park while other dogs run over and crowd the door. It can be stressful for you and your dog to be circled and sniffed by multiple dogs. Other dog's owners do not realize this so they do not remove their dogs or call them away.  Also there are multiple personalities of dogs in the park, some dogs like to wrestle or others would like to play chase or some just want to sniff around. If play styles of dogs do not complement each other, conflict may arise.  Other dog owners may be less interactive with their dogs or aware of what their dog is doing, which may lead to stressful situations.  When socializing with our dogs it should be an opportunity for us and our dog to get out and be together learning in a safe environment not stressed about the other dogs in the park.

Centennial Park has a dog park that has multiple trails with no fencing. The pros are you are able to walk and hike with your dog as you interact with people or other dogs that you meet.  The greeting of dogs is more relaxed as you continue walking and moving so your dog does not feel overwhelmed and stuck in one spot.  The cons are if your dog does not have good recall you may be setting them up for failure as they may not come when called due to distraction.  You also may not be able to predict surprise wildlife that you may encounter.

City parks such as Mills Block, Cascades or Tree farm are designated as on-leash areas but some people want their dog to free run which can cause issues with other people that may be hiking, other leashed dogs, and the environment. I encourage everyone to respect these areas and leash your dogs when attending.


Overall, dog parks can be a good way to exercise your dog, having them run and play in an open area if you do not have a fenced yard.  But unlike your own backyard you cannot regulate the dogs that attend the park. Owners should have some knowledge of how to help their dog navigate attending one of these parks.  Has your dog been socialized with other dogs or have they been in this environment before? Does your dog have a good recall off leash and around other dogs?  I recommend staying outside the park at first to see how many people and dogs are there, if the owners are engaging with their dogs or ignoring them, and if the dogs in the park are interacting nicely together. If you decid that you would like to go inside the park, start with a quiet time of day with only a few dogs in the park to allow your dog to get comfortable in that environment.  

Remember to always be aware of your dog and the body language that they are displaying, as well as the dogs they are interacting with.

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