Along with pickleball, dog parks are one of the fastest-growing amenities park and recreation agencies can offer.
It makes sense. There was a pet owners boom during the pandemic. Over 23 million households (about 19% total) bought a pet during the pandemic.
And many of those pets and their owners will be looking for something to do for the next ten years or so.
Inflation and other economic issues are causing more people--including pet owners--to choose apartments or smaller residences. They often need a place to bring their dogs because they don’t have large fenced-in backyards.
Dog parks offer a park amenity that benefits just about everyone.
Let’s look closer at dog parks, their benefits, and what to consider when adding one to your site.
What are Dog Parks?
Dog parks are areas set aside for dogs and their owners to enjoy the outdoors. Most of them are fenced-in and don’t require leashes.
Dogs can run around and socialize with other dogs. Dog owners also get the opportunity for exercise and socialization.
Similarly, a dug run is a smaller version of a dog park located in an existing park.
Benefits of Dog Parks
Dogs aren’t the only ones that benefit from a community with dog parks. Let’s take a closer look at how dog parks affect dogs, their owners, and the community.
Benefits for Dogs
Like humans, many dogs benefit from socialization. Dog parks provide an opportunity for our canine companions to socialize with a variety of breeds and breed types.
Physical and Mental Activity
A dog park provides a positive outlet for a dog to get mental and physical stimulation. Dogs get more freedom of movement without the restraints of a leash. Increased physical activity allows them to live longer and healthier without fewer behaviors related to lack of stimulation or anxiety.
Benefits for Owners
Getting Outside and Active
Owners benefit from taking a break from the daily grind and getting outdoors. They could run around with their dogs. Or simply enjoy the fresh air while watching dogs play. Owners may also take advantage of other amenities they notice at the park.
New Socialization Opportunities
Dogs can be a man’s (or woman’s) best friend. And sometimes their only friend. A dog park is an excellent chance for solitary pet owners to interact with other owners. Socialization comes easier because the owners have a common ground to start conversations.
Better Behavior During Walks
Dogs that are more comfortable with other dogs and humans often display better behavior while out on walks. Owners may find walks more enjoyable after a dog spends time at a dog park, because socialized dogs engage in less overly protective or aggressive behavior.
Benefits for the Community
Provides a Safe Zone for Pets
Pets that prefer to be off-leash have a dedicated spot where they are not in danger of coming in contact with vehicles, bicycles, or other potential hazards.
Make Parks More Enjoyable for Non-Dog People
Dog parks prevent off-leash animals from infringing on the rights of those that aren’t dog people. Small children, joggers, and those scared of dogs may be able to enjoy your assets more when dogs have their designated area.
Better Overall Community
Dogs that are stimulated and get physical activity or often better neighbors. They are less of a nuisance from excessive barking or destroying property. The presence of dogs (and their owners) in a park may reduce crime and vandalism to assets.
In addition, the community of dog owners becomes more close-knit by regularly visiting the dog park. Friendships and connections are made as owners talk about dog services and the community in general.
What to Consider when Building a Dog Park
On the surface, it may seem like fencing in an open area is all you’ll need for a successful dog park.
If only it were that easy.
Like any other asset, it requires planning, careful selection, budgeting, community involvement, and a maintenance plan.
Here are some things to consider:
Size of the area. The area for the dog park should be an acre or larger. The more open space, the better. Give the dogs plenty of room to run freely.
Layout of area. You don’t necessarily need a flat area for your dog park. Some sloping or rough terrain gives dogs additional opportunities to expend energy. Choosing a location like this may be perfect if it is unsuitable for other uses.
Accessibility to the public. The dog park should be near a parking lot and easily accessible. Some dog owners need help getting around and keeping up with their pets. A dog park is a blessing for these owners so their pets can exercise in a safe space.
Fencing. Enclose the area with a six-foot chain link fence. If possible, use a double-gated entry system to keep dogs from escaping. Also, consider multiple entrances and exits.
Separating big dogs from little dogs. If space allows, create separate areas for large and small dogs to help prevent conflicts.
Amenities and costs related to the park. In addition to the fencing, your budget should also consider other amenities like benches, water, lighting, waste removal equipment, structures for shade, and trash cans. Lawn and general maintenance costs should also be part of the budget.
Getting everybody on the same page. Your dog park should have signage that clearly defines the rules and regulations of the park. The signs should also communicate the park’s hours. Consider having a pet responsibility class or online course for owners that want to use the dog park. The class should explain the rules, acceptable behaviors of dogs and owners, and expectations for waste removal and following rules.
Schedule dog park maintenance ahead of time. Regular inspections and maintenance ensure the dog park is safe and approachable for patrons and their furry friends. Having a streamlined approach to detecting issues and running them through your work order system ensures problems with gates, fencing, the surface, and signage get taken care of promptly.
A great guide by the American Kennel Club goes into more detail about planning your future dog park. See the Establishing a Dog Park in Your Community guide.