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August 15, 2009

Dog Park Etiquette: Are there Unwritten Rules?

By: Jamie Klinger-Krebs

On an early spring afternoon a writer packed up her two-and-a-half year old daughter and her 10-year-old Border collie and headed out to the dog park. Being a weekday, the writer thought the dog park would be quiet and both dog and child could expend some energy while mom took in a nice casual walk. The writer should have known that with a toddler and a Border collie chaos always ensues.

Upon walking through the park, the dog liked to go one way and the toddler liked to go another. The writer soon found herself running in circles chasing a laughing toddler in one direction and an over-stimulated dog in another. Since the dog was older, the writer decided it was a much better idea to keep an eye on the toddler. Suddenly, however, she heard a scuffle and a familiar bark from over the hill. As she reached the crest she found two less-than-happy dog owners looking nervously in her direction. They looked from the writer, to the Border collie with a tiny spot of blood dripping from his eye, to the toddler that was now being carried on the writer’s shoulders. As the dog owners sarcastically apologized for their dogs scuffling with the writer’s dog, they walked away seeming annoyed and whispering to each other. This left the writer wondering, are there unwritten rules one should follow when visiting the dog park?

When you enter a dog park like the Bicentennial Dog Exercise Area in Jefferson County you may see a sign with rules like these:
- Dogs must remain leashed until inside the fence.
- Dogs must remain under control of the owner at all times.
- Please use appropriate area for size of dog.
- Please clean up after your dog.
- Dog must have current license and rabies permit.

Though these rules seem clearly laid out, the writer wondered if others knew of rules such as “Don’t bring your toddler to the dog park,” or “Please keep up with your dog even if he’s faster than you are,” or “Please don’t let your dog sniff other skittish dogs that might bite him in return.”

On a different sun-shiny Saturday, the writer returned to the dog park without her daughter and decided to ask some of these very questions. Here’s what she found …

Steve and Margie Mohr of Fort Atkinson, who visit the park often with their new Rat terrier puppy feel kids are certainly welcome at the dog park. “That’s what parks like this are for, for the kids and the dogs to play,” says Margie. “We would just hope that people keep an eye on their kids and know better than to bring a vicious dog to a place like this,” adds Steve.

Chasing her fast-paced Beagle, Linda Fischer of Jefferson says she has no issues with people or children visiting the dog park as long as everyone is sure to clean up after themselves and the dogs. “We love visiting out here and meeting new dogs and new people,” she adds, “we just appreciate it when people clean up after their dogs.”

Carrying her eight-week-old daughter as she enjoyed a walk with her dog and other friends, Tressa Smail of Watertown says she definitely believes it’s OK for kids to visit the dog park as long as both parents and dog owners stay alert and aware of what’s going on and keep both kids and dogs under control.

Susy Besougloff of Oconomowoc agrees that dog owners shouldn’t bring dogs to the park if you know they have behavioral issues and the same rule should apply for children. “Dogs will be dogs, but you definitely shouldn’t bring a dog here if you can’t control it. Kids should definitely be able to interact with the dogs here, but you shouldn’t bring a child to a dog park that’s afraid of dogs because this (the park) is for the dogs. This sort of place shouldn’t be a learning experience for kids on how to interact with dogs.”

So, in the end the writer learned there are some rules of etiquette to follow when visiting the dog park. Some of these rules are posted on the sign and some are assumed. The assumed rules are to simply be kind and courteous to other visitors and keep troublemakers at home… whether they’re dogs or children.

Jamie Klinger-Krebs is a freelance writer who writes a regular monthly column “Pet Talk” on www.gmtoday.com.

user comments

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Monday, 11-07-11 04:42

That saves me. Thanks for being so sensbile!



Thursday, 28-05-09 20:02

Yes kids need to stay out of dog parks.
They need to go to the people parks. That is why they had to make Dog Parks in th efirst place.
No Kids under 13 should be aloud.
Just my 2 cents


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