Thinking About Starting a Dog Park?

Dog parks are by far one of the leading features on the wish list of municipal and community parks. Dog parks can be wonderful additions to a community, whether as an inclusion to an existing community park or as a stand-alone, dog specific park. People who are thinking about building a dog park should be aware that there are many pitfalls to be encountered along the way.

Although important and necessary components, building a dog park is not just about the business plan or the architectural illustrations. It is not just about that perfect parcel of land you want to use, the type of fencing you will install or the unique sign you want to place at the entrance. Before you do anything, learn about your market, learn dogs and the people who own them.

To have a safe park, you must have rules and make sure they are adhered to – you must have a supervised park. While many who use dog parks may be experienced dog owners who realize they still have a lot to learn about dogs, a lot of people are first time dog owners who think they know everything. Dogs have to be interested in being social in the first place for them to have a positive experience at a dog park. Imagine mixing all dogs into an off-leash environment? You really never know what will happen, so it’s imperative to have supervision.

There are several models of dog parks. Municipal dog parks are usually free and open to the public 24/7. Although most have posted rules, there is no one to make sure people abide by those rules. These parks are the ones where most problems are encountered. Member based parks usually charge a fee and require people and their dogs to be registered. Many fee based parks require dogs to pass a temperament test before they are admitted to the park, and people are asked to attend an orientation session. It is not a good idea to mix small and large dogs together in an off-leash environment. Many dog parks have both a small dog area and a large dog area.

Here are a few things to consider that may help you choose the right spot for your future park:

  1. Size It Up:
    The size of your park may depend solely on the availability of land. But it is recommended at least 1 acre but they can be as big as your community can manage and maintain. If space isn’t an issue, consider an area large enough that it’s possible to rotate high traffic areas annually or even seasonally.
  2. Pack It In:
    Consider how your community will use the park. Remember that people need to enjoy the park too! It’s important to plan for seating and shade so everyone stays comfortable when they visit your park. Don’t stop there! Do you want to include room for agility equipment, a sand box, pond or fountain, climbing wall, walking trails or anything else you can think of that your community and its dogs would love? A community meeting can help determine what’s feasible and preferred by the future park patrons.
  3. Water, Water Everywhere:
    Consider a water source for humans and dogs as well as a dog rinsing station. On especially muddy days, being able to rinse your dog off to keep cars from getting the full dog park experience can make a nicer day for everyone.
  4. Plan For Clean Up:
    To help keep your dog park pleasant and as clean as possible, place waste stations and trash receptacles a decent distance apart (approximately 4 per acre depending on the layout). Ensure the park is easily accessible for landscaping crews so it’s simple to keep your park lush and neat.
  5. Show Your Spirit:
    Remember that designing your dog park extends to the spirit of the park. One key way to do this is to set the stage for responsible pet-ownership and behavior in the dog park by developing and posting park rules. Some sample rules may include:

    • Dogs must be properly vaccinated and it is recommended that they be spayed or neutered.
    • Puppies under 4 months of age and female dogs in heat are prohibited.
    • Do not bring dog foods into the dog park.
    • Owners must clean up after their dogs.
    • Dogs with a known history of aggressive behavior are prohibited.
    • Dogs must wear a collar with identification at all times.
    • Dogs must be leashed when entering and leaving the park.
    • Leaving dogs unattended is prohibited.
    • Children under the age of 16 must be supervised by a parent or guardian.
    • Maximum of 3 dogs per person, per visit.
    • Watch for dogs on the other side of the entry gate when entering or leaving to prevent escapes.

Already have your dog park plans ready? How can we help?

ParknPool | Lexington, VA | | 877.777.3700

The Impact of Pandemic Puppies on Today’s Dog Parks

More than 23 million American households adopted a pet during the recent pandemic, with the majority of those pets being dogs. The increase in the number of dog parks in the past couple years, as well as the number of existing parks making improvements, can be attributed to not only the number of families adding dogs but also the fact that dog parks are a safe place to congregate. From a cost perspective, dog parks are much more affordable to outfit than other parks or ballfields.

It wasn’t just people adding dogs to their families, but also the increase of people working from home. This created the need for people to take a break. Dog parks provided a great opportunity for someone working from home to take a breather and go to the dog park for socialization. As the pandemic highlighted the importance of people getting outdoors and exercising, many cities and parks departments looked to capitalize on this mindset and enhance their offerings. These enhancements most often included dog parks.

A well-rounded park should have the core utilities: electricity for lighting, water supply for drinking fountains, and shade structures for protection from inclement weather. Dog park agility components include climbing structures, hurdles, jumps, tunnels, and weave poles. One of the main benefits of dog agility is the interaction between the guardian and their pet!

To encourage year-round use, adding safety features like solar lights is helpful. Including creature comforts like adequate seating, protection from the elements, a hand-washing station or restrooms all help to draw people to the dog park…rain or shine. A wide range of site furnishings, like benches, shade structures, trash receptacles, water fountains and bottle fillers all help make dog parks welcoming and more comfortable for everyone. Aside from the benefits of people getting fresh air and exercise, dog parks also enable socialization and connection among pet owners. While location is an important consideration for park planners, dog park users are typically willing to drive out of their way to both exercise their dog and meet up with other park regulars. Something as simple as 6′ benches, that have room for two people to sit comfortably, can lead to conversations.

