Regina’s dog parks need improvements, that’s for sure. Yes, the City has been adding improvements over the past year or so (thanks in large part to the hard work of a few volunteers, including the preliminary efforts done years earlier), but sadly, the City’s slow progress on some items does not reflect the importance Regina dog owners put on health and safety of their dogs. In 2012/13 the City was presented with a report from ROLA (Regina’s Off Leash Association) that used the results from a dog park user survey. Forty percent of the responders indicated that a small dog area was a priority. With the 5+ years of dog park incidents involving small dogs being injured by large dogs, I would expect that the “small dog area” would be even more of a priority now.
As a certified professional dog trainer, I do not recommend dog owners use any unsupervised public dog park. I believe the risks are too great when dogs of unknown temperament and health are put together in a space where appropriate supervision is lacking. I certainly would strongly caution owners of small breed dogs to avoid any dog park that does not have a separate area for small dogs. The risk of injury from impact (intentional or accidental) and aggression from large breed dogs is too great.
The dog park is a place where dogs go to run and zoom around, and owners of large dogs shouldn’t have to worry that their dogs are going to accidentally hurt a smaller dog if there is a collision. A dog under 25 lbs can sustain serious injuries from an impact from a moving object that weighing 50 lbs (or more). We have rules regarding the weight of children playing on sports teams for safety reasons. Why should this be any different for the dog park?
Then there are intentional injuries from large dogs to small dogs. High intensity play can get out of hand quickly. There are cases of something many dog trainers refer to as “Predatory Drift”: when a larger dog in a high state of arousal attacks a smaller dog as if it is prey. This can happen to any dog, even dogs that know each other well and have played together often.
I believe that if the City Council knew how serious this risk is, how important this is to people who care about the health and safety of dogs (and how many of us there are), we could finally get the City to provide a separate off-leash area for small dogs.
To help encourage the City to take action on this issue, I am collecting data. If you are a resident of Regina and have experienced this problem of large to small dog injuries (accidental or intentional) at one of Regina’s off-leash parks, please consider sending me the details: the approximate date, the approximate size of the large dog and the size of the small dog, a brief description of the injuries sustained by the smaller dog, including any veterinary costs and the recovery time, and if you feel the injuries were by accident or intentional aggression or overly assertive play. Please feel free to send me an email and know that I will not share the identity of any individuals and will keep your story private (other than using the information for data collection to create a report).
Together we can help improve this situation for everyone.