Dog parks have become popular community venues. That said, it's interesting that they are common and welcomed in some regions of the country yet still in the growing-pains stage in others.
Often, especially in the Northeast, residents interested in having their municipality develop a dog park face hurdles, naysayers, and political challenges. Meetings upon meetings, presentations, fund-raising, legal and insurance concerns—it usually takes years before a dog park project actually begins, if it gets off the ground! In contrast, on the West Coast, municipalities treat developing a new dog park as any other new park facility: It's planned for in advance, budgeted, scheduled, and finally built. In other words, a dog park is created in the same manner as new basketball courts, ball fields, swimming pools, or any other public park feature.
Eventually, the novelty of dog parks in areas where they are less known and less accepted will ease as these facilities become more commonplace. In addition, a best-practices perspective will encourage and enable standards to be developed so all dog parks will be superior in safety, quality, and aesthetics as well as low maintenance. Still, to operate optimally, they will need to be self-enforcing, and parks agencies will need to ensure that everyone takes that responsibility seriously.
Doing your dog park right begins with considerations such as the size and location of the available space, proximity to parking and other park venues, topography and sight lines, access to water, and, of course, accessibility. Next, the components required for creating a dog park are appropriate surfacing, five- to six-foot-high fencing, an enclosed entry area, an adequate number of park benches, one or two water fountains for dogs and owners, shade, hardscape areas, waste bag stations, covered waste cans, and signage.
There are certainly some other “nice-to-haves” that some folks get excited about—agility equipment, sculptures or other types of art, and especially some of the clever dog-oriented playground equipment—but these items are truly extras and not essential.
Throughout the United States, dog parks are here to stay. Whether in a city with lots of dog parks in different neighborhoods or a small town working on developing the first dog park in an entire region, communities are welcoming dog parks, and, hopefully, they'll be doing their dog parks right!
The information here is inspiration for creating a safe, attractive, enjoyable, and easily maintained dog park. This is what dog owners should want—though those new to dog parks might not realize this.
For more detailed information on creating a great dog park, check out my book Dog Park Design, Development, and Operation. The book addresses most of the concerns and provides step-by-step descriptions on the processes involved in dog parks.
In addition, I welcome comments, questions, and requests for additional information. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.