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Dog Parks Guide

        Animals | Pet Travel

At dog parks, canines make friends and run free. Check out these dog pictures.
Frank Gaglione/Riser/Getty Images

­While any park that allows dogs could be called a dog park, the term usually describes a quarter-acre to more than 50-acre (20­ -hectare) expanse of park land with specific canine-friendly amenities designed to encourage off-leash cavorting.

Dog parks are as diverse as the breeds that use them. Many parks are customized to entertain but also to enclose the canine crowd with 4- to 6-feet-high (1.2- to 1.8-meter) metal fencing. Double gates allow dogs to safely enter and leave. Some offer separate areas for large and small dogs to romp.

What distinguishes a really well-planned dog park? Pooper scooper stations or stocked dog-poop bag dispensers with nearby covered garbage cans are essential. Both the dog and owner benefit from these amenities since they contribute to the doggie's overall health and hygiene, as well as people's shoes!

­Turf is the preferred groundcover, but local vegetation will often dictate what's on the ground. Creative land use can produce interesting venues for dog parks. Old ball fields have been converted into dog parks and outdoor hockey rinks have served as dog parks in the off-season [source: EcoPlanet].

Some dog parks offer water fountains for dogs and people. Others have swimming areas set aside exclusively for canines, in lakes, ponds, rivers and oceans. Lights and benches may be included as well.

Other options that can make a park a dog's best friend include shade and a stash of tennis balls. Parking areas, beaches and dog-washing stations are other attractions. Some dog parks even have canine memorials.

While some do­g parks use county or city park facilities, others are privately funded. Fees are more common at privately-owned parks and can be collected monthly, annually or per use.

Read on to learn about typical rules that you'll encounter at dog parks.