Off-leash dogs in a designated off-leash park and kids.

I take my dog, a Siberian Husky, to a designated off-leash dog park for her weekend walks. Keep in mind that this isn’t just any park, it’s a park specifically for folks to let their dogs socialize and run about off-leash.

My dog wasn’t raised around young kids or toddlers, and is half afraid of them, especially when they lunge to pet the ‘nice doggy!’ (insert squealing voice here). We keep her away from little kids, just in case the parents neglected to teach them to never touch a dog without asking the owner first, as she barks and snaps and growls. She’s never actually bitten anyone, but I’m not about to take the chance.

Twice now, at this dog park, parents have had 2 - 3 year old toddlers toddle about the park among these dogs. Of course, they touch the dogs as they run past, run after the dogs, etc.

On both these occasions, we leashed our dog, walked around, and then took her off leash and continued on. But, am I right to be a tiny bit upset about this situation? I don’t want my dog to accidentally hurt a child, but at the same time, how irresponsible of the parents to let their child walk around a designated off-leash dog park? ALL dogs are unpredictable.

Yes, you’re right to be upset. We’ve taken our little kids to watch the dogs at the park, but the rule was always no approaching unless we said so. In fact, I’m always a bit put out by dog owners who practically insist that my kids pet their dog because “she loves kids.” How can I be sure you really know that?

Children that small don’t belong in a dog park. Even if there wasn’t a chance of a bite, they could be toppled and/or trampled by dogs playing with each other. It happened to mrsgnu last weekend. Just three or four medium-sized dogs running after each other without paying attention to where they’re going. Her leg still hurts. Imagine what would happen to a kid whose whole body weighs less than her leg.

Based on previous behavior, I’d imagine. Some breeds, such as Golden Retrievers and Newfoundlands, have reputations for being great with kids. Things change when inside an off-leash area, however. We taught our oldest dog, Bailey, how to handle children when she was young. She remains tolerant of clumsy petting attempts by kids. We have a routine when kids want to pet her, but inside a dog park? Forget about it.
Another of our dogs, Kirin, views anything as small as a child in a dog park as a potential playmate, except that the rules of dog-play could end up with kid-injuries. Add to this the fact that’s she small and cute: kid leans down to pet… that’s a play-bow. Bad idea.
Older children can result in a good photo-op, though.

Our dog park doesn’t allow children under 12 in the park and people arent afraid to tell parents that the kids aren’t allowed. Can you talk to someone in the township or county about putting up signs?

The OP is really looking for shared informed opinions. I’m moving this from GQ to IMHO.

samclem GQ moderator

I’ve never lived any place that’s had a “dog park” but I have to assume an area with one also has parks for children too, right? Ones surely more interesting to little kids given they’re bound to have playground equipment that a dog park would lack. If so, their folks ought to be bringing them there. I have trouble imagining why a parent would purposely choose to bring their kid to a place designated for romping dogs instead of one meant for kids - unless they’re in the situation where they’re parent and dog owner both. That’s rough, but for safety’s sake there has to be a limit to multi-tasking.

Then, there are parents who do all sorts of thoughtless things to endanger their kids, so why should I be surprised? thank god they’re the minority!

Our Golden is great with kids. She was raised to be a guide dog (now a breeder - 11 puppies on the way according to the ultrasound!) and she goes with my wife to classes for talks about guides. However, get her in a park, chasing a ball, and all bets are off. She’s big enough to be able to hurt a little kid in a collision.

I can see the appeal for the kid, but it’s stupid for a parent to not be right there with the kid. Better, watch outside the fence.

These people are asking for trouble. Our dogs love kids – really! – but they’re big guys, about 75 pounds each, a golden and a yellow lab. (Isaac the lab once let a toddler stick a finger in his eye without flinching. They’re amazingly tolerant of little kid clumsiness. Rusty the golden loves pets from anyone and anything.) They could easily take out a toddler by running into them even though they’re such friendly beasts. This seems so obvious I’m left wondering WTF are those parents thinking? I wonder what said parents would think if they saw the packs of dogs racing up and down the nearby dog beach on a busy day? The dogs are all having a gloriously good time, but they can and have taken out adults let alone little kids!

I always like it when we’re out with the pups and kids ask if they can pet them. Of course they can, but that’s not the point. I ask people before petting their dogs, because some dogs can be a bit unpredictable. Duuuuuuuh.

And what is even scarier is that parents stupid enough to bring small children to an off-leash park are probably stupid enough to scream “lawsuit” when a friendly tail wag knocks “princess” on her diapered ass.

Try to get some “no small kids” signs posted.

I don’t know about the OP’s dog park but where I live the dog park is strickly for dogs. There’s a fenced in section for dogs over 35 lbs and one for under 35 lbs.
With ours there are two fences you have to pass through to get inside the dog park. There’s another section of the park for kids and you can walk your dog through the park leashed. Today someone brought their kids into the small section but there are enough big mouths at are park that they say something. :smiley:
No one wants to see a little kid hurt. Plus there’s lots of dog equipment the kids try to play on that’s not really clean and they could get hurt on that too.

