Doggie Doo: Follow The Rules Of Lakewood Dog Park

Making friends at Lakewood Dog Park.

The dog days of summer are still ahead, bringing more opportunities to socialize for Lakewood dogs and their owners. Many will head to Lakewood Dog Park. On any given day, many dozens of dogs scamper and sniff across 2/3 acres of park grounds.

The park sits on the border of Lakewood and Rocky River, tucked in between the Lakewood Water Treatment Plant and the Cleveland Metroparks Emerald Necklace Marina. The park is managed jointly by the City of Lakewood and volunteers from Friends of the Lakewood Dog Park, a nonprofit membership organization that raises support from the community to supply free dog waste disposal bags, toys, water bowls, benches and shelters, and other necessities at the park.

The park is free to use and open to anyone, not only Lakewood residents, so long as visitors play by all City of Lakewood ordinances as well as park rules. The official Rules of Lakewood Dog Park are clearly posted at the two entrances to the park, yet Lakewood Animal Control Officer Jack Crawford says many visitors seem to miss them.

I asked Jack to comment on what aspects of the rules he wishes park visitors would better understand, to ensure the enjoyment and safety of all users of the park:

Rule #1: Leash behavior: “Keep dogs leashed when outside the fenced-in dog park area. Owners and dog handlers must keep a leash for each dog on their persons at all times.”

The Lakewood Dog Park is the only place within city limits where dogs are allowed to run and play off-leash. However dog owners are expected to have their leashes in-hand in case they are needed. Yet Jack says, “Leashes are usually hooked onto the chain link fence surrounding the park, not in owners’ hands. Dog owners need to take responsibility. I observe many dog owners in the park not paying attention to their dogs. I believe the park can sometimes be more of a social gathering for the owners than the dogs.”

Rule #4: Licensing and vaccines: “Dogs must have current license and be up-to-date on all vaccines. Licenses, vaccine information, and ID tags must be affixed to each dog’s collar and a collar must be worn by dogs at all times.”

This rule gets broken both inside and outside the dog park. “So many dog owners in Lakewood don’t even know that they must get a county license for their dog every year,” Jack says. “If your dog is ever lost, an updated license can be very important to getting them found.” Cuyahoga County dog licenses are available at Discount Drug Mart stores, through the Cleveland Animal Protective League (APL), and online at the Cuyahoga County website.

Rule #5: Food: “To prevent aggressive canine behavior, human and dog food of any kind are prohibited.”

There’s no food allowed inside the dog park—no, not even doggie treats. “I observe many people at the park sipping on coffee and giving treats to their dogs,” Jack says. “But this can invite aggressive behavior. For everyone’s safety, leave the snacks at home.”

Rule #6: Small and young dogs: “Dogs must be at least 4 months old to enter. Dogs under 25 pounds may use the small dog area.”

The park is intended to be a place for dogs of all sizes. There is a special fenced-in area for smaller dogs, though they and their owners must enter through the main gates and cross through the park to access it. But the park is no place for newborn puppies. “I see quite a few very young dogs, definitely younger than four months, because their owners want to socialize them,” says Jack. “But for their own safety, wait until they are ‘of age’ to come to the park.”

Rule #12: Doggie doos and don’ts: “Always clean up after your dogs. Be watchful of your dogs, and pick up and dispose of fecal waste. Biodegradable waste bags, tools and trash receptacles are normally provided. Please leave the park as clean as, or cleaner than, it was when you arrived. Please do not leave litter or cigarette butts.”

The dog park is a free place to play but not to poop. “This is common courtesy, in the park or anywhere,” Jack says. “Pay attention, pick up after your dog, and help keep it a better and cleaner park for everyone.”

Rule #14: Owner responsibility: “Owners and dog handlers are responsible and liable for all damage or injury inflicted by their dogs.”

Jack says that more than anything else, he hopes visitors will understand that the park is an ‘enter at your own risk’ dog park. “I get calls all the time about altercations between dogs in the park. But any problems that occur inside the dog park are an owner’s own responsibility, since they chose to enter the park.”

Karen Karp, president of Friends of the Lakewood Dog Park, agrees. “When I'm at the park, if there is a dog whose behavior concerns me and the owner is not making an effort to intervene, I leave,” she says. “Discretion is the better part of valor. It might not be fair, maybe the other dog should go home, but I'd rather avoid a potentially dangerous situation than put my own dog at risk."

To read the full list of dog park rules, visit the City of Lakewood website. For additional pet tips and resources, download a Guide to Responsible Pet Ownership, produced by the City of Lakewood Animal Safety and Welfare Advisory Board.

Dana Textoris is a Lakewood resident on Elbur Avenue and a member of the City of Lakewood Animal Safety and Welfare Advisory Board.

Dana Textoris

Dana Textoris is a Lakewood resident on Elbur Avenue and a member of the City of Lakewood Animal Safety and Welfare Advisory Board.

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Volume 13, Issue 16, Posted 6:15 PM, 08.15.2017