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Should Children Be Allowed in Dog Parks?

You’ve probably seen it.

A parent pushes a stroller ahead of her through the gate of the dog park as several big dogs charge the newcomer face to face.

Yikes.

Or an adult carries a toddler through the gate, sets her down and lets her run, wobbly and squealing, falling over.

It’s horrifying to me, and I don’t have kids.

While my own dog is great with them, many dog are not OK with kids.

Why would a parent put that much trust in a bunch of strangers’ dogs?

It’s not fair to the child, the dog or the dog owners.

Most dogs are friendly and will not intentionally harm a child, but dogs are dogs.

What concerns me about kids in dog parks

Should kids be allowed in dog parks

1. Dog parks and dog beaches are places where dogs are “amped up” and excited. Dog parks are places where dogs naturally nip at each other, crash into one another, play fight and get into actual fights.

2. Dogs chase things that move! Especially small things that squeal and run!

3. When one dog “acts up” others join in! When other dogs are barking, chasing, wrestling or humping, others investigate and join.

4. Some dogs are scared of kids because they haven’t been around them and could respond with aggression. See Keep the Tail Wagging’s post on this here.

5. Dogs crash into people, practically knocking over grown adults. Has this happened to you? I’m scared I’ll get my knee thrown out.

6. I don’t want kids to get hurt and I don’t want good dogs punished for being dogs.

Why do people bring children to dog parks?

Would you bring a child to a dog park


These are questions I’m wondering:

Do people think they can supervise well enough to intervene? Do they think they’re socializing their kid or the dogs?

Do they believe their dogs have to go to the dog park, even though there’s no one to watch the kid?

Do they truly just not realize the danger?

Or maybe I am overly concerned?

‘But my daughter is used to dogs!’

Sure, you have to use your own judgment.

Maybe the dog park you visit is low key and truly safe for your dog-savvy 5-year-old. You know your kid best.

But is that fair to the dog who is scared of kids?

I’m not sure.

You could also argue that dog parks should only be for rock-solid, extremely well socialized and trustworthy dogs. Like my dog Ace!

Nothing fazes my dog. I actually take him to dog parks so he can maintain his skill of not reacting to overly excited dogs or dogs with poor social skills. He’s one of those “bomb proof” dogs, perfect for just about any family.

I do believe visiting a dog park is a privilege. A dog park is definitely not for all dogs.

I will rarely bring a foster dog or a dog walking client to a dog park because I don’t want to put the dog in a bad position.

While some dog owners believe their dogs have the “right” to be at the dog park, I disagree. If any dog in my care acts up, we leave the park immediately.

Some dog parks don’t allow children

Some dog parks do have signs posted right on the front gate that no children under 12 are allowed or children must be accompanied by an adult.

I’m sure this is for liability reasons, and mostly goes unenforced. But maybe not such a bad rule?

What do you think?

Do you care if people bring toddlers or children to the dog park?

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Melanie

Friday 28th of August 2020

I usually avoid dog parks when with my young kids because I'm worried about them getting hurt. But occasionally I can't be bothered packing the car so I keep them in an area away from the dogs. If no children are allowed I think it should be a smaller gated zone. It is crazy to think that people couldn't even cross through a park if nearby their home. I think dog owners need to learn that dog parks are not places where you can do whatever you want with your dog. People still come first I'm afraid and you need to control your dog and prevent it getting into trouble. There are dog park rules that people never follow. If your dog could hurt a child, you need to move away, train it better or restrain it.

Jared

Monday 19th of February 2018

I think you’re absolutely right. My little man Archer is the friendliest, kindest, most loving dog I have ever had the privilege of raising...yet after years of training I know his limitations and one of those happens to be his exciteability. Archer is part cattle dog/pitbull (dad) and a min pin mix was his mom, needless to say he’s got energy for days and possibly a little natural anxiety from moms breed.

Archer has never nipped or been aggressive towards other dogs - but has had them nip at him for being too excited. He often comes at them, people, or little kids in a way that can be a bit startling at first even if I know he means well. I think it’s because he’s so overwhelmed with excitement his barking, natural speed and build can come off as aggression - even if all he does is roll over once he gets near anyone/thing. He’s a big baby who just like to play a lot! Haha

That said, I can’t tell you how many times archer has made a beeline for another pup - seeing the dog making split decisions Friend/foe? Honestly I trust a dogs response/decision making more than a 3-11 year old child. Other than a little bark or personal space check that’s the worst of it. A kid maybe holding a stick he was playing with? At no ones fault I could see it going differently. Or worse a dog with actual aggression approaching that kid.

All hypothetical I know. Just saying!

sandy weinstein

Wednesday 13th of September 2017

I don't go to dog parks. I did once and did not like it. I don't care if kids are in the park, as long as the parents supervise them, which most do not, just like other places you may go. parents do not supervise their kids today. they run around the stores, yell, etc. and cause a big problem. so if the kids are not being supervised then they should not be allowed. no way should anyone allow their kids in the dog parks without supervision. I think most dog parks have some ruling on age limits for humans anyway. not sure since i don't go. I don't trust other people to have their dogs properly vaccinated, and some may carry a disease, and some people do not pick up their dog's poop.

Karen

Tuesday 12th of September 2017

I stopped taking my dogs to the dog park because of the small children AND their parents. What parent in their right mind would sit on the ground WITH their children in a dog park as if they are having a picnic? I'm sorry, but I find this disgusting! There is probably very little if any area in a dog park that has not been peed or pooped on. And yes this was an actual observation. At our dog park the majority of people are too busy talking to each other to even watch what their dogs are doing. I have also watched parents drop off their "older children" - younger than teens with the dogs and then leave the children to watch the dogs.

Patricia

Tuesday 12th of September 2017

My concern with bringing small children to a dog park is that they don’t understand not all dogs are used to small children and even other adults It really saddens my heart when I hear of a child who got to close to a dog and the dog snaps or bites the child Then what happens…the dog is usually put down. Let dogs have a place to be dogs.