What makes a good dog park?

I would be interested in what people think make a good dog park?

TravelingGrannyPetNanny.com's picture
Gail and Dale

Hay there, if you ever get that water park for dogs open let me know, I will be your first customer!

cbrandt48's picture
Deal with aggressive dogs/people

We have operated a county dog park for 16 years and we have had a few incidents similar to what you described in your posting. We just warn the person that his dog is too aggressive and he must remove him. This is posted on our list of rules, if he violates the rules we have no choice but to call the local police and they will remove that dog/person.

gailanddale's picture
Dog park

We live in Florida and I am amazed that there are not alot of fun places to take our yellow Lab.. I would love to start up a park that has more to do than just run and chase a ball .. Our Lab loves water!! We took her to a local swim club that had opened their doors to an evening for our dogs to play in the pool and all the water slides and water coming up out of the ground . Our lab had so much fun she did'nt know what to do first . I would love to open a park like this for all those dogs that have lots of energy and need more than just an ordinary dog park.

huckleberry's picture
A good community

We heard that a good community at the dog park is important. To help out we are providing a way to make a group for your dog park. This will give your dog park access to a forum where users can share what is happening at the dog park or plan events or clean up days or meeting times for dog fun... On the right hand side of every dog park page there is a Groups section now. You can start a group or join one at your park. You can post events and pictures for other members of the group to see. This will allow others that are interested in the dog park to get involved.

-The Editor

k9mensan's picture
dog park ponds

Our pond is 15' deep at the center but is little more than a hole in the ground filled with water. Dogs do get muddy but it's the kind that seems to fall off or brush out after they dry. Biggest mud problems are from dogs rolling on the ground afterward. Our park has a large sandy digging area -- very popular with dogs exiting the pond!

It needs to be deep enough for the Labs and other large water dogs to dive in. Ours has a high bank they dive from and a low shallow side smaller dogs use to wade in. The high bank slants from about 5-feet above the water to 3 feet. The other side is zero entry.

Our water is tested monthly now for E.Coli. A source of circulating fresh water would be extremely desirable. Barring that some way to aerate the water would be second best (there are windmill systems). Algae is sometimes a problem but I'm not sure how it is treated.

k9mensan's picture
hours for park upkeep

Wouldn't that depend a lot on what the city is responsible for? And how large the park is? I doubt it's much different from taking care of other parks IF you have a volunteer base to share the burden.

In Iowa City dog park maintenance is shared between the volunteer board and the city parks department. The city mows the grass, re-sods or reseeds it when necessary (sod is often reused from other parks or playgrounds), and supplies the labor for some things like large sign installation, fence repair, etc. The city also empties the trash cans and keeps the poop bag dispensers full. (The volunteer board pays for the bags).

A private company sucks out the poop from the underground tanks and delivers it to the water treatment plant. But plenty of poop is also deposited in the trash cans the city has to pick up.

The community board supplies and organizes volunteer labor for monthly poop patrol, fund raising to purchase fencing, benches, trees, paved paths, etc. The volunteers also sweep the entrance area, garden the flower beds (what's left of them...) patrol the yards to pick up trash, do minor repairs like filling in holes, putting down wood chips in muddy areas. Personally, I shovel the path in the small dog park after each snow. The city only removes snow from the parking lot.

Keep the community involved and maintain their sense of ownership and you won't be stuck with all the work.

k9mensan's picture

We have frequent requests for lights at our parks too. It is not only expensive but previous park board members decided that it would put too much pressure on the grass. We have enough trouble with grass maintenance as it is, increasing the usage of the parks by several hours would probably mean having to close the parks more often for grass repair.

I also think it would probably not be bright enough to enable people to find their dog's poop. And, I doubt bright lights would be very popular among neighbors living near the park.

k9mensan's picture
It takes a village ...

In addition to the physical amenities there should be a close cooperation between the city parks people (unless park is privately owned) and an active engaged community group (or board).

It is vitally important that regular users of the dog park have a say in how the park is outfitted and managed. It is equally important that those people use the park on a regular basis and serve as educators to the other users and an information gathering unit. Absentee management doesn't work. City people assigned to the park should be dog owners and park users too.

Board members should have training sessions to educate themselves on how to spot aggressive dog signals before an attack begins. They should be trained in how to safely break up a fight or protect a dog being bullied or preyed upon. If possible open training should be available to all park users but board members and park volunteers should definitely attend.

If possible the city should have animal control officers make highly visible visits to the park from time to time, especially at peak usage times.

Mapmaker's picture
How to deal with Agressive Dogs/People in the Dog Park

We started a dog park 4 years ago and for the most part it has run smoothly. Lately though we have had a man and his larger dog who are both aggressive. The dog starts fights and is aggressive with other dogs and when others try to stop the fight or ask him to control his dog - he becomes a bit nasty. Any suggestions for rules to help stop such things. He has been asked to leave the DP and not return. But for future cases - how can we prevent this and any suggestions on how to create a incidence reporting system so it is not a hew said she said several days later.


norm06's picture

If you have constructed ponds in your off leash areas I†m wondering if you have any advice or have had any particular problems with the pond areas. Do you drain and clean them periodically? Do dogs get very muddy or do you have a concrete or other liner? Have you experienced any algae problems? Is there a particular size or depth that works best?