For safety of the dogs, it is important that any dog park area maintains a level of integrity with the enforcement of picking up pet waste, trash and other items that are not safe for dogs. Another way to promote socialization is to offer special programming or events. One event for a new park opening, if the park has agility equipment, is to bring in an agility trainer. They can show park users how to safely enjoy the equipment and offer tips on dog handling. This also helps to provide a visual for people who may not be familiar with dog agility. Once they see how much a dog enjoys it, they’re much more likely to try it themselves.

As dog ownership continues to climb among all demographics, including many living in urban areas, urban dog parks are very necessary for the health and well-being of people and their pets in large cities. Living with limited outdoor space, a local dog park is often an important part of getting daily exercise and socialization. Depending on available space, budgets, landscape features and community desires, a little imagination can go a long way.

ParknPool | Lexington, VA | | 877.777.3700

How to Design a Quality Dog Park

With pet ownership consistently on the rise, it shouldn’t be a surprise that communities across the country are introducing dog parks! Enjoyable for both owners and their pets, an unleashed dog park allows dogs to run and play off-leash and provides much needed exercise and socialization.

How do you begin designing a dog park?

It Starts with Location

Now that you have decided to build a dog park, you have to find somewhere to put it. When looking at locations throughout your community, you will need to think of access as well as the natural landscape. There are often unused areas of land throughout a community that may be a good option. The area doesn’t have to be flat and it doesn’t have to be a perfect rectangle. A good place to start is to involve the community and the dog owners that will be using the space. What would they like to see?

Factors to consider when choosing your location:

  • Approximately 1-5 Acres. Space should be large enough for the park to not become overcrowded and small enough to keep the park well-controlled.
  • Drainage. You want to prevent muddy conditions.
  • Water Fountains. Dogs will need water while exercising and using the park.
  • Shade. This will prevent any overheating during the hotter summer days.
  • Accessibility to those with mobility devices. Inclusion is essential so all people can enjoy the space.
  • 5-6 Foot Fencing. It’s important to make the fence high enough to keep dogs from jumping over it.
  • Benches. Owners will stay around longer if they have somewhere to sit and relax while supervising their pets.
  • Signs. A clear display of the park rules is typically placed at entrances/exits so they are easily visible to all.
  • Parking. Nearby parking makes it easy for community members to enter the park.
  • Buffer zone. Landscaping around the dog park creates a border between the park and neighbors.
  • Waste Stations. A must to give individuals the ability to clean up after their dog and keep the dog park an enjoyable place for everyone.

Agility Equipment

When you observe dogs in an outdoor setting, they are typically jumping over things, running, going under the bushes or climbing. It’s important to imitate these obstacles by including dog park equipment. In addition to offering the benefit of overall exercise, dog park agility equipment can help dogs build strength, gain confidence, and improve their agility.

ParknPool highly recommends that when you are considering your equipment, you want pieces that will withstand the outdoor elements. To keep our 4-legged family members safe, dog park equipment needs to be durable and installed properly. Making sure that your new dog park is equipped with amenities such as waste stations, benches, agility equipment and water fountains is the perfect way to wrap up the finishing touches.

Finally, in designing your dog park, please keep in mind the following best practices:

  • The best dog parks are those that include activities for dogs of all sizes.
  • The best layout is one that is fenced in with an accessible path to and from the parking lot.
  • The best separation idea is to create separate areas for small dogs and large dogs.

Ready to get started? Contact ParknPool today!

ParknPool | Lexington, VA | | 877.777.3700

Guide to Starting and Maintaining a Dog Park

What is a dog park?

A dog park is a location set aside for dogs to exercise and play in a controlled environment under the watchful eye of their owners. It is a safe setting for both dogs and humans to interact with each other and to possibly learn more about other breeds and their behaviors. It is a great opportunity for owners to play with their pets where they otherwise might not be able to do so – such as in cities or areas with little to no yards.

Getting Started

You’ve finally decided that your community needs a dog park…GREAT! The next step is to gain support for the project. The best way to start is to go out and talk to people who are already walking their dogs. Don’t be afraid to ask for support from your neighborhood, you’d be surprised at how many dog owners would love the opportunity to be involved. The best way to get the word out is clever marketing.

Many groups decide to incorporate as non-profits, where they have formal meetings and elect officers. This helps to have a strong group of individuals who are passionate about their dogs and can ban together to overcome any objections. Also, find a city official who will support the dog park concept. Having a city official who is a dog person will help pave the way for you.

Be prepared for objections. There is always going to be someone out there who will disagree with you, spelling out proposed rules for users before a park is even established will help to counter those objections.

Decide on a time to meet with the newly established committee and discuss your plan of action.

Choosing a Location

Your new group will need to find the perfect spot for the dog park. Most small dog parks are no bigger than one acre. Make sure you choose a location that the masses can access. This will ensure that the park will be a hit and will have a better chance of being passed by your local Parks and Recreation Department.

