Why I Don’t Take My Dogs to Off Leash Parks

I get asked every once in a while to meet up with other dog owners in the city (as they follow me on Instagram) to take our dogs for a walk. The next question they ask is which off leash park do we want to go to. That’s when I have to tell them that I don’t take my dogs to outdoor off leash parks. It’s often met with a lot of confusion when I say that so I’m here to explain why.

Two out of my three dogs are not good off leash. If Max sees something, he’s gone and he does not listen well (or sometimes at all). When we moved into our house, our fence was not built. One day, he saw a dog walking across the street and bolted towards it. Thankfully, we live in a quiet neighbourhood but the fact that he took off like that (and ran off on us a couple of times before and didn’t come back when we called him) means he has to stay on leash. Dolly being a meat trade survivor from Thailand is scared of every single loud noise means I fully suspect she would take off (and would definitely do so if she saw a bunny or other cuddly creature). I don’t want to find out if she would come back or not, and if you chase her, she runs. Freckles is the only dog I know I can trust off leash outside as I know she won’t go anywhere.

I wouldn’t want to go to an off leash park just to walk my dogs on a leash. I know that Max can get reactive towards other dogs when he’s on a leash. So, I choose to avoid a situation where he can get reactive.

Which brings me to the second reason is that none of my dogs like other dogs running up to them and getting in their faces. As Freckles only has one eye, she gets scared and anxious whenever a bigger dog comes up and gets in her face. Over the winter, I took them to the indoor dog park in the city and a German Shepard puppy kept trying to play with Freckles by knocking her down and she was not having it. I had to take her to the small dogs area for her to feel comfortable.  Dolly is the same way. While she’s good with other dogs, she does not like or appreciate bigger dogs she’s never met getting in her face. While she does not have an aggressive bone in her body, I’ve seen her growl and nip at dogs who are too aggressive for her. Max also doesn’t like other dogs he doesn’t know, especially when I’m there as he thinks he’s “protecting” me.

I can’t go to an off leash park and expect dogs to not run up to us. It’s what they do. So I don’t put my dogs in a situation that I know will stress them out.

The third reason is convenience. No matter what park I go to in the city, I have to load up all the dogs in the car and drive to one, usually a 20-40 minute drive if there’s no traffic delays. I’m already quite busy as it is and find it is not a good use of my time. Dean and I purposely chose the neighbourhood we live in because of how many walking trails there are. I love going for a walk in my neighbourhood with the dogs and love that I can just put their harnesses and leashes on and go. We can go as long or as short as we want. We also have different routes in the neighbourhood that we choose to do.

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With Max and Freckles both being under twenty five pounds, they do not need to go for long walks. Trust me, they are not the most active dogs. I find that doing a forty five minute walk in the neighbourhood is more than enough for them as they are always passed out and snoring away for hours after longer walks. While Dolly requires a bit more exercise, we have often either taken her for separate multiple walks in a day or we walk all three of them, come home to drop off Max and Freckles and then take Dolly for a bit longer of a walk.

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The fourth and final reason is that there are poorly behaved dogs and poorly behaved dog owners. While I know anything can happen in our neighbourhood when we are out for a walk, most of the time those owners and dogs are leashed, making it easier to avoid potential conflicts.  I’ve seen and heard of too much bad behaviour at off leash parks for my liking. We used to take our dog Bandit, to an off leash park years ago. While most of our experiences were good, we had the occasional bad one. Basically, the big problem is that there are dogs who are at off leash parks who should not be off leash.

It’s not necessary to go to an off leash park with your dog. Some dogs do well at off leash parks, mine would not. Just like some dogs do well in a daycare setting and other dogs do not. Mine happen to do well in a daycare setting because all of the dogs have been assessed and approved to attend daycare. They are also all with dogs twenty five pounds and under (including Dolly who like small dogs but not bigger dogs).

At the end of the day, do what is best for your dog. So if anyone does want to meet up for a walk with myself and the dogs, mine need to stay on leash.