In Praise of Dog Parks

By Connie Jankowski

In Praise of Dog Parks

Each day at 8 AM sharp, Benji, a two-year-old pug, can hardly sit still. His eyes fixate on the corner of a building adjacent to his local dog park. Benji goes into a wild frenzy when he sees Jesse, a six-year-old golden retriever outside. The two friends are as close as brothers, and they look forward to their morning meetings at the dog park. It's the highlight of their, and often their owners', day.

If you have a local dog park, it is likely filled with pups and people who are looking for kindred souls. Bark-parkers all over the world are discovering the simple pleasures of a community meeting place. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your visits.

Keep It Simple
Your dog needs to play, and dog parks provide an enclosed and welcoming environment for it. Even if you only have a set time each day to spend with your pet, a simple romp off-leash at a dog park will help your pooch to relieve stress, especially if your dog leads a relatively quiet life at home. Socializing with other friendly canines allows dogs to enjoy each other while developing manners and respect. A quick 15-20 minute visit is better than no visit at all. It's a chance for you to get some exercise and fresh air too.

Spay and Neuter
Benji and Jesse have been neutered, which helps them to safely enjoy the park. Sheila McCullough, DVM, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, says, "In addition to extending a dog's health, neutering reduces male territorial instinct." She reminds pet owners that a female dog in heat will inevitably cause confrontation between males who have not been fixed. Even the gentlest male dogs, if not neutered, can be uncontrollable when a female in heat is nearby.

Offer Suggestions
Good parks plan for dogs as well as people. If your city cannot provide playground equipment, such as obstacle pits designed for dogs, consider getting together with other park visitors for a fundraiser to purchase such upgrades. Other improvements might include benches, water fountains and shade-promoting landscaping that both dogs and owners might appreciate.

Avoid Risks
Although dog parks often provide creature comforts, risks can loom within the gates. Public parks are open to all -- so any kind of canine can come in. Protect your pet from strangers, using a leash if necessary.

A major concern for those who visit dog parks is the issue of infectious diseases. Before even thinking of visiting a dog park, make sure your dog's vaccines are current. Avoid dogs that appear lethargic or ill. "Dogs that are very sick do not usually feel well enough to run and play at a dog park," says Dr. McCullough, "so serious infectious illnesses may not be a major concern. Common sense should tell a dog owner to keep a dog at home if it isn't well."

Veterinary hospitals regularly treat injuries from dogfights that happen at dog parks. Make sure your dog is well trained and socialized. Keep your dog away from canines that lack such social skills. Accidents can also occur at dog parks, especially when an excited dog runs full-speed through unknown territories. Small dogs are at risk of being "run over" by larger dogs, and older dogs can over-exert themselves, causing injuries and illness.

No Park, No Problem
If your community does not have a dog park, consider forming a committee with other interested pet owners who may support the idea. Your first line of business should be the park's desired location. Start with your local park and recreation board, since many dog parks lay within the jurisdiction of public parks. Failing that, consider private land, or land that may be available for lease or sale. The location of your park will then help to determine its required annual budget, who will have access to the facility and how it should be run.

Visit several dog parks to get ideas for design, features, and rules for usage. You will also need to plan for maintenance, such as trash removal, drainage, and grass mowing. Like any big project, you will need to write a business plan to cover the basics. Your time and effort will be worth it once the park opens. Just ask Benji and Jesse if they happen to come for a visit.

Connie Jankowski served as an editor at Fancy Publications, where she produced the DOGS USA Annual, Dog Fancy, Veterinary Product News, and contributed to Cat Fancy, Cat Lovers of America magazine, and other titles.

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Posted on November 15, 2009

kimberly says: how much does it cost to build a dog park?

Posted on September 5, 2010

A dog parker.... says: Gather friends and neighbors. Get to know your city officials and their staff. Start with Park and Recreation office or park maintenance and seek their assistance in finding a land. Then get signatures, present to the community or go to a town hall meeting. Get the land. Start a volunteer search and find your strong members create a Board member by starting your weekly/ meetings to get an understanding of what kind of park will you want developed. Seek several engineers (find a volunteer that would want to be part of the Board). Start looking for a knowledgeable treasurer and a strong secretary (a go getter type). Move actions into fund raising and fund building. Start a 501c.3 foundation. Apply for grants and find a kind community developer or a construction committee and ask the newspaper media to be your friend to help you print or suggest dates for some press release as you progress with the park's development. Convince your community no matter how they receive the information that a dog park is a place for sanctuary as well as a good place to get people to gather and somehow enhance their lives not only because they own a dog but there will be a good chance of employment as well opportunities for net working/community interactions. Visit your local Kiwanis or LIonsClubs and the Chamber of Commerce. CHeck out the Boys Scouts if they want in on selected projects. Start meeting your neighbors and tell them your story; believe me you will become noticed and people will stop you just to let you know how wonderful it is that you are doing such a good job. Start passing flyer's around with space for the signature, Soon you will find out who want a park in your community. Place those flyer's everywhere. Make sure your detailed contact info is available. Start a P.O. box and a bank account for interested parties willing to give large amounts of donations and assistance. Start a web-site or a an easy to remember or e-mail address. It will be hard work and you will need several hard working action doer type A-B personalities to do the business but get a personable fundraiser as well as an easy going assistant/golfer. Be sure you select your volunteer and based their experience on how you would use their talents as well as, their work habit and their character flaws within your group. Remember everyone has something to offer and they are not always going to do it your way... so stay positive, there will be a lot of personalities involved. My best advise to all; for goodness sake. Do not ever yell at a volunteer!!! They are your life-line. That is how you win your community and your helpers. Words goes a long way and it helps. Always send a thank you note or acknowledge them in your newsletter. They will be so proud of being part of it all even if they cannot be actively involve.

