For more information about The Barkyard at LaSalle Park, or off-leash areas in general, chances are you’ll find your answers here. If not, please send questions to The Barkyard FAQ Committee, or send a letter to The Barkyard’s mailing address.

What is an off-leash area?

An off-leash area (OLA), or dog park, is a public area—typically fenced—where dog owners can enjoy a park-like environment while their canine companions have a chance to play and interact with other dogs. These park-like settings provide a large open space for safe and legal off-leash exercise, without disturbing other park users. Managed by users in conjunction with city officials, dog parks offer benefits in the quality of life for the entire community.

There are more than 250 communities across the country that support more than 1,000 OLAs. The Syracuse (Onondaga County) park system has two parks and one additional park planned. The Rochester (Monroe County) community plans to establish four off-leash recreation areas for public use, and a citizen group in the Town of Amherst, NY has organized an OLA.

What is the current status of The Barkyard?

The Barkyard at LaSalle Park was officially opened on June 25, 2009. The park has separate fully-fenced areas for small and large dogs, the entrance is handicap-accessible and is double gated (sally port), and there are plans in place for running water and lighting. See The Barkyard Plans for more information.

Why do we need an off-leash area?

Leashes limit a dog’s space and mobility. They also get tangled when dogs try to greet each other or play. Rarely can we have our dogs running free in today’s society. Loose dogs may run into roads, get lost or injured, or infringe on the rights of other park users. They need a safe place where they can just be dogs.

Dogs need exercise, and off-leash dogs can run and jump at will. This type of exercise is great for your dog’s mental health and weight control, and increases her lifespan. It makes your dog calmer and better behaved at home. It also significantly reduces undesired behavior, such as destructive chewing, nuisance barking, separation anxiety (fear of being alone), jumping on visitors and overall “doggie obnoxiousness.”

Why do the rules state, “all dogs must be off-leash”?

When a leashed dog meets another dog that is off-leash, the leashed dog may be restricted in his movements and ability to greet the other dog. This can result in frustration and mixed signals, because the leashed dog (as well as his human) may display body language that appears threatening to the free dog, provoking the free dog to respond defensively. Unleash your dog while within the sally port, and open the gate to let him inside the park.

If you’re unsure how your dog will act in the park, visit the park during off-peak hours—like a weekday morning. If your dog has not regularly interacted with other dogs, invite some well-behaved dogs to meet you and your dog in a neutral area (not The Barkyard) to play. Be sure to enroll in a good obedience class or one that offers socialization classes for adult dogs. If you cannot trust your dog off-leash with other dogs, perhaps an off-leash area is not a good place for him. It doesn’t reflect poorly on you or your pet, because dog parks are not for every dog. If you have a puppy under 16 weeks of age, socialize her at a puppy preschool class. It will work wonders for your puppy’s manners later.

Can I ask someone to leave if they are breaking the rules?

Monitoring The Barkyard is the responsibility of all its users. We must watch all dog activity and request that owners remove a dog that may be “having a bad day.” Keep in mind that dog squabbles are part of dog play, but dogfights are not—we must prevent them before they occur and follow the posted rules. Many dog squabbles look scary but end quickly, with no physical damage to the animals. It is extremely helpful if you know what dog play looks like and you are honest about your dog’s personality and style of play. Some of us get defensive or embarrassed when it’s our dog doing the bullying or the mounting. Don’t take it personally. Just gather up Fido and head home. For more information on how to avoid and break up dogfights, see Best Practices: How to Avoid a Dogfight and Best Practices: What to Do if a Fight Occurs.

What if the owner won’t leave or is giving me a hard time?

If the dog has been bothering other dogs, other owners may come to your assistance. If not, then it would be safer to collect your dog and leave. You can come back another time. It’s not in your best interests to escalate matters. If the same owner continues to frequent the park and his or her dog doesn’t belong at the park, bring the matter to the attention of our Board of Directors. Provide as much information as you can: the person’s name; their vehicle license plate number; a description of them and their dog(s).

My dog was injured by another dog at the park. Who is responsible for the damage?

The owner of the dog is legally and financially responsible for any injuries caused by their dog. This includes dogs that are out of control and/or single out another dog for bullying or attack. The pet’s owner assumes total responsibility for the cost of the entire vet bill. Keep in mind that when a fight starts, it is hard to tell which dog is at fault. It can be confusing to determine which dog growled first, or whose behavior was not mannerly, but please remember that they are animals, after all. If there are physical injuries to both dogs, owners should split the cost of any vet bills.

If I notice an un-neutered dog at The Barkyard, should I say anything?

Yes. It is everyone’s responsibility to follow The Barkyard rules. For the good of all dogs and dog-owners, exceptions cannot be made. Un-neutered dogs are much more likely to cause problems, especially young males, which includes urine marking (on other dogs as well as humans), mounting, refusal to take “no” for an answer, and escalating play. If an un-spayed female in the park is in or near her heat cycle, she can cause many problems for neutered and un-neutered dogs alike. The rules are clearly posted: all dogs must be neutered (no testicles) or spayed (hysterectomy).

There are polite ways to talk to the owner, such as “I noticed your dog is not neutered. Did you know this park is for neutered animals only?” or “I know your dog is having a great time, but the rules state that all animals must be neutered or spayed. You might want to come back after he’s been fixed.”

My kids love dogs and come to the park with me. Is this OK?

That depends on your children and the dogs in the park. Please remember that this is a dog park, not a children’s park. Owners bring children at their own risk. Children under 15 must be supervised by an adult, and children under 11 are not permitted. Many dogs are large and boisterous when they play, and can knock over a child without intent to harm. Some dogs don’t like children, so it’s risky to bring children to a place where dogs are roaming free.

How old does my puppy have to be to go to The Barkyard?

Your dog must be four months or older. Puppies younger than four months have not had all the required vaccinations to protect themselves from most dog diseases and infections. Your dog must be properly vaccinated so he can be safe and healthy when playing with other dogs. See Dog Park Rules #8: Vaccination Requirements for more information.

How are you going to keep dangerous or contagious dogs out of the dog park?

We trust our fellow Western New Yorkers to follow the rules and recognize the signs when something is not right. There are no guarantees in life, but when everyone follows the rules, the problems are minimal. This system works in off-leash areas throughout North America—it will work here if we are committed to it.

How can I avoid a dogfight?

It is best to prevent a dogfight before it happens. See Best Practices: What to Do if a Dogfight Occurs for more information.