Parks For Dogs…& Their Humans

Have you ever journeyed down a road whose aura captures you? The sensations engulf you? It exists to be your favorite as it connects you to some place special. Is it the change in temperature, the dancing shadows of the trees, the winding of the narrow road, and the anticipation of adventure? Who knows for sure but our dogs seem to know the road and it leads to the Dog Park.

Every dog knows this road and with its head out the car window, its nose collecting every single scent and that feeling of freedom; uncontrollable happiness sends abundant joy radiating in every tail thump and spin around in the back seat!

Dog parks are all the rage these days for dog owners, but there are so many different viewpoints when it comes to discussing dog parks. The idea behind dog parks is laudable. Who can argue with a place where dogs can run free and play with each other? Even in our suburban area, space is at a premium and many people lack large fenced-in yards where their dogs can safely play.

All good questions but before they get answered or even asked the park needs to be built!

Locally park managers today are more frequently being asked to consider dedicating a portion of their parks to be used as off-leash areas for people and their pets. While not always without controversy, these areas can easily become one of the most popular areas within a park system.

And here is something important to consider. Dog parks are a big benefits to the community as they create a truly multi-generational park activity for all ages. Dog parks are more for people than for dogs, (despite what dogs say!). Dog parks attract the adult park users the ones who vote to support parks, and who are more vocal in the community. They’re the ones dog park advocates want on their side. Most park facilities are currently geared towards a narrow range of users such as ages 2 to 12 for playgrounds, or ages 12 to 35 for most ball fields. As mentioned dog parks are one of the few multi-generational park activities, that offer recreation for almost every age and ability level. Based on the number of park users and initial cost, a dog park provides more recreation opportunities per dollar spent on construction and maintenance than any other park activity. Woof to that.

First things first.

Gaining community support through informal groups, petitions, and 501C-3 non-profit groups which promote a dog park in your community can generate interest to successfully encourage working within the system to create and support a local dog park. However, overzealous or disorganized groups can also quickly sink a well engineered plan for a dog park. In order to be successful groups must learn to work with local agencies, instead of trying to always fight them. Donations of labor, materials or funding along with the right attitude will make officials more cooperative.

It doesn’t take Border Collie intelligence to know that volunteers can be a tremendous asset to help stretch already strained maintenance budgets. Projects that volunteers can participate in can include raking leaves, spreading surfacing material, installing or repairing fencing, installing agility and exercise equipment, brush clearing and more. And volunteer groups that can self police the area for trash, dog waste, and to replace pickup bags in the dispensers sure help the cause.

And we all know the saying, good fences make good dog parks. Fences should be five feet or higher and be absolutely escape proof. It is smart to bury several inches of the fence beneath the surface, since some dogs have an ability to find any possible weakness in their confinement. And avoid creating any 90 degree corners in the fence system which can be used by aggressive dogs to trap unwilling victim dogs.

Drinking fountains are absolutely essential in any dog park for the health of both dogs and people after exercising. Consider water spray features or dog wash stations, but ensure you have provided proper drainage. Mud quickly becomes a huge problem in dog parks. And pickup stations and receptacles are absolutely critical for a clean facility. Stations should dispense individual bags stapled to a card instead of on a roll, since kids will take the rolled bags and stream your whole roll of expensive biodegradable bags across the park. Well at least they can’t TP the park!

Good signage can be an effective education tool, and bad signage will be completely ignored. Signs should have friendly and colorful graphics, and the text should take a positive tone instead of a long list of you can’t do this or that.

Selling the concept to a reluctant community can be a challenge. However your dog park will serve a wide variety of residents. There are nearly 73 million dogs in the US and 59% of the households have at least one dog, so if not at the dog park where else are they going to go?


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