No Bark And No Bite

Dog owners faced with leash laws and looking for a safe place to let their dogs run and play off-leash may be scouting that seldom-used grassy spot in the park as the perfect stretch of land. But what constitutes a successful dog park, and how can you create one?

Partner Power

Most dog parks are a partnership between the government agency that owns and manages the land and local dog owners’ associations or friends-of-parks groups. “We encourage park managers to develop partnerships with dog clubs and nonprofit groups, such as the Lions Club,” says Lisa Peterson, spokesperson with the American Kennel Club, a nonprofit pure-breed dog registry and the governing body that oversees more than 20,000 events annually for 17 different dog sports. “These partnerships develop goodwill in the community, and help the park manager meet budgetary needs.”

At the beginning stages of developing a dog park, involve dog owners and dog-club members by asking them for suggestions on what would make a great dog park. Invest the time to take a day trip or two to other dog parks and see what works and what doesn’t. Also, call around to other dog parks and ask the dog park managers what they would do differently from before. Keep in mind budgeting for fencing, gates, concrete pathways and concrete pads around water sources, refuse containers and waste removal, shade structures and plantings, benches and regular mowing.

Splendid Sponsors

In Manchester, Vt., the dog park (manchestervtdogpark.org) volunteers partnered with the local animal shelters, and sent out postcards to dog owners asking for donations. Volunteers also sent letters to area businesses, garnering support from such heavyweights as Orvis, Wagatha’s, Wellness and VPI Pet Insurance. “A dog park works when everyone comes together,” says Sylvia Carpenter, a volunteer with Manchester Dog Park. “It’s a full circle: the vets, local shelters, schools, businesses and dog owners are all important to the success of the dog park.”

Rules Of The Park

Before a dog park even opens, basic rules must be created:

· Hours of operation

· Up-to-date vaccinations and shots

· Areas where dogs must be leashed and where they can be off-leash

· No food

· No smoking

· No aggressive dogs

· No barking

· No dogs “in season”

· No dogs under the age of four months

· No running by children

· No children under the age of five

· Cleanup and disposal of pet waste by the owner.

Location, Location, Location

Site selection is critical in developing a successful dog park: not too far and not too close to residential areas, as you want people to be able to get to the park, but you don’t want residents complaining of potential noise from barking dogs. Site selection also includes the type of land–dog parks should be located in a well-drained area with grass.

Community And Canines

Dog parks can also serve as a way to improve areas. “Dog parks can become a great resource for a community because the park can also serve as a venue to host events,” says Peterson.

Creating an aesthetically appealing dog park involves more than just a fenced-in grassy area, as found in the Cosmo Dog Park in Gilbert, Ariz., which includes more than 1,000 bricks commemorating pets, exercise equipment, a lake for the dogs to swim, dog-wash stations and a fire-hydrant water fountain.

“A dog park with water features becomes more formal, and presents unique opportunities for local economic development,” says Jim Cox, president of Rain-Drop, a company that provides consulting, design and sprayground equipment. “Cities and private companies are utilizing dog parks as a way to develop and draw people into specific areas.”

Size, Fences, Gates and Cleanliness

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