photo 1Just off the Katy Trail at Reverchon Park dogs and their owners had established an unofficial dog park. Many weekend mornings I’ve witnessed up to a dozen dogs running off leash, having a good ol’ time. But as recent as May the Dallas Police Department began cracking down on dogs off leash at Reverchon Park. On the same day I viewed the story on television a friend came into my store and complained that she was issued a ticket for having her dog off leash at Reverchon Park just the day before. There are so few places in Dallas for dogs to stretch their legs. For many Uptown residents this was a great place for their dogs to play with other dogs, chase squirrels and balls and generally experience themselves in all their dogness. Reverchon Park has what many dog parks lack; trees and grass. With shade over their heads and the soft grass under their feet the dogs could comfortably bound about without a care in the world. But the crackdown displaced them leaving owners challenged with the task of finding another place for their dogs to run.

Police involvement was a result of complaints coming from people that wanted to enjoy the park but were intimidated by the off-leash dogs. Some people complained that they wanted to be able to walk or play with their children at the park without off-leash dogs approaching them. Other people, who obeyed the leash laws, did not like off-leash dogs encroaching on the space of their leashed dogs. These people were concerned that there might be an altercation between the off-leash dogs and their leashed dogs and had little to no faith that the dog’s owners could or would call their dogs back if their unleashed dogs approached. Many dogs can be aggressive to other dogs when approached while leashed. A dog fight can ensue within seconds when one dog feels trapped. And unfortunately the majority of the owners of these off-leash dogs don’t have as much control over their dog as they think they do. As a dog trainer I have a 100% rule. My dog must come when I call him 100% of the time. No distraction is an excuse. Most people don’t share this way of thinking with me and this can potentially get them into trouble.

While Reverchon Park does provide a beautiful environment for dogs to be dogs, owners are better off operating within the law by going to a local dog park. So where can these dogs go to legally roam free? Dallas (not including far north Dallas) has but five dog parks. Four of them are currently in operation. Bark Park Central, Central Dog Park, Meadows Foundation Dog Park, Mutts Canine Cantina and White Rock Dog Park (to be reopened some time next year) are our legal options for off-leash time. So for those out there that want to be on the inside of the law and are too scared to return to Reverchon for fear of being ticketed these Dallas dog parks have something to offer. Here are my dog park rules for staying safe.photo 2

• Unless the dog park is empty leave food and toys in the car. Toys and food are fodder for fighting. Besides didn’t you go there to socialize and smell the ground? You can play ball at home.

• Bitches in heat should opt out.

• Do you have an intact male? Think twice. Intact males can be the target of attacks by other intact dogs as well as neutered dogs.

• Pick up after yourself. Do I really have to say that? Yes, sadly, I do.

• Leave the kiddos at home. Seriously, the dog park is no place for a child.

• And please, please, please train your dog! A trained dog is a safe dog at the dog park or anywhere else. You should be able to call your dog away from a dog park brawl before they became a part of it.

Whether you are running rogue through Dallas parks or following the law by visiting a local dog park instead do yourself and your dog a favor by keeping your dog under voice control at all times. I personally can’t imagine not having that kind of control over a dog that I put in the company of so many other dogs and people.