Summer seems finally to have arrived and as the mercury rises so do the numbers of visitors to our glorious public spaces. The majority of responsible dog owners make daily, even twice daily forays to the park come rain or shine and in colder months the range of park users is fewer. However, warmer weather brings out other visitors in force: families and picnickers, those wishing to sunbathe or play games with the kids, learner cyclists, skateboarders and even Nordic pole walkers. All of these present major temptations to dogs, always on the lookout for new and exciting opportunities to scavenge or chase things that don’t belong to them. In the face of such ‘novelties’ many owners lose control and with it the respect of other park users.

Recently Southwark Council implemented Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOS), with a view to cracking down on irresponsible dog owners in local parks and cemeteries. These supersede and replace any existing Dog Control Orders. According to Southwark, members of the community are tired of their children being jumped on by random dogs, their picnics pinched, joggers and cyclists chased and the continuing problem of dog poo. As a consequence we all need to be much more aware of our dog’s behaviour and prepared to control our dog around other park users and that includes other dogs and dog owners. Penalties for not doing so will be severe and Southwark Officers now have the power to order owners to put their dog on a lead if the dog is perceived to be a nuisance.

Here is a simple guide to park petiquette, the aim being to make life more pleasant all round:

  1. Ensure you have reliable recall against any amount of distraction, if you don’t then keep your dog on a lead and only let him off at times when you feel certain you can keep his attention on you.
  2. Rather than let your dog frolic with other dogs, make yourself his key playmate. Teach him tuggy with manners, search and find games (good to play on a long lead) and if you want to throw toys for him to fetch ensure you have trained a solid retrieve to hand.
  3. Do not allow your dog to chase other animals, including other dogs, as his primary source of entertainment. It is unwise and dangerous to encourage prey drive. Dogs allowed to refine prey drive by chasing squirrels and birds in the park will be uncontrollable and may start hunting and chasing other small dogs- with possibly disastrous consequences.
  4. If you see another dog on a lead in the park give him space, do not let your dog approach him off lead.
  5. Do not assume that because you have a puppy all other adult dogs will love and protect him. Many adult dogs loathe puppies. Teach your puppy manners around adult dogs as soon as possible.
  6. Do not assume all people will love and protect your dog, understanding that when he runs up to them or leaps at their toddler, he is “just being friendly”. Teach your dog manners around all categories of human as early as possible.
  7. In areas of parks and cemeteries where signs ask you to put your dog on a lead, do as asked. It is good practice for your dog to learn to go on and off the lead regularly in the park, rather than viewing all park time as off lead play. This way other park users who do not want to interact with your dog are not forced to.
  8. In areas of potentially high, mixed traffic, like park pathways and roads, it makes sense to have your dog on a lead. Your dog learns this is the norm and will accept it, other park users will appreciate it.
  9. Always carry poo bags and ALWAYS pick up.
  10. Let’s try to lead by example and not fuel the ambitions of a few who would like to ban dogs from our public spaces.

Leonie St Clair: www.londondogstraining