New Bedford's first off-leash dog park, the Captain Jack Peterson Dog Park, is officially open. But some people aren't thrilled with the park's posted rules; 25 rules, in fact.

The gist of it is this; rules are designed to keep you, your dog, other people and their dogs safe. Not all dogs love kids, not all dogs have self-control around food and sometimes dogs just plain ol' play rough. Dog parks are great additions to any town or city and taking the time to understand why the rules are in place make it easier to enjoy.

Here's a bit more detail on some of the rules that people may see as unnecessary, unfair, and "ridiculous".

  1. Persons must be 18 years of age to enter the park.  There are a few reasons the park could have this rule in place but the one no one thinks of immediately is safety. Not all dogs are great with kids and not all kids are great with dogs. A mix like that has the makings for a lot of unnecessary risk and possible injury to the animals and humans alike. Plus, some big dogs run at ground-shaking speeds; you don't want them mowing down your 7 year old, right?
  2. Toys are Prohibited from the Dog Park. You probably don't see the harm in bringing your pals favorite squeaky toy, but you'll regret it instantly when another dog tries to take it from them. Dogs who are very possessive of their things cause a conflict with other dogs who are just trying to play. Plus, different size toys pose choking hazards for different sized dogs. No one wants to pry a roque squeaker from their tiny dogs' throat.
  3. Food and Treats (Dogs and Human) are prohibited. Some dogs are food aggressive and the last thing anyone wants is for a food-aggressive dog to sniff out what you've got hidden in your pockets or lunging for what you hoped would be your lunch.  Also, what most people don't think about is allergies. Some dogs are allergic to certain treats and require medical attention if ingested.  As much as you want to bring some treats for your pup, it's best if they stay in the car.
  4. Owners shall maintain visual and verbal contact with their dogs at all times. This doesn't mean you have to be a helicopter pup-parent but it does mean you should keep the distractions to a minimum.  Don't take a seat on the bench to read a book or walk off to finish a 20-minute phone call. If you do not have your dog in sight, you can not react timely or appropriately if something goes wrong.  This may also be one of the reasons for the 2 dog limit per owner rule. It is also why you are required to have a leash on you at all times.

The rest of the rules are pretty self-explanatory and really do exist to keep dogs and humans safe. Dog parks are a great place to make new friends for you and your pup and it would be a shame to lose the privilege of having one after waiting so long for it to finally exist.

If you aren't sure about what to expect from a dog park, there is a free-to-enter, temporary dog park in Dartmouth with a network of folks willing to help you make the most of your first visit and walk you through any 'ridiculous' dog park rules.


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