The rights and wrongs of dog parks

Dog parks can be fun for dogs - but if not done well, they can be dangerous places

What do you think about dog parks: are these a positive step forwards, or a negative step backwards?

Dog parks: right or wrong?

The traditional and sensible approach to dog control is to ban dogs from high risk areas (e.g. children’s play parks) and to insist that people pick up their dogs’ poops in all other areas. However some local authorities are taking a hardline stance, banning dogs from all parks and beaches and restricting them to confined areas that they call “dog parks”.

Dun Laoghaire have done this now in Shanganagh, Marlay Park and others. They have introduced punitive bye-laws, obliging near-total leashing of dogs in virtually all public parks. The problem with this is that a large body of veterinary research consistently proves the serious damage to dogs’ mental health and wellbeing from continual leashing, in a species which has evolved alongside humans to explore and exercise freely.

The long-term solution to fouling requires fundamental behavioural change, entailing sustained effort:

  • more bins;
  • more litter wardens (with many more off-peak patrols);
  • widespread adoption of very visible Responsible Dog Owner pledges, alongside a zero-tolerance and consistently enforced anti-fouling policy.

A group of dog owners have formed “DLR dogs”, a group that aims to collaborate with local authorities, especially DLRCoCo, to create responsible off-leash access to shared park space, a marked improvement on dog park concept which provides less than 1% of park land for use by dogs.

Dog parks sound good in theory, but in practice, they can be problematic. People with uncontrolled big dogs allow them to intimidate smaller, nervous dogs. Dog parks only work well when there is a paid dog warden in place at all times to monitor things: this is how it works in New York etc.

For more discussion on dog parks, read Pete’s recent article in the Daily Telegraph.

Listen to a podcast of the Pat Kenny Show, where we talk about dog parks, as well as answering a range of listeners questions, including one about a cat who suddenly started staggering and another from a woman who says her husband loves his dog more than he loves her!

Listen to the podcast:

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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