Posted on October 24, 2009

Marlene says: I want to bring our deaf westie, Otis, Little Prince of warren to the dog park in Grandby...he needs socialization... Do you think because he is deaf it would be hard to have him fit in. I'm hoping it will work. He has so much heart. We fostered and adopted him last year. He is 10. Marlene

Posted on October 24, 2009

Chelsey says: I would love to start a dog park in my area, there is none! We have to drive an hour and a half just to get to one but i dont know where to even begin. so if you or anyone has advice please let me know.

Posted on October 21, 2009

Tim Keeler says: As an animal lover and currently unemployed,i'm looking in to the possibilities of opening a dog park.I have access to several acres of land on private property but have little knowledge of the logists to start this venture.Seeking advise and input.

Posted on October 17, 2009

Karen says: Yes it is your problem. You should never allow any dog to hump another. It is not love it is dominance. That dog that is getting the abuse is very submissive but doesn't deserve that. If it was my dog I would be kicking other dogs too. Humping is very stressful to the dog being humped and it is up to the owner to protect him.

Posted on October 13, 2009

Debra Kay Beeter says: I AM looking for some one that can help or tell me what I need to do to get a Dog Park in door Dog Park started.

Posted on October 13, 2009

Gary and Jiro says: There is a dog (male dog) that comes to the dog park where we live and for some reason not just my dog but many other dogs try humping the dog, just that dog! Is it my problem or the person who owns the LOVE dog, the owner btw tells everyone to get their dog off his dog and sometimes hits or kicks dogs that do...Who's fault is it?

Posted on October 16, 2009

william says: would like to know what would be the lease area to use for a dog park. thinking of turning my lower field into a park here in farmington mo.

Posted on October 3, 2009

JACOB WOLFE says: trying to find the location of a dog park near me. Springfield mo

Posted on October 11, 2009

Lane says: trying to find a dog park for NE Cedar Rapids, IA? My zip code is 52402. Thank you!

Posted on September 9, 2009

gomer says: havind a hard time finding dog parks in the antioch, brentwood area

Posted on September 14, 2009

brittany says: im trying to find a dog park where u dont have to have papers cause this dog a have was free and they didnt give me any papers in indianapolis indiana

Posted on September 26, 2009

sari says: I trying to find a dog park near me either in north salem, NY or danbury, CT please cauld you help me out.

Posted on September 3, 2009

Cari McNeill says: My mother lives in a Sr. Mobile Home Park in Grass Valley, CA, The park has 300 homes Most residents are very elderly widows who live alone and have small dogs. Nore people would like to have a dog byt the only place to walk the is in the street. The park owner may build it for them. However he wants a written proposal giving him their vision of what the park would be like and why the need for it. Altho this is out of my line I volunteered to write it. Can you direct me to any articles, books or studies that could help me in my research.

Posted on August 23, 2009

Sandra says: I JUST GOT BACK FROM HOUSTON, TX. I TOOK MY LITTLE DOG TO A PARK FOR THE FIRST TIME & HE JUST LOVED IT. I WANT TO GET ONE IN THIS SMALL TOWN, DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE HOW TO DO THIS,IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME & MY DOG. HELP ME PLS

Posted on August 20, 2009

donna says: i just moved to port jervis and i am looking for a dog park i was told that greenvelle has one i'm tring to find it and i'm have troble can you help

Posted on August 13, 2009

stacey fiser says: today will be the first time I take my dog to a dog park. i live in Bakersfield ca we have several dog parks but none for small dogs

Posted on August 15, 2009

Mary Hannah says: I'm hoping to find a park or playground near my home to take my dog to. Not just a regular park, a park for dogs to play with other dogs. We live in Croydon, Pa. 19021. Do you know of one ?

Posted on July 6, 2009

Joopie says: There is a great new guide to FENCED dog parks in California. It has listings of 200 parks, all visited by the author and her little dog, Twyla. She has listings on each park of amentities, concerns, even the vet near each park! And there is a special section that tells you which parks have disbaled access, and which ones have small dog areas. Check it out - it's called DOG PARKING IT! by Gail S. Green - brand new.

Posted on August 7, 2009

Kay says: I am looking for a dog park in Northern Alabama, I have two dogs I would like to let play with other dogs.

