Today, I walked my dog E.B. to our local park. The park is a shared park which means that dogs are allowed off-leash at specified times of the day (i.e. early in the morning and late in the evening). The park is a generous size, houses a kids playground and is fenced on 3 sides which gives us “adequate” safety from the surrounding streets. I say “adequate” safety because E.B. is trained and has a reliable “recall” (i.e. she comes back when called) plus I supervise her at all times.
What I like about this local park is:
- the dogs needs are integrated into the park and open space for dogs is not separate
- it’s within walking distance of my house and I’m not reliant on the car
- the journey. It’s the journey as much as the destination. The journey to the park is when I engage with neighbors and E.B. gets to sniff and meet her canine and human friends as well.
From an urban planning perspective, we need to look at offering a range of policy responses to address dogs’ access to public open space. Petcare Information and Advisory Service (PIAS) make the point:
“that the most effective way to accommodate dog owners’ needs taking into account existing constraints and incompatibilities is to aim for a hierarchy of opportunities throughout the municipality that provides dogs and their owners with daily, regular and occasional opportunities” (Public Open Space and Dogs).
From an animal behavior perspective, the design and management of public open space for dogs and their owners needs to fully consider the social and and behavioral patterns of dogs and how this influences park design. The other critical element in relation to dogs in public spaces is how owners supervise/manage their dogs – dogs need to be “well-mannered” in public spaces.
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