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.
Dog Park Rules
The fundamental rule of a dog park is to clean up after your pet. Many parks have poop bags or scoopers, but it's up to owners to be responsible. This is the biggest issue for parks. If people don't keep parks clean, they run the risk of being closed down.
Other important rules and suggestions at dog parks include:
- Never leave your dog unattended. Keep an eye on your dog as much as possible.
- Each dog should sport a current license on its collar. Be prepared if a ranger asks to see your dog's shot records.
- Puppies under four months old haven't received enough inoculations to protect them from potential diseases.
- First-time visitors should visit the park at off-peak times. Late afternoons until dusk and around 9:30 a.m. on weekends are heavy-traffic times.
- Bring supplies like water, poop bags, towels and a leash.
- If your dog is not neutered or spayed, think twice before taking him or her to a dog park, unless you're ready to welcome new puppies!
- Remove your dog's leash as soon as you enter the park. Leashed dogs may feel threatened when greeted by off-leash dogs [source: Dogpark.com].
- Keep moving. Dog experts say this will keep the off-leash area neutral territory.
- If your dog displays an aggressive temperament, consider staying at home.
- Some parks without fences will only allow dogs that respond to "firm voice control," meaning they must listen and obey their owners.
- Don't bring outside toys. Dogs see anything new brought into the park as open for their own enjoyment. Denied that opportunity, they can act up [source: AnimalPlanet.com].
- Minimize barking if the park is located in a residential area.
Cities can also impose their own rules at dog parks. Minneapolis dog owners must have a permit to use city parks. In Brooklyn's Prospect Park, owners of dogs that are off-leash between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. can be slapped with a $100 fine [source: Dogpark.com].
In the next section, find out why people join dog park associations.
Creating Dog Park Associations
An enthusiastic group of active dog park users and supporters is essential for the ongoing success of a dog park. An association sets up the park rules, contributes to the financial success of the park, ensures appropriate use, adequate maintenance and encourages the community's ongoing support. In a sense, association members act as guardians and promoters of the park.
An association can serve as a nonprofit source of funds for the land, equipment like tunnels and ramps, and maintenance costs. But individual members also have roles.
Members of the dog park group can demonstrate proper etiquette for dog owners and even correct negative behavior. For example, if a dog is acting aggressively, members can ask the owner and his or her dog to leave the park. Association members may hand out poop bags to other owners to remind them to clean up after their pets.
In addition, having an association member at the park regularly will help the group determine if the park is being properly maintained and that any waste is removed regularly.
Association members serve as a valuable liaison with the neighbors, town, city and county. This is important because if neighbors are complaining and the community doesn't understand the importance of the park to the community it serves, the park can be shut down.
Last but not least, members get to choose the dog park's name. For example, you may be able to accompany your canine friend to Pooch Park, Rover Run, Fido's Field or Hound Hill (for alliteration lovers).
If your dog has a leash in his or her mouth and is panting by your leg, check out the next section to find a dog park near you.
Dog Park List - Alabama through Kentucky
Following is a list of states with dog parks. For those with more than 30 listings, or for more detailed information, see sources on the following page for a full listing.
Alabama: Auburn, Birmingham, Huntsville
Alaska: Auburn, Anchorage
Arizona: Amado, Avondale, Chandler, Flagstaff, Fountain Hills, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Kingman, Lake Lavau City, Mesa, Oro Valley, Payson, Phoenix, Prescott, Scottsdale, Show Low, Surprise, Tempe, Tucson
Arkansas: Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Jacksonville, Little Rock, Maumelle, North Little Rock, Rogers
California: Fifty-eight California counties have dog parks.
Colorado: More than 30 towns have dog parks.
Connecticut: Avon/Simsbury, Branford, Bristol, Easton, Essex, Fairfield, Granby, Greenwich, Weston, Groton, Handen, Milford, New Caanan, New Haven, Norwalk, Norwich, Ridgefield, Rowayton, Southbury, Southington, Westhaven, Weathersfield
Delaware: Bear, Lewes, Pike Creek, Wilmington
Florida: More than 60 towns offer dog parks.
Georgia: Acworth, Alpharetta, Athens, Atlanta, Cumming, Decatur, Dunwoody, Gainesville, Hampton, Lawrenceville, Macon, Marietta, Norcross, Peachtree City, Roswell, Savannah , Smyrna, Snellville, Stone Mountain, Tifton, Tybee Island
Hawaii: Honolulu and Oahu.
Idaho: Boise, Moscow, Salmon, Stateline
Illinois: More than 60 towns have dog parks.
Indiana: Bloomington, Crown Point, Elkhart, Fishers, Fort Wayne, Greenwood, Hammond, Highland, Indianapolis, Lafayette, Lawrence, Madison, Muncie, Terre Haute, Valparaiso, Westfield, Westville
Iowa: Bettendorf, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapid, Clinton, Davenport, Indianola, Iowa City, Marion, Runnells, Sioux City, Washington, West Des Moines
Kansas: Desoto, Emporia, Kansas City, Lawrence, Olathe, Overland Park, Salina, Topeka
Kentucky: Burlington, Covington, Fort Thomas, Frankfort, Kenton, Lexington, Louisville, Paris
Dog Park List - Louisiana through North Dakota
Louisiana: Baton Rouge, New Orleans
Maine: Kennebunk, Portland
Maryland: Annapolis, Arnold, Baltimore, Bel Air, Bowie, Boyds, College Park, Ellicott City, Fallston, Frederick, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Greenbelt, La Plata, Laurel, Lexington Park, Ocean City, Pasadena, Prince Frederick, Reisterstown, Rockville, Takoma Park, Wheaten, White Plains
Massachusetts: Bedford, Boston, Foxboro, Ipswich, Medford, Medway, Salem, Saugus, Sharon, Somerville
Michigan: Bay City, Brighton/Howell, Cascade, Flushing, Holland, Jackson, Lyon Township, Lake Orion, Mount Clemens, Muskegon, Pleasant Ridge, Orion Oaks, Orion Township, Saint Joseph, Saline, Saugatuck, Warren, Westland.s
Minnesota: Bloomington, Burnsville, Coates, Crystal, Coon Rapids, Dakota County, Dayton, Plymouth, Eden Prairie (requires a city license), Fridley, Mankato, Minneapolis (requires a permit), Plymouth, Richfield, Roseville, Saint Louis Park, Saint Paul, Victoria, White Bear Township, Woodbury.
