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Dog Park Safety Challenges for Children

By Carrie Boyko of All Things Dog Blog

Just last week I read an article discussing how one municipality is considering closing their gates to—not dogs—but young children. Young children under the age of 8 may be expressly forbidden to enter the park. You might be thinking it is usually a breed that is banned, not a species.

As you approach the gate of a dog park, Fido tends to gain energy with each step closer. Anyone unable to nimbly handle an overly-excited dog when leashes are tangled and their pup is greeted at the gate by a faceful of eager noses could find themselves in harm’s way. I shouldn’t need to mention this, but I’m including women in stilettos. More on this at the end.

One of my site’s Ask the Dog Trainer columnists recently referred to babies as unusual creatures. Dogs don’t know quite what to do with them, but their curiosity tells them to investigate. An infant, even in a stroller, is at risk of a good face washing at the very least. I once witnessed a large dog allowed far too much latitude near an infant, ending in a toppled stroller and a close call. While I know the parents thought they had it all under control, what they lacked was control over the 25+ dogs and their interaction of rambunctious play in circles around the baby stroller.

That point made, let’s move on to toddlers and young children. Their play style is erratic, they often squeal, run and grab at whatever excites them. This is not a good scenario when they are down at the eye level of that big Boxer who is not fond of having his tail (?) grabbed. All it takes is a moment of eye contact made and this could end badly.

Now, please understand, I’m one of the biggest dog lovers on the planet. I love them all—puppies to seniors and Pit Bulls to Chihuahuas. And I KNOW they can be taught to live together in harmony. I’ve managed to pull off cats, dogs, hamsters, Parakeets, rabbits, and 3 kids without a single scuffle between species. Yet in the dog park there is a dynamic—constant change in the makeup of the group—as each dog and owner come and go.

Just as children on a playground have their disagreements, so too can dogs. No child should be put at risk without guidance of an experienced adult or significant experience and education on how to handle himself properly in a dog park. This understanding comes with practice and time. Perhaps an extra adult along to supervise the young child? Yes, that works for me.

Now that you’ve labeled me the naysayer, I’ll close with a giggle. My favorite dog park story involves a young woman who accompanied her new boyfriend and his gregarious Lab to the dog park after a rainy morning—in stilettos and a sundress. She left with one broken heel, and two large Mastiff prints on her br…..chest. Go ahead; BOL!

I’ll return next time with some helpful tips for families who want to include their kids in dog park outings.

Carrie Boyko writes All Things Dog Blog, where she shares dog park tips and assists ladies on dog park duty with shoe selection.

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