Dog parks are by far the top of the wish list for city and community parks. Dog parks can be wonderful additions to a community, whether as an addition to an existing community park or as a standalone, dog-specific park. People thinking about building a dog park should be aware that there are many pitfalls to overcome along the way. While important and necessary components, building a dog park isn’t just about the business plan or the architectural illustrations. It’s not just about the perfect property you want to use, the type of fence you are going to install, or the unique sign you want to put up at the entrance. Before you do anything, get to know your market, get to know dogs and the people who own them.
To have a safe park you need to have rules and make sure you follow them – you need to have a patrolled park. While many who use dog parks may be experienced dog owners who realize they still have a lot to learn about dogs, many people are first-time dog owners who think they know everything. Dogs must be interested in being social first and foremost in order for them to have a positive experience at a dog park. Imagine mixing all the dogs into an off-leash environment? You really never know what’s going to happen, so having supervision is essential. There are several models of dog parks. City dog parks are usually free and open to the public 24 hours a day. Although most have established rules, there is no one who makes sure that people follow these rules. It is in these parks that most of the problems occur. Member parks usually charge a fee and require people and their dogs to be registered. Many fee parks require dogs to pass a character test before being admitted to the park, and people are asked to attend an orientation session. Mixing small and large dogs in an off-leash environment is not a good idea. Many dog parks have both a small dog area and a large dog area.
According to a recent Humane Society study, approximately 39% of American households have at least one dog. As a result, America’s largest cities have seen a comparable 34% increase in the number of dog parks over the past 10 years. With dog parks on the rise, park and recreation departments now have a variety of equipment, pet waste solutions, and other products on hand.
While this isn’t always possible, successful dog parks often open in spaces that are currently unused. To determine the correct location, look for areas that:
Currently you are seeing high dog usage
Are outside the parameters of the main parks
Does not affect wildlife or water quality
Are evenly distributed across the city
Are near parking lots
Are away from existing playgrounds, residential areas and heavy traffic
Are dry and watered
Are at least 5,000 square meters in size
*It can also be helpful to place your dog park along a path system to give dog owners more opportunity to walk their canine companions.
While grass is currently the most common flooring option for larger dog parks, chipped bark (pun intended), sand, gravel, granite, or artificial turf can also be used. Budget, climate, park size, usage, and the surrounding park facilities should be considered when determining which flooring to use. Splitting a dog park in half, alternating with the open side, can help preserve the surface of larger dog parks, while messing up a smaller dog park can be a better option.
Depending on the demographics of the dog breed and the needs of pet owners in your area, fencing off-leash in smaller areas is usually pretty standard, while larger ones are often left unfenced. To create smoother dog park operations, park and recreation departments are becoming a little more strategic with the placement of their fences, while many parks simply use typical setup. This facility includes two sets of gates at the entrance areas to allow pet owners to close the outer gate and let their dog loose before opening the inner gate and entering the main area. Others, on the other hand, use a separate entry and exit area. If your potential dog park area includes a pond or other water feature, it’s a good idea to place an additional fence around the body of water to prevent dogs from taking unnecessary baths.
Today’s dog parks range from simple lots to elaborate pet playgrounds complete with ponds, sprayers, agility equipment, and other park amenities. The basics are now becoming the standard, especially when it comes to staying cool and refreshed. Although slightly less important in more temperate climates, be it a shady structure or trees, providing shade from the heat is especially important for both pets and their owners. From a simple pet drinking fountain to a more elaborate spray hydrant, water is a welcome amenity for all canines. Because dogs often use something upright as a marker post, water fountain placement is important. It may be in everyone’s best interest to place the water features in areas where owners can still control their pets while they are on a leash.
Although equipment in public spaces should not be professional quality, newer dog parks also offer play facilities such as agility machines. This adds extra fun and gives people a chance to do more than just sit on a park bench. When choosing your agility equipment:
Look for devices that come with a full warranty
Choose different pieces that will challenge and accommodate dogs of different sizes and skill levels
Use rust/rotting resistant materials
Choose devices with non-slip surfaces
Avoid devices higher than 3 feet to avoid injury to dogs and children
Here are a few things to consider that can help you choose the right location for your future park:
Size It Up: The size of your park may depend solely on land availability. A minimum of 1 acre is recommended, but can be as large as your community can manage and maintain. If space is not an issue, consider an area large enough to rotate high-traffic areas annually or even seasonally.
Pack it up: Think about how your community will use the park. Remember, people need to enjoy the park too! It’s important to plan for seating and shade so everyone feels comfortable visiting your park. Do not stop! Would you like to include space for agility equipment, a sandpit, pond or fountain, climbing wall, walking trails, or anything else that your community and their dogs would enjoy? A community meeting can help determine what is feasible and preferred by future park visitors.
Water, water everywhere: think of a water source for humans and dogs, as well as a dog flushing station. On particularly muddy days, being able to rinse your dog off to prevent cars from getting the full dog park experience can make a nicer day for everyone.
Cleaning Plan: To keep your dog park comfortable and as clean as possible, place litter stations and bins a reasonable distance apart (about 4 per acre, depending on layout). Make sure the park is easily accessible to landscapers so it’s easy to keep your park lush and tidy.
SHOW YOUR SPIRIT: Remember that the design of your dog park affects the spirit of the park. One important way to do this is to create the conditions for responsible pet ownership and behavior at the dog park by developing and promulgating park rules. Some example rules may include:
Dogs must be properly vaccinated and it is recommended that they be spayed or neutered.
Puppies under 4 months and bitches in heat are prohibited.
Do not bring dog food into the dog park.
Owners must clean up after their dogs.
Dogs with a known history of aggressive behavior are prohibited.
Dogs must wear a collar with ID at all times.
Dogs must be on a leash when entering and exiting the park.
It is forbidden to leave dogs unattended.
Children under the age of 16 must be supervised by a parent or legal guardian.
Maximum 3 dogs per person per visit.
When entering or exiting, watch out for dogs on the other side of the front gate to prevent escapes.
Whether your dog park is a simple piece of earth or complete with high-end amenities, it should be a place your community pet owners will appreciate. The knowledge and products now available give parks and recreation departments the ability to create a dog park that fits their specific location, needs and budget.
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