As a dog lover, you know your companion needs daily exercise to stay it and happy. Dogs need space to run, jump, dig, bark and just be dogs. For city dwellers and other urbanites who don’t have the luxury of a sizable back yard, inding an appropriate area for their canine pals to unleash their wild sides can be challenging. Leash laws in most public parks limit your ability to give your dog the exercise and socialization he craves and needs. And until relatively recently, a so-called dog park might have been little more than a uninspiring corner of a ield, with a sparse sprinkling of grass and not much, if any, regulation.
But things are changing. Thanks to the growing population of informed and involved animal lovers in urban centers, many dog parks are being revamped to include amenities for both the four and two-legged. Aesthetic and functional, these new features run the gamut from water stations and exercise equipment to shade trees and picnic tables.
PICK YOUR TERRAIN
Some people think all you need for a dog park is a grassy area with a fence around it. Grass may seem the obvious choice for landscaping, but it might not be the most practical. Heavy foot trafic can soon trample it, causing it to brown and die and turn into a muddy mess when it rains. Combine that with the need for watering, irrigation, re-seeding, mowing and general upkeep.
Some dog parks have introduced alternative forms of terrain, although the choices differ depending on regional climate, volume of trafic and inancial considerations.
A relatively low maintenance and cost effective alternative in many new dog parks, such as Scotts Valley Dog Park in Scotts Valley, California. Mulch or wood chips (with the exception of mulch made from cocoa bean shells, which is toxic to dogs) are generally used in areas that have problems with wetness and mud. It requires occasional raking and replenishing, but costs can be cut by getting donations from local tree-trimmers.
Decomposed or pea granite:
A unique alternative for dryer climates. It is durable, drains easily, and can be quickly cleaned and maintained. For parks with heavy trafic, like the Shaw Dog Park in Washington DC, it’s a good alternative to harder and less appealing surfaces like concrete.
Astroturf or “dog turf”:
Perhaps the most expensive yet best all-round terrain. This artiicial surface is durable, easy to clean and maintain, and is soft on dogs’ paws. It requires an irrigation system and should be watered regularly to get rid of any lingering smells. Cost is a major factor, but Jackass Acres K9 Corral in Arizona gets its turf donated from local stadiums.
FUN AND FUNCTIONAL FEATURES
• Some dog parks, including Ohio’s Bow Wow Beach and Quiet Waters Dog Beach in Annapolis, Maryland, incorporate natural beaches. These parks, and others like them, include separate rinse stations or dog showers to help with all those sandy paws. Other parks, like Chisholm Creek Pet Resort Dog Park in Wichita, Kansas, bring the beach to the park by adding a mound of sand for digging and climbing.
• Safety features are a major consideration at dog parks. Most, if not all, are enclosed with some sort of fencing, and many feature a double gated entry. This allows you to enter a separate enclosure before reaching the actual play area, a design that helps keep loose dogs from running away and facilitates a smoother entry into the canine pack. Some parks, like Willow Springs Dog Park in Johnson City, Tennessee, also have a keyless entry for members’ only access. Other members-only parks require a monthly or yearly fee, which helps pay for other safety features like lighting and parking
. • Dogs are not created equal, at least in size. Many parks are designating separate play areas for small and large dogs.
• Access to water is a necessity after all that exercise, and almost all dog parks come equipped with some kind of water station, like hoses or drinking fountains for dogs and people. Locust Point Dog Park in Baltimore, Maryland has a unique, hi-tech water feature that’s activated when the dog steps on it. Wading pools, like those at Ossining Dog Park in New York, provide cool relief on hot days. To keep puddles from accumulating and making a muddy mess, most parks now have irrigation systems in place to ensure proper drainage.
• If chasing a ball isn’t quite enough stimulation, a lot of parks now boast separate areas for agility courses and/ or play equipment. Delaware’s Bark Til Dark Park and Nevada’s Dog Fancier Park even offer areas for one-onone training.
• Picnic tables, benches, shade trees, artistic features such as sculptures, walking trails, port-a-potties, and community bulletin boards are among the other amenities frequently included in dog park designs.
• Last but not least, what about waste management? Well, here’s the scoop. Most parks come equipped with some kind of removal system, whether it’s mutt mitts, plastic bags, or pooper scoopers and trash receptacles.
• Some parks incorporate earth-friendly features into their designs. Jackass Acres K9 Corral is an all-green dog park. It uses solar power for all its electrical needs and was constructed using green techniques. From decorative features to play equipment, everything is made from recycled materials. Even the dog waste is recycled into usable materials.
• Too wet or cold to go outside? Unleashed Indoor Dog Parks in Dallas, Texas, is a 50,000 square foot roofed facility with large, safe indoor play areas itted with K-9 turf. While your dog plays, you can enjoy the onsite café and lounge overlooking the action.
The latest dog parks are designed to provide you and your dog with an enriched, safe and attractive setting for exercise, fun and enjoyment. Remember to use proper park etiquette and maintain control of your dog at all times, and we’ll see even more of these great facilities springing up!