Vancouver Off-Leash

Photo: R. Weiss

Photo: R. Weiss

Is it strange that I am not a dog owner, but I love the opportunity to observe the antics at our local off leash dog parks? Frankly, every time I visit an off leash area I am reminded of The Breakfast Club, the 1985 coming of age movie about High School cliques and stereotypes. Seriously, take a moment to sit and observe the action. You will notice the athlete, the spoiled rich kid, the brainy nerd, the introverted loner and the rebellious punk all joyously sniffing and romping gleefully while their humans mix and mingle. Like the movie, the dogs seem to come together, bare their souls and discover that they have more in common than first thought.

Photo: R. Weiss

Photo: R. Weiss

Clearly my knowledge of all things canine is limited, so I asked a couple of experienced and loving pet-owners about the inside scoop on dog parks. Morag, owner of a gorgeous golden retriever named Stella, prefers quiet time in the park. Stella often finds the crowded off-leash areas unnerving and opts for more solitary time on the trails where she can tap in to her natural state of “animal”, picking up scents and exploring deep holes. A place where a dog can be a dog.

Photo: R. Weiss

Photo: R. Weiss

For Lee, who has been visiting dog parks for over 20 years, the daily ritual has become an important part of her life. She has made many amazing, enduring friendships and as she says, “before I had dogs, I had no idea that there was this whole sub-culture of people and pets. I go because I love it and the dogs love it, and there are a lot of people and dogs who feel the same way. And it’s FREE!”

Photo: R. Weiss

Photo: R. Weiss

Most folk who regularly visit the off leash areas are polite, respectful and responsible pet owners. However, before you let go of that leash, be sure you consider the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Safe environment for dogs to run and play freely
  • Place for pets & people to socialize
  • Opportunity for off leash exercise
  • Creates a sense of community

Cons:

  • Parks can be dangerous if aggressive dogs are not properly controlled by their owners
  • Dogs can pick up bad habits like rough play and fear
  •  Illnesses can be passed between dogs
Photo: R. Weiss

Photo: R. Weiss

The Vancouver Park Board provides 36 designated off-leash areas, some with water access for dogs and their owners to explore. Owners are responsible for the actions of their dogs, and of course poop scooping is mandatory! Although off-leash parks might not be for everyone, I know a few four legged friends who are simply crazy about their local park, and maybe Lee said it best, “it’s good for the soul of both people and dogs.”

Do you have a favourite off-leash park?

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