Things to DO when designing a dog park:
• Make Friends with Parks & Recreation – In most communities, your local Parks & Recreation Department is responsible for managing and maintaining all public land. They also have a good pulse on available land within your community. If you are considering lobbying to have a dog park built in your neighborhood, an important first step is introducing yourself to contacts within the Parks & Recreation Department to understand if anyone has considered building a dog park in your community before, availability of potential land for a public dog park space and any plans that may already be in place. Unless you plan to create a park on private property, your Parks and Recreation Department will be a valuable partner throughout the dog park design and creation process.
• Organize the Community – In order to get a dog park up and running, you need a community of dog owners and advocates to demonstrate the demand for and ultimately support the project. Reach out to a good pool of pet-supportive groups, including your local dog meet up groups, dog trainers, agility groups, dog walkers and professional pet sitters. By working together, you can lobby local government officials for project support, raise necessary funding, and ultimately help maintain the dog park and ensure a vibrant atmosphere with lots of community participation once it is open for business!
• Assess Your Space – The size of your park may depend solely on the availability of land. A minimum of one acre is recommended for a dog park to ensure you have ample space to accommodate for both large and small dogs, according to the American Kennel Club. Regardless of the size of the park, you will need to ensure that your community has the resources and ability to manage and maintain the dog park by working with city officials. Also, don’t be afraid to call in the experts (landscape architect, design expert) to help assess the space and nuances of the land (grading, drainage, vegetation, visibility, etc.)
• Evaluate Traffic & Noise Needs – You want your local dog park to be a space that is enjoyed by the entire community. Therefore, it’s important to assess any potential traffic issues such as clear main roadways to the dog park, and ample and safe parking for all attendees. You also want to be aware of any potential noise issues pending the proximity to neighbors.
• Fence It In – Once the land is secured and approved for usage, it’s important to fence the entire dog park property with a fence that is six feet or higher and escape-proof for dogs of all sizes. And, there must be separate entrances for small dogs and for large dogs. This enables you to provide a safe environment for dogs to safely run and play. We recommend installing a self-closing, double-entry safety gate with space between the entries to ensure that dogs cannot run off when “off-leash” upon leaving and entering the dog park. It’s also important to remember to include a wide-entry gate within the fencing system for maintenance trucks and mowers.
• Identify a Water Source – Hydration for dogs is extremely important at a dog park, especially in hot and humid climates. Therefore, it’s important to ensure you have a safe water source on site with large water bowls for drinking.
• Consider Options for Shade – To ensure the comfort of both dogs and owners in inclement or hot weather, shade is an important aspect to consider when designing a dog park. Shade can be achieved through natural elements such as dog-safe trees or can be man-made through the building of a shade structure.
• Add Fun Agility Dog Park Equipment – Dog parks are a place for both dogs and owners to run, exercise and enjoy healthy play. In order to foster this atmosphere within your dog park, it’s a good idea to install a few authorized pieces of agility equipment to add some adventure and skill to you park for dogs of all sizes. Just ensure that the dog park equipment is made of safe, durable materials and the installation is approved by the municipality for safe use.
• Create Fun for All Sizes – You want to ensure that your dog park is a safe environment for dogs of all shapes and sizes and therefore, it’s important not to forget about our smaller furry friends. To create a safe space for small dogs, incorporate a separate gated area for only small dogs where they have room to run and play without risk of being trampled or injured by larger dogs. Scale the durable dog equipment in that area to accommodate the small size of these dogs.
• Foster a Clean Environment – Hygiene is extremely important at all dog parks to maintain a healthy environment for both humans and pets. To ensure a clean and healthy atmosphere, all dog parks should be supplied with an ample amount of waste bags at the entrance and multiple receptacles for dog waste around the dog park. If possible, there should be a public restroom and cleaning area for dogs that has water sprays or hoses.
• Develop Proper Rules & Regulations – While the dog park is a place for community enjoyment for dogs and their owners, you want to ensure it stays that way by developing a set of rules and guidelines. These rules will help to set expectations of users prior to enjoying the park and foster the best environment for all dogs and owners. At all times, display a number to text or email people can use to report misuse of the park. This will keep people accountable for the rules and regulations of the park.
Things to ensure you DON’T do when designing your dog park:
• Don’t Limit Human-Friendly Areas to the Front of the Park – It’s important to keep the entrance to the park clear for patrons to enter and exit without congestion to avoid clustering and discourage aggressive behavior caused by having a mixture of on and off-leash dogs in close proximity. Owners should socialize in centrally located areas of the park where they can maintain visual contact and voice control of their dog. Consider installing benches with shade along the perimeters of the park as well.
• Don’t Forget About Dog Safety and Don’t Skimp on Durable Materials – When designing your dog park, ensure you are using materials that are not only safe for dogs and owners but also durable. You don’t want to have to keep up with expensive or labor intensive maintenance each year for products that were not built to last. Water/splash pads are popular activity equipment in dog parks. Care must be taken on creating a clean, recyclable water source and scheduling regular maintenance to keep these water/splash pads in working order.
• Don’t Pack in Too Much – One of the primary things your dog will love about the dog park is the ability to run free! So, while it’s important to have some fun elements and agility equipment, ensure you don’t over pack the space with obstacles.
• Don’t Forget About Weather Elements for Where You Live – Different climates require different needs within a dog park, and not all designs can be one size fits all. Make sure you are assessing the specific needs of your area and designing a dog park that will best suit your climate for year-round enjoyment.
• Don’t Assume Dog Parks are Self-Maintaining – While dog parks do not need to be elaborate spaces, they do require basic maintenance to ensure a safe and clean environment for the community. Having proper lighting, signage, rules, maintenance routines and a caring community of dog lovers will help ensure a successful dog park. It’s also a good idea to schedule quarterly and/or annual clean-up days to help with park upkeep and get the community together.
From Arden Moore, The Pet Health and Safety Coach