Lapping Up The Experience

Desiree Stanfield is the Supervisor of Communication and Marketing for Oakland County Parks and Recreation. She can be reached at (248) 858-4627 or Oakland County Parks and Recreation operates 13 parks that include three dog parks, 65 miles of trails, two waterparks, two campgrounds, and five golf courses. To learn more, visit

———————————————————————Lessons Learned

For agencies considering adding a dogs-only swimming beach to their list of amenities, take it from the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department, which has learned a lesson or two in how to make the operation run smoothly:

  • Rescue-flotation devices are not teething rings. Parks staff provides a rescue ring at the dock in case a person accidently falls into the water and needs assistance. Some dog owners use the rings as toys for their dogs, necessitating the purchase of a new rescue ring annually.
  •  Owners must have dogs under voice command. Over the years, a few dogs have refused to return to the dock when the owner calls. “Dogs find their way to shore, and the owners have to go looking for them,” Boyd says. “The dogs are having a blast, and the owners are panicked. Having the animal under voice command ensures the dog’s safety.”
  • Not all dogs are natural swimmers. The park rents doggie-lifejackets, featuring a rescue handle on the top so owners can pull their pets out of the water. “Some dogs may have had no exposure to swimming, and the lifejackets let them learn and gain confidence in the water,” Boyd says.
  • A waterfowl-management plan is a necessity.Ninety-acreLakeSixteen–where the dog beach is located–is popular with ducks, geese, and swans, so the dock must be rinsed and swept clean daily. Scaring the birds away with ribbons, strings, and even a large plastic owl have not worked. “Basically, the birds are smart, and techniques need to be changed about every two days,” Boyd says. “It’s labor-intensive to come up with creative ways to keep the birds off the dock.”
  • There’s money to be made in future amenities. According to Boyd, patrons frequently ask for items to purchase, including beach towels to dry off their dogs and an outdoor dog-wash to rinse the lake water off their pets. These items are under consideration. Other requested items include dog biscuits, leashes, and collars, plus beverages for the owners.


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