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Q&A guide to a fun day out at the dog park

dog23 May 2017

Most of us think we know our dog fairly well. But how well do we really know them, and can we trust that they will listen to us when we need them to?

While there are few things better than taking your dog to the local off-leash park and watching them roam free, animal behavior expert Michelle Lynn says that as responsible pet owners, we should never presume to know how our dog will react given a certain situation.

After all, dogs are curious by nature, so there will always be a chance that their instincts or desires will take over.

“A dog is a dog. As much as we love them, you can’t always reason with them. You can never say that they will never do something,” says Ms Lynn, who is also a qualified dog obedience trainer with Animal Aid.

So, if planning to visit one of Maroondah’s 35 designated off-leash areas, or the recently unveiled Eastfield Dog Park in Croydon, here are some handy Q&As for keeping your dog happy and safe in an off-leash area, while respecting other park users.

Q&As

Question: I’d like to take my dog to an off-leash dog park, but I’m a little nervous about how they’ll behave. Are there any suggestions on how I can ensure our visit can be a positive experience for the both of us?

Answer: Even when off leash, you must keep your dog under close supervision. At the very least, your dog should be responsive to basic cues, things like ‘come’, ‘sit’ and ‘stay’, so you can keep them under effective control and, if necessary, avoid any potential dog park dangers.

Question: My dog isn’t that good when he’s around other dogs, but I want to give him the freedom to run around off the lead.

Answer: Dog parks are often seen as places where dogs go to socialise. For well-socialised dogs, yes, the dog park is a good place to meet and greet fellow, well-socialised canines. However, for dogs who may have aggressive tendencies or are fearful, off-leash parks are not the suitable training ground for them to learn basic social skills. These dogs need a calm, quiet and controlled environment, where they are less likely to be confronted with uncomfortable situations.

Question: My dog is being harassed by another dog. What should I do?

Answer: First and foremost, stay calm. If your dog, or you yourself, is being ‘hounded’ by another person’s dog – jumped up on, humped, rushed at or chased – and it’s clear the dog is not listening to its owner, it’s best to get out of the situation before it becomes a situation.

Question: How can I tell if a dog is being aggressive?

Answer: Signs to watch for if a dog is displaying menacing or aggressive behaviour include excessive low-range barking; staring; snarling; growling and snapping; standing tall; holding ears erect; and/or tail up and moving stiffly from side to side. Although beware, often a dominant aggressive dog will give no sign before biting. Remember, situations can escalate very quickly, so it’s best to leave before things get out of hand.

Question: My dog loves kids and is quite friendly, but he likes to jump up on people, although he’s just being excitable. Is this OK?

Answer: Excited or not, you should never allow your dog to run up or jump up on other people, or dogs for that matter, as other dogs may be fearful or become aggressive. If your dog is friendly without being over-zealous, it’s best to ask another dog owner first if their dog is sociable and if they are happy for your dog to approach.

Question: I want my dog to experience the benefits of a dog park, but can I keep him on a lead as I’m not that confident without one?

Answer: If you’re not confident taking your dog off the lead, then a dog park or off-leash area might not be the best place for you and your dog. Keeping your dog restrained can cause them to pull and jump, which may draw attention from other dogs and cause them to become aggressive.

Although please note: Dogs must be kept on a lead when within 15 metres of:

  • Playgrounds or children’s picnic equipment
  • Public BBQ or picnic facilities
  • An organised sporting event or training session


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