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Whose off-leash dog beach is it, anyway? Answer: not your dog's

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What do you all think?  

 

On Saturday night I went to the off-leash dog beach with my puppy for our regular twilight romp on the sand. 

Typically here's what happens: Maudie, a seven-month-old English Staffy, runs and wrestles and plays with the rest of the Port Melbourne canines, whose owners assemble on the shore for the last wear-the-buggers-out dog walk of the day. Then we all go home.

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On Saturday, after nearly an hour on the beach, I went home as usual - and here's what had happened in the meantime.

There was a woman with a baby on the off-leash dog beach. The baby was lying on a blanket on the sand. My dog briefly licked the baby. The mother called the police - triple zero - telling them: "A dog has attacked my baby." 

The police came. They advised me of my rights - a version of "you have the right to remain silent" familiar to everyone who's ever seen a cop show - and questioned me. After interviewing the baby's mother, they came over and questioned me again. 

A little while later, I wandered home from this week's twilight beach romp with a puppy who'd worn herself out and earned me a hefty fine in the process - the most straightforward outcome to an incident that could have involved a charge and a court appearance. I also went home with a headache and a feeling that lingers two days later: did that really just happen? 

Maudie, left, susses out another dog at the off-leash dog beach. Maudie, left, susses out another dog at the off-leash dog beach. Photo: Neil McMahon
 
 

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My crime (Maudie's crime to be more precise about it, but we take it on the chin for our dogs): failing to maintain what they call "effective control" of my dog in an off-leash area. My penalty: $238.

My question: whose off-leash dog beach is it, anyway? The answer: not your dog's. 

Off-leash dog beach rules are open to wide interpretation. Off-leash dog beach rules are open to wide interpretation. Photo: Neil McMahon

It's for people who may or may not have dogs, and if they do have dogs, it is their responsibility to maintain "effective control" of them at all times. 

Sounds sensible. But what does "effective control" mean? This was my expensive lesson for the weekend, and if you're a dog owner you'd be wise to listen up because it could become yours.

"Effective control" is defined as follows. It means your dog will return to you upon command (fair enough, though I don't know a dog owner who has a 100 per cent success rate on that front). It means that you "retain a clear and unobstructed view of the dog" in the off-leash area at all times (fair enough, and usually not a problem unless the whirling dervish of romping dogs gets too big or they head off into the shrubbery in pursuit of a tennis ball). 

But here's the kicker that got me in trouble: "effective control" means your dog "does not bother, attack, worry or interfere with other people or animals".

So here's a tip that actually makes some sense: tell mums and dads that an off-leash dog park is no place to put your baby on the ground. 

Remove the clear-cut essential prohibition on "attack" from that line-up and you're left with three words that are wide open to interpretation and are very much in the eye of the beholder. 

Bother, worry, interfere. And that applies to "other people or animals" - the latter meaning other dogs, to all intents and purposes

This rule governing behaviour in off-leash dog parks was obviously written by someone who has never been to an off-leash dog area - and possibly has never met a dog. It is a local council regulation, enforced by Victoria Police.

In my case, I'd been in breach of this requirement for somewhere between three and five seconds - the interval between Maudie trotting over to investigate the baby lying on the sand and me realising it was a baby and calling her back. She came immediately, but got a lick of the baby's chest in before I got her attention.

The baby was physically unharmed (in the ensuing hour of police visits and interviews, his mother at no point sought or requested a doctor or a hospital trip), and while I'm sure he and his mum got a fright, he showed no signs of distress. But, as I admitted to the police in eventually copping the fine, I had clearly breached the law as the officer patiently explained it to me: for a few seconds, I did not meet the definition of "effective control". And the baby's mother believed she had been bothered, worried or interfered with. 

I was cooked. But so is that law, whose wording needs a thorough revisit. 

And while authorities are about it, they might consider some improved signage at the off-leash areas under their control.

In recent weeks, I've seen babies or toddlers in off-leash dog parks crawling on the grass or stumbling about while a large group of dogs of all shapes, sizes and temperaments runs around revelling in the freedom they imagine these designated areas provide them.

I've seen two kids bowled over by dogs, including one little boy whose mother thought it a good idea to walk him through the dog park eating popcorn. She did not have a dog herself, nor much in the way of common sense, and after that incident her son didn't have any popcorn.

Australia is a nation in which you cannot walk three steps without a sign warning you of some or other danger or telling you what you can and cannot do. 

So here's a tip that actually makes some sense: tell mums and dads that an off-leash dog park is no place to put your baby on the ground. Surely the Nanny State can squeeze that bit of common sense on to a sign along with everything else.

