Here is some important information about visiting the off-leash dog park:
1. DOG WASTE: ALWAYS clean up after your dog! This one is a rule (and a law), and is the main complaint from visitors and neighbors that gets dog parks shut down permanently! Dog waste is not only unsightly, it can transmit disease to both dogs and humans alike. Many children come to play with their parents and dogs, and it is imperative that every dog owner clean up after their pet for the sake of everyone and every dog. There are waste bag dispensers (to be filled by the visitors), and it only takes a few seconds to clean up after your pooch. This is THE most important rule to remember when visiting any dog park. Let’s face it, sometimes you can’t always find your dog’s own poop after searching for a bag, so pick up an errant pile or two in return (and they usually aren’t too hard to find!) This is probably the biggest complaint at ANY dog park. The vast majority of the visitors to Forsberg-Iron Spring are really good about this, but there are some that “conveniently” don’t see their dog going to the bathroom, or are just too lazy to clean up after their dog! The dog park is NOT a place to let your dog do his business and you not clean it up.
2. FIXED: It is preferred that dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered not visit the dog park. This is ESPECIALLY true for un-spayed females that may be in heat! Un-neutered males tend to “hump”, and “mark” anything available (much to the dismay of other dog owners), and un-spayed females…well, do you really want to have a litter of puppies to deal with? Spaying and neutering not only helps the unwanted pet population and can cut down on certain illnesses, but can save you the grief of having to deal with the other dog’s owner! Speaking from personal experience, I was not particularly thrilled when I was “marked” by a ten-month-old puppy..PLEASE spay and neuter your pets, and be prepared for the consequences if they are not fixed! Jefferson County requires that all dogs must be spayed or neutered unless they are licensed breeders.
3. Sally Port: The sally port (double gate) is in place for a reason: to keep off-leash dogs from escaping the park. PLEASE make absolutely sure the gate behind you is securely closed before entering or exiting the park. Alameda Parkway is a very busy street most hours of the day, and it could be disastrous for a dog to get loose and run out into traffic. Sometimes the gates don’t latch properly (or at all), but usually just lifting the gate up a bit solves this problem.
4. Health: Make sure your dog is up to date on all vaccinations, especially rabies! If your dog is sick with a transmittable illness (ie, kennel cough, fleas, etc.), please refrain from bringing him to the park until he’s recuperated. According to several vets I’ve talked to, tick season in our area is generally from around May to September. While there is little brush in the off-leash area, there are a few bushes and trees that could still harbor ticks in the summer months. Fleas are rare in Colorado, but can still happen. It’s recommended that flea and tick treatment be used during those months, and your vet is the best person to ask about this (Always follow your veterinarian’s recommendations!) Fleas are mostly just annoying, but ticks can carry diseases that can end up life-threatening in some cases, to both dogs and humans. Jefferson County and Lakewood both require that dogs are up-to-date on rabies vaccinations and have a current tag on them.
5. Collars: Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with up-to-date tags! Rabies vaccination tags and dog registration for Jefferson County residents is mandatory, and could save the life of your pet should get loose or lost.
6. Aggressive Dogs: Aggressive dogs should not be brought into the park, for the safety of both human and dog visitors. However, even the best dogs (like people) can have “off” days and if your dog is showing unusually aggressive behavior towards another dog or human, please leave the park and come back another day (the park will still be there!) For owners who’s dog may be involved in a serious fight: DO NOT go in and grab your dog! This is extremely dangerous and you may very well end up with severe bite wounds, even if the dog didn’t intend for you to be the victim! The better your dog is at coming back to you with voice commands, the easier these situations are resolved without injury. Always remember that whatever your dog does, it’s YOUR responsibility! If your dog viciously attacks another dog or person, it is YOU that the fellow dog owners and legal system will blame and point the finger at. It is YOU that should have taught your dog better, and it’s not your dog’s fault…he should’ve known and been trained better! The downside is that it’s usually the dog that gets impounded and/or euthanized because of this. It is imperative that your dog is well-mannered around both other dogs and other people alike. Scuffles between dogs happen but usually resolve themselves without much more than a few growls and barks. Most people can tell the difference between a dog that is telling another dog to “back off”, and a vicious attack. The former is normal, the latter isn’t tolerated. We don’t support dog fighting or the training of such dogs at all, and if you knowingly bring an aggressive dog to the park, you will be asked to leave (and probably be asked to leave every time you show up after that!)