Posted on June 19, 2009

Paula says: I live in bellport,, I am also looking for a dog park in my area.

Posted on May 26, 2009

Lee says: I just moved to Holbrook NY. I'm having a hard time finding a dog park here. Is there one in the area?

Posted on May 25, 2009

What to do... says: Does it take an act of Congress to get a dog park. These seem to be few and far between - I'm out in the country and there really needs to be more of these - Unless you're a real doggie person, the political world doesn't seem to think it's necessary - if it doesn't generate money..

Posted on May 18, 2009

Johnnie says: Would like to know if there is a "Dog Park" anywhere near Winnsboro, TX? Perhaps, Longview, TX or Tyler, TX, Mt.Pleasant, TX

Posted on May 13, 2009

Irene says: It all comes down to one thing RESPONSIBILITY, by the owner. There is more than enough land at Horn Pond in Woburn for a dog park. All dog owners I walk with are more than willing to contribute. Joggers are not the only breathing animals that would like to utilize this world. If you are at a dog park and your dog becomes unruly it is your responsibility to leave. There are more of us who have adopted animals because of circumstances in this world, now it is time to help them, love a better and free life. Thanks for listening. Irene

Posted on April 20, 2009

julie says: The nearest dog park I know of is off exit 4 off 93 in Derry. Too bad there's not a closer one...

Posted on May 4, 2009

Karen says: Our dog park is fenced, except for the entrance. Park District officials say silly things, such as a dog leaving might be aggressive with a dog entering if there was a gate...and age 10 and under couldn't come in if there were a gate...My point is, my dog can escape if he chooses not to listen to me when he's excited about being at the park. I can't take him off leash there, so what is the point?

Posted on April 15, 2009

Barbara Heller says: Have been trying to locate a Dog Park in Rockland, NY. Have looked all over the Web but can't find a specific location. Rockland State park does not allow dogs and don't know where to go? Please help

Posted on April 18, 2009

jim robertson says: i live in methuen mass.where is the nearest dogpark in the merrimack valley?

Posted on April 5, 2009

klynn says: HELLO I'M NEW TO TUCSON AND WAS WONDERING HOW TO FIND THE DOG PARKS SO I CAN TAKE MY BASSETT HOUND

Posted on April 3, 2009

Teresa says: Our town is in the process of creating a dog park and a new animal shelter. A lot of people assume it would be a good idea to put the two next to each other, but I am not so sure. Won't the stressed barking from the animal shelter put the visitors to the animal park on guard? And might they then be more likely to bite or be afraid to enjoy themselves?

Posted on March 16, 2009

Bob says: my dog poops A LOT wat should i do? luv BOB ps sometimes his poop is green

Posted on March 19, 2009

bob says: i would like to start or help create a dog park in cheshire ct

Posted on March 12, 2009

Pat Moore says: What are the dangers of having a Wolf Hybred in a dog park. My 10 month Akita was at a park with this Hybred many times. One day they started fighting, don't know who started it, but my 10 month old bit into the ear of the Hybred. Next time we went there a couple days later we were told we could not come in because the Hybred was there. We're we kept out because my pup bit the Hybred? I don't know.

Posted on March 8, 2009

gary higgins says: do you have some edresses re dog owners assiociations?, spec- in toronto i wanted to discuss enforcement of poop & scoop laws, to target the minority who are making all dogs & owners look bad thanks -gh

Posted on November 14, 2007

Crise Billwalk says: Thanks for the suggestions. When I go to the dog park, I'll be very cautious with my Chihuahua, Betty. Also, thank you for supporting spaying and neutering to help dogs and their population. Good article.

Posted on September 25, 2007

Jo- Ski Theiler says: We are setting up a new dog park with about 6-8 acres, for next summer. We are in design mode. What % would you dedicate to large dogs, vs small? Other design advice appreciated. We need about $14,000 for 2000 feet of 5' chain link fence & gates. Do you have any fund raising ideas or sources? So far we have $50 donation cans around town; and I'm about to send letters to community organizations and companies. Thank you!

Posted on September 24, 2007

Gerrie Smith says: Great article. I would like permission to use it or parts of it in a Portland Resource Directory for Portland, Oregon. What is your policy?

Posted on September 24, 2007

Rustie Nielsen says: We have just opened a dog park in our town and really appreciate your suggestions. We have already used alot of them. Thank you for your article.

Posted on October 21, 2010

Dara Mills says: Want to find the purest way to have the most fun with your dog for FREE? We offer a great way to meet other dogs of the same breed around your area for play dates! Just enter your dog's breed along with your zip code and we will let you know the nearest dog parks within a 25 mile radius. You pick the time and place and when you have all of your information in just hit "run the dogs". An email will be sent to all other owners with the same breed in your area.....then the fun begins. NO more waiting for your dog club to set up play dates! We have an exciting and easy way to set up outings for your dogs any day and time of your choosing!

Posted on October 22, 2010

diana says: i wish there was a dog park so they could be off the leash

Posted on October 22, 2010

diana says: in brooklyn please let me know

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