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How to Create a Dog Park in Your Neighborhood

Dr. Lynette Hart, director of UC Davis’ Center for Animals in Society, addressed many key points in a letter of support for a Sacramento dog park initiative: “Dogs especially facilitate friendly interactions among people, as they so actively solicit play and offer greetings … establishing a dog park creates a community center of activity where friends and neighbors gather to relax … users of dog parks are self-policing so as to maintain the appealing environment .… Creating dog parks is a method for more efficiently educating dog owners and facilitating them in assuring excellent behavior with their dogs.”

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, Tufts University veterinarian and behaviorist, answering a question about a dog’s need for aerobic exercise, stated,“Walking them on a leash is not sufficient exercise. It is not that they die if they walk on a leash, and it’s not that a human being dies in solitary confinement either. It is just that it is not optimal for their physiological and psychological well-being.” He adds, “It is important for a dog to be provided with natural outlets—to be able to run and exercise and chase things and do as a dog was bred to do.” There is plenty of expert testimony—we hope you will be able to get the vets in your community to write letters as well.

Humane organizations and animal shelters should be willing to endorse your efforts as well. As a nationally respected leader on all issues relating to companion animals, San Francisco’s SPCA has been a staunch proponent of off-leash recreation. This is evidenced by an excerpt from their statement to the Advisory Dogs Off-Leash Task Force: “We feel that because of the growth of our City’s population, in human and canine terms, now is the time to accommodate for the future of our dog-friendly parks … Off-leash recreation is not only an essential part of how many people care for their pets—it is a way to give a little something back to the animals who give us all so much.” The SF/SPCA cares so much about this issue that they have even offered to contribute financially to the development of a state-of-the-art dog park in San Francisco.

Running with a Pack
Again, stressing the power in numbers, you might want to consider the formation of an umbrella group composed of groups with a common vision. Seattle’s COLA has led the way in this manner, and has been recognized as the official sponsoring group, entering into a formal agreement with the city to perform various stewardship functions in their off-leash areas. New York City’s dog people have recently banded together to form NYCDOG (“nice dog”) in response to that city’s recent draconian crackdown against off-leash recreation. According to Dr. Terry Fonville, “it is hoped that this will give us strength and unified voice … as well as helping all the diverse users of the City’s parks find common ground … our outreach abilities will be employed to better educate dog owners regarding responsible use of the parks.” We certainly wish our doggie friends in the Big Apple a lot of luck. There are many similar umbrella groups across the country, such as Judy Green’s ArlingtonDogs in Virginia, SFDOG and DogPAC, SB, all of which understand the importance of unity.

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Submitted by Debra Pughe | January 26 2012 |

Claudia---what an excellent article! I learned so much and it will be such a great help to all of us all over the country struggling to either start or improve our dog parks. Thank You!

Submitted by Anonymous | August 16 2012 |

There are six outdoor dog parks within a 5 mile radius of my home. Today I took my my baby girl German Short-Haired Pointer to socialize with her pals while I socialized with mine.:) We both were happy and as I write this she is napping after eating her breakfast. I've been thinking about this for a long time...I wish someone would build an indoor dog park so we could use it during the rainy and cold weather too. Something to the effect of a juice bar and coffee bar for the owners, grooming area for our beloved dog with professional groomers, a dog running track, a maze of shorts for them, balls hanging from the ceilings so they could jump and try to grab them, dog friendly pee and poop area, an indoor swimming pool for dogs would be awesome. A beach area with a waterfall. Of course a restroom for adults and kids. Benches and perhaps a big television screen to watch the Daily Show with John Stewart! I wonder if the Daily Show might search for possible investors for us. I'm in Northern California.

Submitted by Tania | March 19 2014 |

Hi! I'm from Mexico and want to thank you for this helpful post because I'm tryimg to start this culture of dog park in my comunity and need lots of ideas and inspiration to convince the neighbors that you have gave me ... So glad that there's people out there that not think we are crazy dog lovers but responsible owners

Submitted by Claudia Kawczynska | March 19 2014 |

HI Tania,

If you need any help, guidance or have questions, do let us know. Hopefully we can help but there are many of our readers who I'm sure can also assist you. Good luck.

Claudia, Editor

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