Any help you can provide would be of great assistance. Thanks!

Elvis and Buddy's picture
What makes a good dog park?

We like dog parks that have a fenced entrance, so Mommy can take our leashes off before we meet and greet the other doggies.

We like the park to be fenced, because we won't get hit by a car. We like to have Shade, because it get's very hot here in Florida. Also, lots of Space to run. Water is essential, although our Mommy brings our own. My brother (Buddy Lee) got sick drinking out of the bowl at our doggie park.

We like benches, so Mommy can sit and watch us play. There also needs to be poopie bags and trash cans, and most of all real grass!

Thank you,
Elvis & Buddy Lee

cassiecv's picture
Ground cover

We are building a small urban dog park, and have been advised to use decomposed granite for part of it. We are having a hard time finding a local distributor of finely ground granite, but we've been able to locate 3/8 in granite chips.

Does anyone have experience with this material and know if it is good for a dog park? Thank you.

EDITOR COMMENT: Article on dog park ground covers

melissamoreno's picture
Dog park benches-dangerous

This message is to anyone who builds or takes their dog to a dog park. PLEASE build parks for the dogs safety and not for the owners comfort. Recently my American Bulldog who is 6 months old and to big for the small side was being bullied on the large side. We were at the park for less than 10 minutes when she jumped on a bench and proceeded to jump off the sides. The bench was slated and had metal armrests as a typical bench does. As she jumped her leg got stuck between the armrest and bench and broker her upper hind leg, or as the vet said a femoral fraction. Solid benches with no armrests should be required for a dog park...for dogs safety!

Visitor's picture
Process of building a dog park

My Association is three weeks from announcing the building of a wheel chair accessible off leash dog park & complex. We are currently going through the process of creating a non profit organization. We approached the local Law School in our town and they have offered to help with all of the paper work needed to create the non profit including by-laws, mission statement, articles of organization and assist in the completing the applications for non profit state and federal. Along with all of that we are developing the strategic plan for the non profit organization. Once we pay the fees and receive our certificate we can then start fund raising, write grants and approach companies for money. Until then in the state of Massachusetts we are not allow to raise any money.

My suggestion is to contact a university that has a law school or find an attorney that will assist pro bono.

Visitor's picture
Essential safety features, and nice additional features


Secure gates:
Double or triple gates at entrance so dogs inside can't slip out when a dog is coming in. Secure fencing, with no sunken ground or gaps places that allow escape underneath the fence or between segments of fence.

No dangerous objects:
No toys lying around when not in use because they can be chewed, choked on, swallowed, or spread disease. Discourage users from bringing toys, and prohibit any toys from being left in park (except large agility equipment that might be provided by the park and kept in good condition) and have maintenance staff that gets rid of any left. Have trash cans outside the fenced-in area for people to dispose of drink bottles or food they may have been using themselves.

Rules about poop scooping and trash receptacles where people can dispose of their dogs' droppings. Maintenance staff that cleans up anything that park patrons might neglect to pick up.

For parks that are staffed, monitor dogs for behavior and exclude any that are dangerously aggressive.

Features that would be nice, but not absolutely essential:
source of drinking water

Visitor's picture
Hello My name is Kenny

My name is Kenny - Park's Supt. for the City of Giddings. Can you tell me how many hours it takes to keep up the dog park?

Kenny 979-481-2579

huckleberry's picture
Editor comment

We do not have a manual for building dog parks at this time. I get many questions on this subject and try to respond to the emails I receive. We have started to compile some information on building a dog park, amenities / vendors, and general information on getting started in our article section.

Things that typically get asked are about starting a non-profit group (501c3 tax exempt status) to take donations, how to go about doing fundraising, questions on what type of amenities are needed and how to build in phases (Phase I is usually getting a dog park open and Phase II or III may include getting a paved walkway or benches.) We have some specialty articles on turf type and composting. I hope to continue to add to these articles.

If you have been a part of the process of building a dog park I am always looking for more information on what worked and what did not work. Any contribution to the articles would be helpful especially on topics like non-profit groups, getting the community involved, fundraising, approaching the city or county for land, contracts between the non-profit group and a city parks department. You are more than welcome to email us your story about how your dog park became a reality; it will help others.

Visitor's picture
new park committee

I have recently becomea member of a parks and environment committee in Chicago. Much interest has been raised about adding a dog park to our community. In total area Chicago is quite large but we have only a total of nine dog parks.

We will soon be getting together with the city's parks department to propose the idea of adding one or more to our community. Are there things that we should investigate first prior to our meeting such as location, amenities, etc. Who normally is responsible for the upkeep of a big-city dog park.
stupid question, I know, but I am not a dog owner myself currently. I do realize, however, the importance of them to at least bring the community together.

