I often see people with their dogs on a leash at Greenbank Farm, Double Bluff Beach, and even occasionally at Marguerite Brons Dog Park. This is a bad idea, and here’s why.
When leashed, your dog is encumbered; trapped by the leash and the dead weight at the other end (you). If an off-leash dogs run up to him, he cannot fight OR flee, and he knows it. You’ve put your dog in a very vulnerable place. If all dogs are off-leash, free to circle, sniff, move about and posture in myriad subtle ways without having to compensate for the restriction of a leash, the vast majority of interactions will go well. After all, dogs are highly social creatures and dog parks naturally attract owners and dogs who are comfortable with freedom and dog-dog encounters.
If you add a leash-trapped dog into the mix, we can expect at least some anxiety on that dog’s part. As much as I like dog parks, they are open to the public, so on rare occasions you’ll meet dogs with rough social skills. Do you really want your dog to be handicapped by your leash when an unknown dog approaches? If he’s off-leash he can communicate freely and has the option of avoiding the encounter. On-leash his anxiety could escalate to a snarl or snap which will result in a bad association for him and could spark a dust-up. In an off-leash environment, such as a dog park, the leash may make YOU feel more in control, but what you've really done is put your dog at an unfair disadvantage.
If you are not comfortable with your dog off-leash, keep her out of the off-leash dog parks. Instead enjoy a neighborhood walk, or a nature walk at South Whidbey Community Park or Trustland Trails. Otherwise enjoy our beautiful off-leash dog parks! I look forward to seeing you there.