Since opening earlier this year, many dog owners have taken advantage of the new dog park on Tamarack Ave. McAllen Parks and Recreation calls the project a success. But some people just don’t know the etiquette of sharing a dog park with other dogs and owners.

McAllen Parks and Recreation’s Director Sally Gavlik and Deputy Director of Operations Dave Melaas want to get out the information before something bad happens.

“We’re looking in developing a friends group for that (dog park),” Melaas said. “The original group that planned this park is kind of strong forced and they are out there trying to enforce the printed rules. Of course they’re not marked and they’re not denoted as such, so nobody is paying any attention to them.”

Melaas explained that issues and problems arise with agressive animals and them not being taken care of properly. People coming in walking their dogs inside the fence area that are still on leashes. They advise this is not a good idea.

There are families bringing out multiple very young children and not supervising them. So it’s creating issues with aggression amongst the dogs and the people that are responsible pet owners are becoming concerned.

“Not to long ago we had a child out there that was snapped at and bitten because he was running after and chasing animals that didn’t belong to him,” he said. “So we need to look at etiquette and how these people are supposed to act.”

Below is a list of guidelines McAllen Parks and Recreation has come up with to help dog owners visiting the park.

• Extend common courtesy to everybody else.

• Pay attention to your own dog.

• If your dog has never been to a dog park, socialize them. Don’t come in here immediately and let him run.

• Come for the first time by yourself, don’t bring your animal. This way one can see how the other dogs react.

• When you do bring your dog for the first time, walk them around the perimeter to see how they react.

• If there are issues, try to work the dog out slowly into the pack out there.

• Third time, bring them into the park, but only for a little while, until they are properly socialized so we don’t have any aggression problems.

Another problem at the park is that dog owners don’t let their dogs be free.

“If the animal is not socialized there’s potential for aggressive behavior and problems,” Melaas said. “People come in through the gate with their dog still on the leash and usually it’s just like a bunch of little kids. Someone new will come in and they all want to flock to the dog on the leash.”

Etiquette issues must be addressed by the pet owner and Melaas hopes people will say a few things to themselves before coming out to the park.

“People need to say, ‘It is my dog, I love my dog but maybe we’re not ready for this yet,’” he said. “Maybe we need to find a different way to bring them in. Maybe when it’s off peak hours when there is only a couple of dogs so that it can get used to being in there.”

Gavlik also sees the problems with the leash issue.

“The intent is for them to be off leash because when you have a dog that is on leash and you have other dogs coming up to them, they do have the tendency to be more aggressive because they don’t have the capabilities of running and playing and things like that,” she said. “The whole intent is for the dogs to be off leash.”

Another issue McAllen Parks and Recreation has with the dog park is children at play in the park. McAllen Parks and Recreation has nothing against children, but they are concerned with the safety of the children visiting the dog park.

“The other big issue is the kids,” Melaas said. “A lot of parents are bringing their kids out there and they don’t have dogs. The just want to play with the animals and that’s not acceptable.”

Melaas stressed that it’s a park for dogs, not a park for people with dogs or without dogs. It’s a park for those animals to run free.

“You can go out there at any time, usually evenings, but you’ll find mommas with their little babies running around trying to grab pit bulls and boxers,” he said.

We’re in the process of changing the rules and one of the big changes is, right now we allow children in there accompanied and supervised by an adult. Now we’re going to consider not allowing children under nine.

“I think there’s a difference in the maturity level there,” Melaas said. “A four- or five-year-old is not going to understand why you’re saying don’t go grab that dog’s tail.”

Melaas also said that he would hate to see a child out at the park having fun and because of irresponsibility the child gets bitten because they just didn’t understand.

“I don’t want to be responsible for allowing that to happen even though I’m not liable,” Melaas said.

Gavlik and Melaas just want to educate pet owners on how to be responsible to make visits to the park fun and safe.

“While I have the opportunity to educate, a lot of people are not taking the cues and being educated,” Melaas said. “They’re still participating in the same behavior and something needs to change.”