Dog parks are undoubtedly one of the leading features on the wish list of municipal and community parks. Dog parks can be wonderful additions to a community, either as an inclusion to an existing community park or as a stand-alone, dog-specific park. People thinking about building a dog park should be aware that there are many pitfalls to encounter along the way. Although there are important and necessary components, building a dog park is not just about the business plan or the architectural drawings. It’s not just about the perfect plot of land you’ll use, the type of fence you’ll install or the unique sign you’ll place at the entrance. Before you do anything, learn about your market, learn about dogs and the people who own them.

To have a safe park you need to have rules and make sure they are followed – you need a supervised park. While many dog ​​park users may be experienced dog owners who realize they still have a lot to learn about dogs, many are first-time dog owners who think they know it all. Dogs must be interested in being social in the first place for them to have a positive experience in a dog park. Imagine mixing all dogs into an off-leash environment? You never really know what will happen, so it’s important to keep an eye out. There are several models of dog parks. Municipal dog parks are usually free and open to the public 24/7. Although most have posted rules, there is no one to make sure that people comply with these rules. These parks are the ones where the most problems occur. Membership-based parks usually charge a fee and require people and their dogs to be registered. Many fee-based parks require dogs to pass a temperament test before being admitted to the park, and people are asked to attend an orientation session. It is not a good idea to mix small and large dogs together in an off-leash environment. Many dog ​​parks have both a small dog area and a large dog area.

According to a recent study by the Humane Society, at least one dog can be found in approximately 39% of American households. 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, parks and recreation departments now have a variety of equipment, pet waste solutions and other products on hand.

The fundamental:

Although not always possible, successful dog parks are often launched in areas that are not currently in use. To find the right location, look for areas such as:

  • Currently seeing high dog use

  • Is outside the parameters of the main parks

  • Will not affect wildlife or water quality

  • Is evenly distributed throughout the city

  • Is close to parking

  • Is away from existing playgrounds, residential areas and heavy traffic

  • Are dry and watered

  • Is at least 5,000 square meters

*It can also be useful to place the dog park along a path system to give dog owners more opportunity to walk their four-legged companions.

While grass is currently the most common surface option for larger dog parks, bark chips (pun intended), sand, gravel, granite or artificial grass can also be used. Budget, climate, park size, use and the surrounding park facilities should be considered when deciding which surfaces to use. Splitting a dog park in two, alternating which side is open, can help preserve the surface of larger dog parks, while leaving a smaller dog park to gravel may be a better option.

Fencing first:

Depending on the demographics of the dog breed and the needs of the pet owners in your area, fencing is usually fairly standard in smaller off-leash areas, while larger ones are often unfenced. To create a smoother dog park operation, parks and recreation departments are getting a little more strategic in fence placement, while many parks simply use a typical setup. This setup includes two sets of gates at the entrance areas to allow pet owners to close the exterior gate and release the dog before opening the interior gate and entering the main area. Others, however, use a separate entry and exit area. If your potential dog park area contains a pond or other water feature, it is a good idea to place an additional fence around the body of water to prevent dogs from taking an unnecessary bath.

Park features:

Today’s dog parks range from basic lots to elaborate pet playgrounds with ponds, spray features, agility equipment and other park amenities. The basics are now becoming standard, especially when it comes to staying cool and refreshed. Although slightly less important in more moderate climates, whether it’s a shade structure or trees, it’s especially important to provide shade from the heat for both pets and their owners. Ranging from a simple pet water fountain to a more elaborate sprinkler fire hydrant, water is a welcome offering for all dogs. Since dogs often use something upright as a marking post, the location of the water fountain is important. It may be in everyone’s best interest to place the water features in areas where owners still have control over their pets via leash.

Although the equipment in public spaces should not be of a professional nature, newer dog parks also have play facilities such as agility equipment. This adds a little extra fun and gives people the opportunity to do more than just sit on a park bench. When choosing agility equipment:

  • Look for equipment covered by a comprehensive warranty

  • Choose different pieces that will challenge and accommodate dogs of varying sizes and skill levels

  • Use rust/rot resistant materials

  • Choose equipment with non-slip surfaces

  • Avoid equipment that is more than 3 feet high to prevent injuries to dogs and children

Here are some things to consider that can help you choose the right location for your future park:

  1. Size It Up: The size of your park may depend solely on the availability of land. A minimum of 1 hectare is recommended, but they can be as large as your community can manage and maintain. If space is not an issue, consider an area large enough that it is possible to rotate high-traffic areas annually or even seasonally.

  2. Wrap it up: Consider how your community will use the park. Remember that people have to enjoy the park too! It is important to plan for seating and shade so that everyone stays comfortable when visiting your park. Don’t stop there! Will you include space for agility equipment, a sandbox, pond or fountain, climbing wall, walking trails, or anything else you can think of that your community and its dogs will love? A community meeting can help determine what is possible and preferred by future park patrons.

  3. Water, water everywhere: Consider a water source for people and dogs, as well as a dog rinse station. On particularly muddy days, being able to rinse your dog to prevent cars from getting the full dog park experience can make a better day for everyone.

  4. Plan for cleanup: To help keep your dog park pleasant and as clean as possible, place waste stations and litter containers a decent distance apart (about 4 per acre depending on the layout). Make sure the park is easily accessible to landscapers so it’s easy to keep the park lush and tidy.

  5. Show your spirit: Remember that the design of your dog park extends to the spirit of the park. An important way to do this is to lay the foundation for responsible pet ownership and behavior at the dog park by developing and posting park rules. Some examples of rules may include:

  • Dogs must be properly vaccinated and it is recommended that they be spayed or neutered.

  • Puppies under 4 months and female dogs 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 collars with identification at all times.

  • Dogs must be on a leash when entering and leaving the park.

  • It is forbidden to leave dogs unattended.

  • Children under 16 must be supervised by a parent or guardian.

  • Maximum of 3 dogs per person per visit.

  • Look for dogs on the other side of the entrance gate when entering or exiting to prevent escape.

Whether your dog park is a simple plot of dirt or completely packed with high-end amenities, it should be a place that pet owners in the community 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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