There are dozens of off-leash dog parks in Toronto for you and your furry children to enjoy, and plenty of trails to sniff and explore. But having endless options doesn’t mean pups and their humans are really free.

As dog owners know, you must follow written and unwritten rules in dog parks, including picking up after your pooch and following the clearly marked signs and boundaries. And it’s not advisable to bring your 150-pound dog to the enclosure built specifically for small pups. Owners should also make sure their dogs are on-leash unless they’re in a designated off-leash area.

Once in the park, the temptation to gather with other doggy parents is strong, but ensure your eyes are always on your dog. Watch to make sure Spot’s not being rude to other dogs or humans, or digging holes (and if he is, make sure you repair them before you leave so other dog owners don’t twist their ankles). Watch for escalating behaviours like humping, jumping and excessive barking. Be prepared to act quickly if something happens.

Keep your dog engaged with you: Move around the park to keep your pup guessing. And have fun. Playing by the rules doesn’t mean you and your dog can’t enjoy the company and the chance to play outdoors. Don’t forget toys, and if the park is Frisbee-friendly, bring one along.

Remember that an off-leash park doesn’t give dog owners permission to relax their guard. Pet parenthood doesn’t stop the moment the gate closes behind you