Best Practices for Creating a Dog Park In Your Community

by AdminMay 30, 2013

Best Practices for Creating a Dog Park in Your Community

Dog owners will go to just about any length to get their dog some exercise. Don’t believe it? We give you “Exhibit A” – The GoPet TreadWheel for Large Dogs with a price tag of about $1200. It’s basically a hamster wheel for your Labrador.

If dog owners are not already demanding a dog park in your city or township, then you can bet they will be soon. It’s best you be prepared. City planners and town councils know the debate that is sparked when you bring up the issue of dog parks. Passion on both sides

A bit of homework on your part will make for a more productive discussion instead of a heated debate. There are best practices when it comes to planning a dog park.

The Trust for Public Land published a report outlining how different municipalities approached this task…what worked and what did not work so well. We’ve pulled out some of the best practices presented in that report.

Selecting a Site
(Lessons from Seattle)

  • Avoid interference with other established uses or department-sponsored activities Avoid locations directly abutting residences (this will avoid complaints about the noise of dog barking)
  • Assure availability of close-by parking
  • Avoid locations near children’s play areas (non dog lovers worry about their children getting bit)
  • Choose spots where there are minimal impacts on the visual character of the park (it’s almost impossible to grow grass in a dog park and they are often not the prettiest of places)
  • Site so as to avoid spillover into non-dog areas
  • Avoid sensitive environmental habitats
  • Find a property with no history (Dewey Potter, spokeswoman for the Seattle park department says, “It’s a lot easier than persuading people to change a field’s use into something different.”)

What to Build Into the Dog Park

Different municipalities and cities fit out their Dog Parks to varying degrees. Much of this difference is likely due to budget and support of the community. Some parks departments supply everything and some supply just the space surrounded by a fence or use natural barriers. The following is a list of some of the more widely seen attributes.

  • Pet Fountains (Think of the park as the dogs’ gym…a source of hydration is crucial. And the two-legged visitors will appreciate it as well on hot days.)
  • Fence
  • Dog waste bag dispenser
  • Separate areas for small and large dogs
  • Mulch (mulch will keep the dust and mud at bay)
  • Benches (Dog parks are great spots for people to socialize and get to know their neighbors. Provide them a place to linger and strengthen the community bonds)
  • Shade (If you can’t locate the park in an area that already has shade consider planting a few trees)
  • Signage with rules and information on dog licensing

When Montgomery Alabama built the Hannah Daye Ridling Bark Park, their goal was to create a world class dog park that is both accessible and a happy place for dogs and their people.

The five acre fenced park within Montgomery’s Blount Cultural Park has separate spaces for small and large dogs. Each space is outfitted with a gazebo, washing station, multiple benches, water fountains and, of course, fire hydrants.

Murdock at Bark Park
Hannah Daye Ridling Bark Park, Montgomery, AL
Bob Murdock, Holly Smith Roth and Diva
Murdock M-54-PF fountain donated by Jay R. Smith Mfg. Co.

Paying for the Park

The economy may have remained sluggish last year, but Americans refused to scrimp on their pets.  Animal lovers spent upwards of $53 billion on food, veterinary care, kennels and other services in 2012.

Pet Pop of Australia promotes a vitamin-infused “mountain-spring water” for dogs. The price: $3.30 a bottle

All this to say, you need not bear the burden alone. Work with your community dog owners to share in the cost of the park.

Milwaukee put most the responsibility of funding the park on dog owners by leasing the land for $1 instead of operating it as an official county park. The county agreed to pay half the $4000 cost of fencing but left all the other expenses and management to the dog owners.

Milwaukee’s dog owners were more than happy to pay. They understood their city had budget problems and without their carrying the bulk of the burden it would likely never have happened.

While there’s a good chance there will always be debate when the subject of dog parks comes up, these tips can help eliminate many of the issues raised.

Remember–dog owners are a constituency with clout.

If you would like more information on durable, year-round drinking fountains, please visit us on our website at We are celebrating 160 years of providing communities like yours with safe drinking water. Some of the very first fountains and hydrants manufactured by Murdock are still in use today.

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