Missouri: Blue Springs, Columbia, Defiance, Florissant, Grandview, Jackson, Jefferson City, Kansas City, Lee's Summit, Maplewood, St. Charles, St. Louis, Wentzville
Nebraska: Beatrice, LaPlatte, Lincoln, Norfolk, Omaha, Papillion, Scottsbluff
Nevada: Carson City, Henderson, Las Vegas, Reno, Sparks
New Hampshire: Amherst, Concord, Derry, Portsmouth, Raymond, Rochester
New Jersey: More than 30 towns offer dog parks.
New Mexico: Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Los Alamos, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, White Rock
New York: More then 30 towns offer dog parks.
North Carolina: Aberdeen, Asheville, Banner Elk, Boone, Cary, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Conover, Davidson, Durham, Elon, Fayetteville, Fort Bragg , Greensboro, Greenville, Hudson, Kure Beach, Mebane, New Bern, Raleigh, Rural Hall, Rutherfordton, Wake Forest, Waynesville, Wilkesboro, Wilmington, Winston Salem
North Dakota: Bowman and Fargo
Dog Park List - Ohio through Wyoming
Ohio: More than 30 towns and cities in Ohio -- including Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus -- offer dog parks.
Oklahoma: Del City, Edmond, Enid, Norman, Oklahoma City, Yukon
Oregon: Aloha/Beaverton, Ashland, Eugene, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Portland, Roseburg, Salem, Tigard, Wilsonville
Pennsylvania: Beaver Falls, Bethlehem, Cheltenham Township, Colmar, Edinboro, Fort Washington, Hermitage, Horsham, Lancaster, Lansdale, Malvern, Mechanicsburg, Monongahela, Monroeville, Nazareth, New Columbia, Oaks, Philadelphia, Phoenixville, Pittsburgh, Radnor, Reading, Sewickley Heights, Spring City, State College, West Chester/Exton, West Whiteland, Wyncota, York
Rhode Island: Barrington, Newport, Providence, Richmond, Warwick
South Carolina: Columbia, Florence County, Greer, Greenville, Hilton Head, Isle of Palms, Myrtle Beach
South Dakota: Rapid City
Tennessee: Chattanooga, Clarksville, Cookeville, Franklin, Germantown, Goodlettesville, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville
Texas: Addison, Austin, Bellaire, College Station, Dallas, Deer Park, Denton, Fort Worth, Georgetown, Grand Prairie, Houston, Huntsville, Katy, Marshall, Midland, North Richland Hills, Pearland, Plano, San Antonio, San Marcos, The Woodlands
Utah: Park City, Salt Lake City, Taylorsville
Vermont: Burlington, Hartford, South Burlington, St. Johnsbury
Virginia: Alexandria, Arlington County, Virginia Beach, Alexandria, Arlington, Annandale, Chantilly, Chesapeake, Chesterfield/Midlothian, Fredericksburg, Hampton, Hanover, Leesburg, Norfolk, Reston, Richmond, Salem, Springfield, Vienna, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg
Washington: Anacortes, Belleview, Coupeville, Edmonds, Everett, Federal Way, Friday Harbor, Issaquah, Lakewood, Olalla, Oak Harbor, Poulsbo, Port Orchard, SeaTac, Seattle, Sequim, Steilcoom, Tacoma, Vancouver, Walla Walla
West Virginia: Charleston, Morgantown
Wisconsin: Appleton, Brookfield, Dane County, Eau Claire, Fon du Lac, Grafton, Green Bay, Janesville, Jefferson, Kaukauna, La Crosse, Madison, Manitowoc, Mequon, Milwaukee, Oak Creek, Oshkosh, Prairie du Sac, Racine, Rome, St. Francis, Stevens Point/Plover, Sun Prairie, Tomahawk, Two Rivers, Verona, Waukesha, Waunakee, Waupaca, Wauwatosa, Weston
Wyoming: Casper, Cheyenne, Laramie
To learn more, visit some of the links on the following page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Animal Planet. "Dog Parks USA." (Jan. 9, 2009)http://animal.discovery.com/features/dogpark/dogpark.html
- Dogpark.com. "Dog Parks in the United States." (Jan. 9, 2009)http://www.dogpark.com/index.php?id=9,0,0,1,0,0
- Dogplay.com. "What is a Dog Park." (Jan. 9, 2009)http://dogplay.com/Activities/dogpark.html
- EcoPlanet. "Dog Fun Directory." EcoAnimal.com (Jan. 9, 2009)http://www.ecoanimal.com/dogfun/
- Morris County Park Commission. "New Dog Park." Pathways Newspaper, Winter 2008/2009 edition.