Dog parks are meant to be safe spaces for dogs to play and exercise off-leash. They are less safe for children. This includes indoor dog play spaces and anywhere else that dogs are running free, being dogs. In fact, many dog parks have rules against children younger than a certain age, usually 8 -10 years. Here are some reasons why cities and private dog park owners may ban young children.
It’s a singularly bad idea to let small children crawl or sit on the ground at a dog park. Although we like to think that all dogs playing at a park are well vaccinated and properly dewormed, this is not always the case. Dog urine and dog feces can transmit diseases and parasites to people. Even after the waste is removed, the disease agents may still be present on the grass and in the soil. And while the floors of indoor dog parks can be cleaned, disinfection is never perfect.
Not all dogs are familiar with children. Many dogs have not been socialized to kids. Children can trigger biting by reaching for an unfamiliar dog. And even when dogs are well-socialized to children, the presence of a running child can trigger chasing or hunting behavior. Yelling and screaming may agitate some dogs and can lead to fear-aggressive behaviors, including snapping. Strollers, baby packs, and even babies in their parents’ arms may be threatening to some dogs. Finally, children may inadvertently end up in the middle of a dog fight and be bitten by mistake. This is especially true if kids bring food or dog treats into the park.
Risk of other injury
Anyone who has been to a dog park knows that they are frequently the scene of high-speed chases. A dog running at full speed can collide with a person unintentionally. For an adult, this usually means a fall and possible knee injury. For a small child, being hit by a dog could lead to much more serious injury. Pet parents know to watch out for running dogs, but small children most likely will not.
Overexuberant friendly dogs may injure children by jumping on them. Young children getting absolutely mobbed by friendly dogs at a dog park may look cute, but it’s not all tail wags and face licks. Kids can be knocked over or scratched by these dogs.
General Safety Rules
Remember that dogs will be dogs, especially at the dog park. Everyone is safer when humans respect the natural behaviors of dogs. If you choose to bring children to the dog park, following some basic rules will help keep both children and dogs safe.
- Know the rules at your dog park. Don’t bring babies or toddlers if they aren’t allowed.
- Toddlers and babies should be in arms if you choose to bring them.
- Leave your strollers outside the park
- All children should be supervised closely while in the dog park.
- Never let any child play on the grass or dirt in a dog park.
- Make sure your child knows that she must always ask permission before touching an unfamiliar dog.
- Children should be quiet while in the dog park and avoid sudden movements.
- Keep your children close to you at all times.
- Don’t bring people food or treats into the park.