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Some tips on dog park etiquette

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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.

Maintain the park by cleaning up after your pet. Make sure you bring an adequate number 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.

If you’re going to let your dog off its 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.

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.

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 which can be hazardous to our pets.

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.

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 are also taxpayers who use these city-owned areas.

Many of the off-leash areas have Dog Owners Associations which co-ordinate the area, hold fundraisers that allow for improvements, and lobby the city for the continued use of the areas for the pets.  

These areas are for us and our pets.  Used responsibly, they will be there for us for years to come.

Contact Jeff with your questions or ideas at aardvarkpets@shaw.ca or visit www.aardvarkpets.com

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