Thanks for moving the post samclem.

And thanks for the opinions. This is not a kids park, it’s a big green area by the river that usually has 50+ dogs running around playing with each other. But there are no signs indicating that kids shouldn’t be around.

I’m thinking I might write a letter to the paper and maybe even the city to see if we can do something about this.

For those of you that live in area’s that have the signs prohibiting kids, where do you live, or can you link me to the bylaws governing this?

Most official dog parks are fenced in areas. There are very often unofficial dog parks that become that way through custom. You say that there are no signs indicating that children should not be present. Are there signs stating expicitly that it is a dog park? If it is simply a place where dog owners have taken to letting their dogs run off leash, it is very likely still illegal (though tolerated). Pressing the issue to have children excluded might call unwanted attention to the practice.

I’ll try to remember to look at the dog run I pass pretty often. Google Map link. The lawn area is all for dogs, and the rectangle to the right of the basketball court is a fully fenced-in children’s play area.

There’s another dog run here. The patch on the far right is specifically for dogs, though there’s usually a dog or two in the big meadow in the middle. The kid’s play area is to the left of the tennis courts, and is not fenced in.

Not only would I refrain from bringing kids there, but I wouldn’t bring a dog there, either. You don’t know when some asshole is going to unleash a dog that will attack people or other dogs. It’s not safe to mix that many strange dogs in one place.

Any chance that you could get the dog area fenced in?

We didn’t have a dog park in our area because our town said there wasn’t an interest in one. People put up petitions at the vet offices and at PetSmart and got signatures. Home Depot donated the fence. Now there are two huge dog parks. Maybe you’ll have to get the dog owners together.

I’m not saying there aren’t fights but it’s rare that I see any problems between dogs at the park. In the small dog section it almost never happens. There have been a few dog fights in the large section but either the dogs work it out or the owners do. Where I go it’s mostly regulars and everyone knows the dogs.

It is sort of an honor system though. If you have a dog that’s agressive, it shouldn’t be at a park. My dog loves it. There’s lots of equipment and she really loves to run and play with the other dogs.

This dog park in Tallahassee, FL has the same rules that are posted on the fence. It doesn’t stop some people, though. Some of them are even dumb enough to let their under-10-year-olds in the “big dog” section, where large breeds like Huskies, Mastiffs, and Newfies running like, uh, dogs are the norm. :rolleyes:

Dog parks exist so that dogs have a good place to exercise and socialize, and a lot of people who take their dogs to the park are either socializing puppies or continuing socialization of their dogs. When fights occur, it’s usually something that can be broken up easily, or (most of the time in my experience) the result of one of the owners not following the set rules, like bringing a dog in heat to the park.

I’ll have to ship a few big mouth jersey girls to Florida. Some of them love nothing better than to be the official dog park nannies. They’re on their cell phones calling the police the minute someone breaks a rule. I don’t care all that much because I’m in the small section. I’m not real thrilled if people bring young puppies because they haven’t had all their shots. I will say something if someone doesn’t clean up their dog poop but that’s about it for me.

I would love to bring my toddler to the OUTSIDE of a fenced in dog park. She loves to watch dogs run and play. The Doggy Day Care at the local PetsMart is one of her favorite “Go OUT!” trips. But if I had to step inside the fence for some reason, I would carry her. If there were friendly (leashed, I hope) dogs coming out or going in and their owners wanted to stop and enjoy a cute kid/dog moment, that’s great. But BOTH of us should get permission from the other. I need to know that their dog is generally good with kids, but they should also learn if my kid is generally good with dogs (as she is!). I can’t tell you how many dog walkers will have their dogs on a 15 foot lead (I HATE those with the fire of a thousand suns) or walking free and they’ll call, “It’s okay!” from that distance as their dog comes up to sniff my kid. Um, no, it’s not okay that your 75 pounds of teeth and fur is licking my kid without my permission and while not under your immediate control. It’s really not. It goes both ways.

I know dogs, I can read their body language and introduce myself and then her to the dog safely. But she’s always in physical contact with me, so I can yank her back if needed, and carefully supervised one on one. I expect the same level of physical control of the dog by the owner. I would not let a pair or more of dogs, even on leash, approach her unless they were a very clearly controlled pack, which is rare. It’s just too easy to miss an aggressive or defensive signal if you’re not watching closely.

She would absolutely never be allowed to run in a dog park, for all the reasons mentioned already in this thread. But I would happily sign a petition for a fenced in dog park with no children signs, even though I am dogless at the moment. Hey, if there’s a safe place to stand outside and still see, it’s like a free zoo!

Dog fights at dog parks are a part of owning a dog. It’s not pleasant. You don’t expect it. But, damn near everyone I know has had a dog in a fight at one time or another. It never means they give up going to the dog park.

And, that’s a big reason why I wouldn’t let kids run around at an off leash park. That’s really dumb. Even typical dog roughhousing could damage a kid. Sometimes it’s just a mass of jumping, nipping, running dogs that don’t care what they run into.

I’d put up a sign that says, All kids must be on leashes.