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May 2014

Why does Winnipeg need more quality off-leash recreational space?

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Why does Winnipeg need more quality off-leash recreational space?

The most obvious reason why dogs need better access to recreational green space is because of dogs’ popularity.

Child puppy

Dogs are a fact of life. They have been living with humans for 15,000 years, contributing significantly to our quality of life. Dogs have worked alongside humans, herding and protecting livestock, hunting game, transporting people and property, and controlling vermin.


Winnipeg Animal Services estimates there are about 110,000 dogs in the city. That means approximately one in every three homes has a dog. Dogs are not going away so we need to help them be the best possible citizens they can be.Off-leash dog parks foster good canine citizenship.

Municipal leaders across North America have found dog parks enhance communities; they are relatively inexpensive to maintain and have no significant history of liability claims. (Alberta Urban Municipalities Association)


What’s the problem?
The problem is that only 100 hectares of Winnipeg’s 4000 hectares of parkland have been set aside for dog parks – less than 3% of the city’s green space.
And dog owners are losing the off-leash space they have at an alarming rate. The City recently closed Transcona and Steven Juba dog parks;  the size of Maple Grove and Little Mountain has been significantly reduced and Charleswood and Brenda Leipsic are threatened with closure.
The city’s largest dog parks – Kilcona and Maple Grove have reached their carrying capacity. The number of dogs and dog owners warrants more off-leash recreational green space.


Why are off-leash dog parks good for communities?
Everyone benefits from off-leash area dog parks. They encourage healthy activities in public parks, help people to lose weight, lower cholesterol, ease stress and reduce public health care costs.

hiking Kilcona's trails

Photo credit: Colleen Blouin

Dog parks provide a place for outdoor events and activities, shelter dog training, adoption fairs, and outdoor canine film festivals/events.

IAMS rated the Kilcona Park Dog Club/IAMS National Dog Day in the Park in August 2013 the most successful in its 18 city cross-Canada tour because of the venue and the logistical support of  the local club.

Photo credit: KPDC Inc.

Photo shoot at the IAMS Cafe

Off-leash parks also increase opportunities for shelters and rescues to sucessfully place foster dogs in permanent homes.


Winnipeg Animal Services COO Leland Gordon showcases Nacho, an “adorable adoptable” at an off-leash event.
Photo credit: Kilcona Park Dog Club

Specific Dog Park Benefits
• Enclosed dog parks prevent off-leash dogs from infringing on the rights of community residents and park users.

• Dog parks enrich dogs’ lives. To keep dogs happy, healthy and out of trouble, they need exercise for their brains and bodies. Many undesirable behaviors are caused by a lack of physical and mental activity.

• Dogs’ wild relatives lead busy lives – their days are full of hunting, scavenging, avoiding predators and engaging in complex social interactions.


Dogs were born to lead active lives but, sadly, today many dogs spend their days alone at home napping on couches. No hunting or scavenging’s required; tasty meals are served up every day.

Without mental stimulation, companionship, and exercise dogs become bored, lonely and overweight.

dog tired

With no way to expend excess energy, it’s not surprising that confined dogs find things to do that humans don’t like – un-stuffing couches, raiding trash cans and gnawing on shoes. A result of destructive behavior is that many dogs spend their days lock in their crates.

bathroom blues

• An off-leash area’s a wonderful place for a dog to run to its heart’s content, investigating new smells, wrestling with dog buddies and fetching toys and sticks until it happily collapses. A tired dog’s a good dog!

jump for joyPhoto credit: Virginia Micolayenko

• Dogs that exercise strenuously – running with other dogs, catching a ball, or chasing a Frisbee are better neighbours; less prone to excessive barking, destroying property, and biting.

• Winnipeg Animal Services COO, Leland Gordon says dog parks play an important role in preventing dog bites. “A dog well-socialized with various types of people and animals is less apt to bite. We encourage dog owners to visit one of the city dog parks for socialization opportunities.”

• Dogs, like humans, are highly social animals and many enjoy spending time with their own species.

Lucy and Fixit

Photo credit: Vince Pahkala

• At the dog park, a dog learns social skills. Dogs get lots of practice reading other dogs’ body language and using their own communication skills. Dogs get used to meeting unfamiliar dogs and people. These are valuable experiences

  • Well-socialized dogs are less likely to be fearful or aggressive toward strangers.

  • Well-socialized dogs don’t feel the need to display dominance with other dogs.

dog socialization
Photo credit: Vince Pahkala

• Dogs aren’t the only ones who enjoy dog parks. People do, too. They exercise, bond and play with their dogs, practice off-leash training skills, and enjoy the entertaining antics of frolicking dogs.

Phil and Tammy

Photo credit: Vince Pahkala

• Dog parks stimulate social interaction because dogs are great icebreakers. Dog parks help neighbours to get to know each other, foster friendships and build communities.

people socializing

Photo credit: Kilcona Park Dog Club

• Dog parks provide a safe option for seniors and those who find it difficult to walk a dog on leash.

• Attractive, well-maintained dog parks reduce the number of dogs walked on city streets, in city parks and other public places, minimizing contact between dogs and people who are afraid of dogs.
• Dog parks encourage leash-law compliance by providing a legal alternative.
• The presence of people and dogs has been shown to deter crime and vandalism in adjacent areas.
• Dog parks are an asset for tourism. People are more likely to stay in an area that is dog-friendly when traveling with their pet.
• Dog parks benefit communities economically by attracting pet industry trade shows, conventions and film production crews. Animal Planet, NBC, OLN, and other television networks film events and flyball, agility and other dog sport competitions on location.

Aga Wyskwar's lovely photo
Photo credit: Aga Wyskwar

• Dog parks are the fastest growing urban parks in North America.

WINDOG encourages Winnipeg City Council to create high quality off–leash recreational green spaces.

The model WINDOG proposes is small neighbourhood dog parks within easy walking distance of resident’s homes, at least one larger dog park in each ward – within easy driving distance of residents’ homes, and one large regional off-leash area, the size of the City’s largest dog park – Kilcona – no more than a twenty minute drive away, in each of Winnipeg’s quadrants.

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