 

[\quote]

 

http://www.smh.com.au/national/whose-offleash-dog-beach-is-it-anyway-answer-not-your-dogs-20171008-gywu1g.html

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Ps. Sorry about formatting. On my phone.

 

On topic: personally think it sounds like sour grapes from the owner, but also generally agree on theground in a designated off leash area is no place for a baby.

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Rebanne   

isn't it a public beach which allows dogs off lead at certain times? I don't know of any beach that is exclusive for dogs at certain times. I think the Mum went overboard if she really said a dog attacked her child but I don't think we can rely on the very biased dog owners word. I wouldn't have put my baby on the ground with a heap of dogs but if there was only a couple and they were a way off I might have.

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She should've been fined too for calling 000 when it wasn't an emergency... she should've probably just called the local police if she needed to be quite so dramatic.

Generally if you put a bub down in an offleash beach (with strange dogs whose temperament you don't know) you are asking for trouble... I think it's not particularly sensible for parents to bring small kids (like under 8yo or so) to a dog park, it's risky because they're so small so any medium sized dog can jump up on faces etc. plus children and strange dogs both have unpredictable behaviour at times so easy for injuries and upset! The dogs are going to be rowdy and fast and kids might not be used to that so no wonder dog bites occur... :( 

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corrie   

If I walked in to a dog beach or leash free area and someone had a baby on the ground then would quietly shake my head, leash my dog and leave the area. 

 

Not a very sensible action by the mother but at the same time it is a public space and she is well within her rights. 

 

Sometimes despite the inconsiderations of others you just try to do the sensible thing and move on. That's life!

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our beaches are definitely shared areas - people who come to just enjoy the beach usually have no clue what the "dog rules" are unless they own a dog.  Most of the dog owners have no clue either.


So I leash my dog every time we go past children, and often if we go past anyone that does not have a dog tho it's pretty easy these days to keep her away from those people, and on leash if I see bicycles !!! or the local ranger or garbage ute or other vehicles. And for every poodle cross except the ones she is friends with (which confuses the hell out of poodle crosses she's not friends with - tho she was really good last weekend - several stranger poodle x got in her face and she remained calm for all of them except one who probably trod on her). 

So I think that whole article was written by someone who thinks there should be no rules.  I am surprised the police came tho.  Normally they would say "is your baby injured?  no? call the local council then."  never mind that it's very difficult to get the local council ranger out after hours.

it is not ok for your dog to lick strangers, especially children,
it is not ok for your dog to pee on the beach boot camp equipment or swimmers towels or raid the treat pouch of someone having a swim with their dog on a hot day. 
it is not ok for your dog to rush up to every other dog on the beach who might be old and sore and grumpy - you don't know.
it is not ok for your dog to be so far up the beach from you that you can't catch it if there is trouble.
and (this happened to me) it is not ok for your dog to bite someone who has treats.  I didn't call the police and the dog owner never came back to that beach.  It was a lab.

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Ps this is a good reframe of the problem - from the grumpy dog owner POV

he just wants to say hi
https://kamalfernandez.blog/2017/09/22/he-just-wants-to-say-hello/

I would post a link to Susan Clothier's article - which is now an e-book with help for the rude dog owners and "free" - if you hand over your address details and etc.  FFS.

found a better link. I don't know why it didn't work the first time.

https://suzanneclothier.com/article/just-wants-say-hi/
 

Edited by Mrs Rusty Bucket
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6 hours ago, corrie said:

If I walked in to a dog beach or leash free area and someone had a baby on the ground then would quietly shake my head, leash my dog and leave the area. 

 

Not a very sensible action by the mother but at the same time it is a public space and she is well within her rights. 

 

Sometimes despite the inconsiderations of others you just try to do the sensible thing and move on. That's life!

Agree. While it does frustrate the heck out of me when babies and little kids are put on the ground (lying/sitting/running around) in designated off leash dog areas, because Quinn loooooooves kids and will want to approach them but would definitely lick and can also be too rough, it's still my responsibility to not let her do that so on the leash she goes.

 

Having said that I would never rely on other people to do that and would not put my own baby/little kid on the ground in a dog area!

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PPS this seems to be the original version - haven't listened to the recording yet but...

https://www.3aw.com.au/neil-mitchell-should-children-be-banned-from-off-lead-dog-parks/


Neil Mitchell 3aw talking to Neil McMahon - journalist and clueless dog owner.    This is the kind of thing that makes me wish dog owners had to pass a written test before they are allowed to own or look after a dog.  To show they know how to care for the dog and they know the dog rules and they know where to get help for training if they need it.

