Saskatoon

What dog owners should know about safety at off-leash parks

Jennifer Berg is a certified professional dog trainer who believes off-leash parks could be much safer if pet owners followed some basic guidelines.

Recent deadly attack on Yorkshire Terrier has one expert speaking out

There have been questions about the safety of off-leash dog parks after a heartbreaking attack at a Saskatoon park left one family's much-loved pup dead. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

When Jennifer Berg learned of the tragic death of a much-loved Yorkshire Terrier at an off-leash dog park in Saskatoon, she was left feeling heartbroken and frustrated. 

"I can't even imagine what the owner is going through," she said. "I could...help so many people."

Berg is a certified professional dog trainer who believes off-leash parks could be much safer if pet owners followed some basic guidelines.

She said most pet owners are well-intentioned and believe that letting their dogs run free in a park is the right thing to do. Berg said this leads to some dogs that shouldn't be there running free.

"People are basically setting a lot of dogs up to fail."

Berg's top tips

First, make sure your dog is actually ready for the park.

"It should be ... a very highly social dog," Berg said.

She also suggested that immature dogs less than a year old should not be taken to off-leash parks.

"They don't have the best social skills," said Berg.

It should be ... a very highly social dog.- Jennifer Berg 

When you get to the park, be aware of other dogs. Berg said that if you spot other pets who seem "uncontrollable, extremely excited, perhaps even pulling, yanking on the leash and perhaps even having a little bit of a tussle at the gate...that is probably a really good sign to get your dog out of there." 

Also, assess how busy the park is. Berg said dogs need a lot of room and "tend to avoid conflict by creating distance." If pet owners arrive and the off-leash is busy, Berg said it's a good idea to head home and try coming back another time.  

When all else fails 

Remember that dogs are animals and conflicts do happen, Berg said. When they do, pet owners should be ready to act cooly and efficiently. 

"Separate them," she advised. "Remove your dog from the dog park. If your dog is the aggressor for sure remove it, and definitely if your dog was the victim you want to remove it and calm it down and do a good check over and make sure you get contact information and get witnesses."

with files from Saskatoon Morning

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