The City of Calgary provides 150 public off-leash areas for dogs to enjoy. A comprehensive list and detailed maps are available at Calgary.ca. Some research suggests that Calgary is the Dog Park Capital of North America (http://everydaytourist.ca/blog/2013/4/19/woof-and-hoof-living) I for one exuberantly embrace the claim to fame and aim to explore every inch of these generously-provided and much-appreciated amenities.
We are fortunate to be able to relish Calgary’s remarkable dog parks, as Jay loves being in the company of other dogs and humans. Dog parks are not for everyone, though. Some considerations:
- Young puppies and unvaccinated adult dogs can contract parvo, distemper, rabies, respiratory viruses and tummy troubles wherever a large volume of dogs congregate. Even if your puppy has her third set of vaccinations under her belt, she can remain at risk because her immune system is immature. Discuss a safe age to introduce young dogs to parks with your veterinarian.
- Reactive, unsocial and shy dogs are often very unhappy in dog parks. Unless you’re carefully executing a specific behaviour protocol under guidance of a qualified trainer to improve these conditions, be kind to your pooch and avoid parks. More information:
- Leashed dogs in off-leash areas introduce conflict and make the experience more stressful for both leashed and unleashed dogs. You can walk leashed anywhere; the whole city is available at your feet. Off-leash areas on the other hand are limited and therefore precious and my own personal POV is that they should be reserved for dogs who can handle the freedom. More reading:
- If you can't handle your bundle of energy on a leash, an off-leash run is not an acceptable alternative. City of Calgary Bylaws wisely insist that off-leash dogs be under a guardian's control at all times. Be kind to both your dog and yourself and enrol in some training courses. Life will be SO much easier for both of you with improved communication and you will both feel so much more confident when Rover is ready to romp off-leash. Remaining park patrons will also be safer :-)
- It may be obvious, but in order to trust your dog off-leash you must be veritably familiar with her behaviours. Bringing your visiting cousin's dog, a freshly adopted dog or a foster to an off-leash area is taunting disaster.
- Unfortunately not all pet parents agree with these sentiments and we sometimes encounter dogs who have no business being off-leash or who are being mis-directed by their guardian. To handle such circumstances, I’ve educated myself enough to recognize at a distance a dog showing signs of discomfort or aggression, which allows us to skirt potentially hazardous encounters. We also practice, practice, practice for a solid recall and an emergency ‘down’ to keep Jay safe. Behaviour can be unpredictable and there is no guaranteed method to avoid mishaps, but these two strategies significantly reduce the risk of conflict and injury in a dog park. To learn these strategies:
Things every pet parent should know before taking advantage of dog parks:
City of Calgary Off-Leash Area Rules:
Dog Park Etiquette:
If ever in doubt, consult the below chart. It's 100% accurate 100% of the time.
Some additional thoughts on using Calgary's dog parks: http://www.hangingwithhounds.ca/blog