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I disagree with calling 000 over such an incident but at the same time, most dog owners i've met are clueless about the rules of off-leash areas or public beaches where dogs are allowed. No control over their dog, not watching their dog and sitting on their phone, letting their dog jump on other people and animals, justifying their dogs behaviour such as humping or aggression or stealing from people (you shouldn't have brought treats to the park), letting dogs bully others, not calling their dogs away when asked etc

 

We tend to avoid them at peak times and have a few where i feel owners are typically more knowledgeable and considerate and ask before letting their dogs come up to others (people and dogs)

 

Most parks and beaches are just public areas even though many dog owners tend to think of them as "dog parks" or "dog beaches" and they are for everyone to enjoy, people with dogs, kids, people playing sport, people jogging, skateboarding etc not just "let your dog loose on the public areas"

 

I'd also be all in favour of people passing a test before they can own a dog~ 

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3 hours ago, Mrs Rusty Bucket said:


So I think that whole article was written by someone who thinks there should be no rules.  I am surprised the police came tho.  Normally they would say "is your baby injured?  no? call the local council then."  never mind that it's very difficult to get the local council ranger out after hours.

it is not ok for your dog to lick strangers, especially children,
it is not ok for your dog to pee on the beach boot camp equipment or swimmers towels or raid the treat pouch of someone having a swim with their dog on a hot day. 
it is not ok for your dog to rush up to every other dog on the beach who might be old and sore and grumpy - you don't know.
it is not ok for your dog to be so far up the beach from you that you can't catch it if there is trouble.
and (this happened to me) it is not ok for your dog to bite someone who has treats.  

110%!!! Amen!!! 

 

Could not agree with you more Mrs RB!

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My little take on this is there are so few off leash sections of beach where you can legally take your dog (well on the Gold Coast anyway) that I am dumbfounded people without dogs even want to go there. There is miles and miles of beach that dogs aren't allowed to set foot on up here so I have little sympathy for people who carry on about dogs being dogs in the small sections of beach they can use. People are idiots (dog owners and non-dog owners). Dogs don't know council or police laws. They pee and poop and run and jump and stick their noses where they shouldn't and hump and shake sand and water over all your stuff and, well, the list goes on. There are risks being in an off leash dog area surrounded by dogs cutting loose. You shouldn't (and hopefully wouldn't) put your baby on the ground in an off leash park so a measly section of beach dedicated for such use should be just the same. Use your common sense because by the time a law has been broken it could be too late.

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@Little Gifts

I am continuously surprised at the limitless supply of stupid people.  I have indeed seen people with babies having picnics on the ground inside of quite small dog parks.  I don't know why.   Maybe they brought a dog and wanted to be somewhere it couldn't nick off if it was off lead?

Around here - it's often not clear that it's a dog off lead area.   And dogs are often off lead when and where they are not supposed to be.

When evil hound was a puppy we were at the beach playing with a kelpie that I thought would help me bring my dog back to me as I had very little if any recall at the time...  My dog spied a mum with a baby in her arms and a toddler on the sand by her feet, and took off, the mum and I were both horrified... I'm chasing my dog but about 5 meters out from horrified mum - my dog drops to her belly, crawls three meters and then rolls over upside down.  Which completely diffused the situation. 

Had she dived in and put her mouth on the toddler - even if it was just licking - I don't think the mum would have been laughing.   I can't tell when the average staffy charges up whether its intentions are good or evil.   We get charged a lot, and if I don't know the dog, the more direct and upright the charge is the more anxious I get.

And I've seen people let dogs off they think are friendly and then that dog proceeds to hump and bully and fight every other dog in the park.    My dog spends a lot more time on lead than she used to because she's not nearly as friendly as she used to be.   Why people let their dogs approach on lead dogs - I don't know either.  And all they can say is don't bring your dog if it's not friendly.    what they mean is - don't bring your dog unless she can tolerate the most extreme rude doggy behaviour...  sigh.

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OT I guess but I do want to add that I HAVE used kids, babies, prams etc in off leash parks as training tools for my dogs, as in they don't get uncontrolled access BUT I have used the kids to train focus on me, recall under heavy distraction, "stay down" (4 feet on the floor), don't jump up on prams, and tolerate children in  general, which has been really helpful as otherwise my dogs would have had very limited interaction with kids when younger.

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I think the big thing the "ruffled my furs" (an expression on our home) was this: 

 

 

My crime (Maudie's crime to be more precise about it, but we take it on the chin for our dogs): failing to maintain what they call "effective control" of my dog in an off-leash area. My penalty: $238. (Emphasis added).

 

Ah yes, good old "effective control" AKA recall AKA "getting your dog to come back".   Personally, anyone who thinks good behavior for their dog is optional, especially in public, ruins it for the rest of us...

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