I guess what I'm asking you folks, is there a "starters manual" somewhere out there??

buddhasdad's picture

Anyone have lights at their dog park? With the clocks turning back we've noticed how quickly it gets dark at night....and it would be great to have lights. Is it too much to expect the Parks Dept to install lights?

Anyone else have lights?

EDITOR COMMENT: This is actually one of the amenities we keep track of. Very few dog parks have lights for night use. This tends to be something dog park patrons want but it is very expensive. Dog parks tend to be built in phases and this tends to be one of the last things a dog park will get if money can be raised or budgeted.

Visitor's picture

With proper supervision, potential issues/fights between dogs can be stopped before they get out of control.

Visitor's picture
fee-based dog parks

What is the reception of fee-based dog parks? Our city has been contemplating adding a number of city owned dog parks and one of the issues that keeps coming up is how to pay for the construction (within existing parks) and extra maintenance. I'm advocating for fee-based usage but I'm wondering if it will be well-received by users. I'm thinking it would help users feel some sense of "ownership" and desire to keep it well-maintained and clean. Does anyone have any insight?

EDITOR COMMENT: Some dog parks have fees. Occasionally, people complain about the fee as an additional tax but usually it is understood if explained well. Private dog parks tend to charge more and we have heard upwards of $200-300 annually. If a city or county has a fee it may be $15-$70 annually or between $2-5 for a day use pass (this sometimes includes access to several dog parks in their system.) Some cities charge higher fees to non-residents than residents (I think the usual is $20-40 residents and $50-60 non-resident if there is a fee.)

The fees tend to be explained to help cover the cost of the baggies and such other ongoing operating costs and then the park users must register their dogs. So, it can provide a good way to screen the dogs to ensure they have their shots (Chicago requires that all dogs bring a paper from their vet stating they are in good health and parasite free.) Registration can also provide a way to ban any aggressive dogs in the future. Some places issue a dog tag after payment is received and others have gone to electronic gate keys. There are dog owners that really like the electronic gate keys because then there is a history of who has been using the park and if there is an issue with a patron then their key can be turned off; it seems to give a sense of security.

Visitor's picture
Small Dog Section Size

Is there a recommended percentage of the total space in a dog park for the small dog section?

EDITOR COMMENT: See one of our articles on why small dog sections are important. It also addresses building a small dog section and things like the size of the area, fencing considerations, and weight and height limits for the small dogs.

dogspark's picture
10 features to consider when designing a dog park

To make for a pleasant experience for dogs as well as their humans, anyone designing a dog park should consider including these 10 features:

1. a graduated entrance where dogs can feel safe as they are taken off leash before entering the park and meet any other dogs or pack that may have formed;

2. a waste station stocked with bags;

3. a water source with water recepticles (bowls);

4. shaded areas with benches/seating for humans;

5. a paved walkway where humans may exercise along with their pets;

6. proper drainage so that standing water (and other liquids) attract bugs and grow bacteria;

7. separate areas for large dogs (over 25 lbs.) and small ones;

8. a doggy shower;

9. a doggy pool; and,

10. doggy exercise equipment that can be used to train pups.


lilwhitedove11's picture
New Dog Park???

Did you get any info for your questions?

I too am making some arrangements for a small dog park.
I will have to figure out the liability first, since the land
will be my own. But, am so very new to all the products and sources for these products. If you have found anyone with great input, could i also get in touch with them?
Paris, Texas

EDITOR COMMENT: We have been actively trying to compile a listing of vendors and products for dog park amenities. Please let us know if we can include another item.

Visitor's picture
New Dog Park???

I am in the process of designing a dog park and need help finding amenities (such as scooping utensils, water fountains and play ground equipment) for the park. Is there a product source for these things?

EDITOR COMMENT: We have started to list some of the products and amenities we have found or heard about in our articles section.

marjannethmax's picture
dog owners supervision and cooperation

I've been to dog parks and dog beaches that are fenced, partially fenced and not fenced and just like at kids parks, we need to supervise our companions. Some dog owners are busy having conversation with other dog owners and thats when there are dogs fighting then dog owners start arguing each other. Accidents can happen anyways but injuries can be minimized if not avoided, only if dog owners are supervising their pets. Cooperation among dog owners is also important. Scope the poop and remove dogs from the park with aggresive behavior. Most of these parks are well maintained by the city or county (providing benches, water fountain, poop bags, trash bins and covered sitting areas) but it is us the "USERS" that makes a dog park a good one.

greyhound_bill's picture
safety and liability

Hi All,
I'm new to the site, thanks to my wife being injured by an uncontrolled German shepherd while with our greyhound at a dog park near our home and my consequent search for "How do you provide a safe dog park?" We're not suing anybody, but I'm trying to learn as much as I can to try to make some changes to the regulations at our parks to keep some future dog or owner from getting killed.

Visitor's picture
Fenced, Space, shaded

Fenced, Space, shaded area(s).
These would be primary.

Nice extras would be water, benches/tables.

Luxuries would be: trash cans and 'scooping' utensils/bags, provided drinking bowls