Monday, August 10, 2015

Brisbane's Guide to Politely Borrowing a Tennis Court For Your Dog

I've been dogsitting this week for a couple of beloved cattledogs. It's a lot of fun having Ranger and Annie here, but meeting everyone's need for exercise requires some creativity. I've taken them to a tennis court at a local park a couple of times because it's the perfect place for the dogs to get some off-leash running and ball-chasing time in a safely-fenced area where we are safe from the world and the world is safe from us.

I've seen people suggest using tennis courts for doggy playtime in the past, but I live in an area plagued by grumpy judgemental people and I need to be very careful to avoid bothering someone enough to result in some sort of ban on dogs in the courts. To this end, I have compiled a guide to using nice public tennis courts in a way that is least likely to offend someone or result in disaster. I try to keep in mind that, although it is a public park, the tennis court is intended for people who want to play tennis, and it is rude for me to monopolize it.

The Golden Rule of tennis court playtime: "It's a tennis court, not a dog park."
This will take an unsuspecting person a moment to figure out.

Do pick times and places when the courts are unlikely to be used for tennis. Dusk is a favorite for me, I've also gone at midnight.
Do be aware of the area and your impact on it. Observe normal quiet hours if there are houses nearby and you have a dog that confuses barking with playing.
Do keep your visit short, especially if you have the above-mentioned barky dog.
Do secure the court before unleashing your dogs. Clip leashes through gate locks, tie the gates shut, you can even bring your own locks. The aim is to keep your dogs contained and slow down anyone trying to get in so you have time to round everybody up.
Do walk the perimeter of the court and check for hazards like holes in the fence, homeless people sleeping under benches, etc. before unleashing your dog.
Do plan on leaving at any moment if someone arrives with a tennis racket. Keep an eye out if it's daylight and don't wait for them to ask for the court.
Do plan on leaving at any moment if your dog starts barking at people or dogs outside the court, or making noise during quiet hours.
Do avoid making noise yourself. Call your dogs softly and avoid drawing attention to yourself.
Do walk your dogs ahead of time and give them a chance to relieve themselves before entering the court.
Do bring poo bags, and maybe some wipes or a spray bottle of cleaner if your dogs are prone to making disgusting messes.

Don't go during peak tennis hours, whatever those are for your particular park.
Don't bring your barky dog for a huge barkfest after dusk or early in the morning.
Don't monopolize the court for hours, you may be unaware of the people waiting for you to leave.
Don't rely on the existing gate latches, an unsuspecting person could accidentally let your dog out or invade your private fetch party.
Don't annoy the neighbors or other park users by monopolizing the entire court for long, making them listen to you and your dog yelling, leaving messes for someone else to clean up, etc.
Don't leave poo in the tennis court. Seriously.
Don't draw attention to yourself, make it obvious you are using the tennis court for a personal dog park, or do anything that might make someone wish dogs weren't allowed in there.

My dogs are mostly quiet players, but Ru doesn't get to go along for late-night fetch time because he likes to bark at the cattledogs. The rest of them seem to understand Stealth Mode and will play silently and come when I make soft kissy noises so I don't have to call them out loud. With our Flash & Glow Jr ball from the October BarkBox, it makes for a perfect game of fetch. We still run into clueless dog owners though, last time there was someone walking their little dogs off-leash through the park. "It's ok, they're friendly," he assured me as the ran barking along the outside of the fence. "Mine aren't," I answered. "That's why we're in the tennis court at midnight."


  1. Lol. I was literally JUST thinking about this the other day, but the tennis court is locked up near where I live. Also with a boy dog, I worry he'll mark the net (very likely) so that's a no go in the stealth department. Sometimes I just want a place where my reactive dog can be off leash by himself in an enclosed area... that's not my own yard.

    1. I hear you! I've heard people suggest renting a room at an indoor training center, but those don't exist here. We do have quite a few tennis courts in our local parks though, so if one park is a no-go I can always try another. I suppose you could bring along a bottle of cleaner like Nature's Miracle to douse anything your dog does to the net and have a go at the court, though. Maybe discourage that particular behavior and keep him moving? I have a tiny yard, so for us it's tennis courts and super long ropes for places like the beach.