Once you have selected a site, it helps to let the community know of your plans, just in case it may interfere with the plans of other organizations.

Post flyers at veterinary offices, groomers, pet stores, grocery stores, etc. See if your local newspaper or radio station would be interested in doing a small story about your proposed idea.

Once enough interest has been gained, you should submit a letter and any signed petitions to your local Parks and Recreation Department.

You’ll need to make sure that you have a clear outline about the need for a dog park and a proposed plan. Focus on how the dog park would be a benefit to your community as a whole, not just for the dogs.

The parks department will then be able to decide if the area you have chosen is available for use or if there is another area to consider.

Benefits & Rules

Dog parks are a fantastic way for community members of all ages to interact with each other. With low start up and maintenance costs, dog parks offer a great return on investment since park users are often voting adults. Dog parks offer outdoor exercise for most park users – which can help battle against obesity.

You might face the opposition asking why should valuable park space be set aside just for dogs? The answer: dog parks are not just for the pets. The people that bring their pets use the space just as much as the animals. It also is a way for people who can’t handle a dog full time the chance to interact with dogs.

To ensure the safety of everyone involved, here are a few basics to consider:

  1. Dogs must remain on a leash to and from the parking lot.
  2. All dogs must have their vaccinations.
  3. Recommend that dogs be spayed or neutered.
  4. Dogs should be licensed.
  5. Dogs should be accompanied by their owner or a dog walker.
  6. Owners should dispose of their dogs feces in appropriate waste stations.
  7. Establish decent park hours.
  8. Dogs showing any signs of aggression must be leashed and immediately removed from the park

To Leash or Not To Leash

When starting a dog park it’s important to consider the differences between an on-leash dog park and an off-leash dog park. Below are the pros and cons for an off-leash dog park.


  1. Provides a community setting in which owners can observe the interaction of groups of dogs at play.
  2. Dogs and owners can spend time together while allowing the dog to satisfy its craving for play and companionship.
  3. Allows dogs to get plenty of exercise that would normally be restricted by a leash.
  4. Dog owners can learn about other dogs and training.
  5. Other public parks will be free of dogs off-leash.
  6. A leash can cause a dog to become territorial.


  1. Some dogs may be intimidated by large groups of dogs.
  2. There is the potential for dogs to fight.
  3. There is the potential for dogs to bite adults or children.
  4. Some owners don’t control their dogs.
  5. If dogs aren’t properly vaccinated there is a potential to spread diseases.


Once the site has been chosen and construction is about to begin, there are certain things that every dog park should include:

  1. A 4′-6′ fence with double-gated entry and exit
  2. Nearby parking
  3. Water fountains for both dogs and owners
  4. Seating (i.e. picnic tables or benches)
  5. Shaded areas
  6. Pet Waste Stations
  7. Trash Receptacles

These are just the basics. Feel free to be creative by adding swimming ponds, agility equipment or separate walking trails. Your goal is to have an area that is inviting for both dogs and their owners. Place benches both inside and outside the fence line of the park. This allows those passing by to sit and watch the playful pooches.

Having a small and a large dog park does mean an extra fence line but it does not mean double the amenities. Placing the drinking fountain outside the fenced areas means only purchasing one set. It also allows dogs to hydrate without being distracted by other dogs. You MUST make sure there are enough pet stations scattered around the park if you expect owners to clean up after their mutts.

Park Maintenance

You’ll want to immediately organize a dog park council or group to help maintain and monitor the park. Since most city funds can be scarce, most parks will need volunteer help to stay open. Assign a contact person for the city in case there are issues or other concerns from neighbors or other members of the community. This council will also be responsible for issuing rules for the park, cleaning up after park hours, mowing, fixing fences, disposal of pet waste, etc.

You’ll also be responsible for setting up meetings with your city officials to discuss the success of the park and what may need to be improved.

Planning clean-up parties is a fun way to get many individuals involved to help keep the park clean and safe.

Providing self-serving pet waste stations is a great way to keep maintenance costs down. It puts the responsibility in the park users hands. It is a good idea to place multiple receptacles throughout the dog park. This will ensure that owners will clean up after their pet. Make sure the area has the proper signage to direct users with the rules and expectations of the dog park.

Is there any value?

Most parks take two to three years of planning and resilient efforts before there can be a ribbon cutting ceremony. After reading this, you’re probably asking yourself is it really worth the effort?


Dogs need a lot of exercise and a dog park is the perfect place to let them run and play. It’s also a great place for community members to relax, socialize, and know that your dog is safe and secure. In case you didn’t realize a dog park is the perfect place for you to meet new people and make new friends.

It’s also a chance for community members to learn more about different breeds and how they interact with dogs and humans. Dog parks provide a place for soon-to-be dog owners to better understand what breed is going to be a good fit for them before they get hooked on those ‘puppy dog eyes.’

Once the dog park is open your community will wonder how they ever survived without one! Community members of all ages will appreciate the events that can be organized – doggie birthday parties and puppy play dates!

So go ahead and get started forming a committee today, you and your dog will be happy that you did!

ParknPool | Lexington, VA | | 877.777.3700