7. Adults: should accompany any child under 16. Many dogs are large enough to knock over smaller children, inadvertently causing injury. Smaller children may also not know how to act around strange dogs, and the last thing anyone wants is for a child to get bitten. And even as adults, always be mindful of where the dogs are, especially if they’re running in a large pack! Getting knocked over is a fact of life for people visiting dog parks on a regular basis, but paying attention (and standing with your back to the fence!) can greatly reduce your chance of four hundred pounds of charging fur taking you down!
8. Food and Water: While there are picnic benches inside the off-leash area, you should not bring your lunch in with you. If you bring food into the area, it’s guaranteed that you will have several dogs at your feet within moments. Never feed another visitor’s dog unless they explicitly tell you that it is okay to do so! Some dogs may be on diets, some may have food allergies, and some owners may just not want their dogs to learn bad habits like begging or stealing food. This goes for treats as well. Unless the other dog’s owner tell you it’s okay, it’s best not to feed someone else’s dog anything. If you plan on bringing lunch and don’t want to deal with a dozen hungry pooches, there is a covered pavillion directly outside the fenced-in area, which will still give you quick access to your dog if necessary. This does not apply to bringing water with you, and keep in mind that Lakewood Parks Department turns the water off during the winter months. Even during the winter months dogs still need plenty of water to stay hydrated and cool! If your dog does not know how to drink from a water bottle, there are several courtesy water bowls to pour water into.
9. Mindfulness: Always know where your dog is. The park is completely fenced in, but if you haven’t seen your dog for a while, at least find him and make eye contact on his location. The fences are about four and a half feet high and very robust, but many determined dogs can jump higher than this.
10. Trash: Please pick up your trash! There are several trash cans located within the off-leash area. Before you throw something on the ground (food wrappers, cigarette butts, cans, empty treat bags, etc.), stop for a minute and think “would I want my dog to eat this?” As most any dog owner knows, dogs like to eat stuff off of the ground. Trash on the ground is unsightly, but if a dog eats it, it can cause anything from a stomach ache to severe gastrointestinal distress that requires surgery. So far everyone has been great about throwing their trash away, and we need to keep it that way!
11. Alcohol: there is no specific park rule regarding this as far as I am aware, so I will post what the City of Lakewood and Jefferson County Parks rules are regarding this: Some of us enjoy a beer or two while we watch our dogs play, and it’s never been an issue. According to Jefferson County, alcohol is permitted in parks as long as A) it is not in a glass container and, B) it cannot be greater that 6% Alcohol By Volume. Basically, no hard alcohol or wine, but beer in cans or plastic bottles is fine. But PLEASE do not come to the park completely inebriated! Nobody wants to see that, especially when children are around. Just think about how you would act around your own family, and carry that over to the dog park. And absolutely DO NOT EVER give any dogs alcohol of any kind!
12. Leashes: It’s been recommended to me by a few trainers that dogs be taken off their leash in the sally port area, before they enter the general dog population. Dogs brought all the way into the park while on-leash or being carried can feel threatened and become defensively aggressive, because they feel they have nowhere to go when several other dogs come up to sniff them. But when they know they have the option of running away and getting a feel for things, they seem to be a lot more relaxed. This is especially true of newcomers, and I’ve experienced it first-hand with my own dog. It’s also not legal (or a good idea) to leave your dog off-leash once you leave the fenced in park. The cars on Alameda Parkway are traveling in excess of 45 MPH, and no matter how much you trust your dog, it’s not worth the risk (there has already been one car/dog accident. Luckily, the dog survived, but the owner incurred a $3500 vet bill for a broken leg and hip.) Lakewood law states that all dogs in an unfenced public area MUST be on a leash, and at least one person has already been fined for not leashing their dog.
13. Manners: Most of us dog owners probably don’t care all that much when our own dogs jump up on us occasionally, but others may not feel that way. If your dog jumps up on someone, it is YOUR responsibility to tell him to get down (and don’t be surprised if the person he jumps on tells him “down” or puts a knee up.) This is especially true during the winter months when the ground is muddy, but it can also cause smaller children and the elderly to get knocked over or even become injured.
14. Toys: If your dog likes to play fetch, you probably don’t want to bring any toy that you expect to get back or would mind losing. You may not get back an expensive toy. The choice to bring toys is yours, but losing a 25-cent tennis ball is no big deal compared to losing a toy that cost $25. And by the way, there are several dozen tennis balls laying around the park, so if your dog likes to play fetch, you probably don’t even need to bring anything! Just take a quick walk down the hill, and you’ll most likely find a ball!
15. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Make sure your dog and you have fun!!! A dog that can run and play with his own kind is a happy and healthy dog!