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Feature Article - March 2015

Tail-Wagging Fun

Design & Outfit an Effective Dog Park

By David Mumpower


Recent studies suggest that people feel more empathy toward dogs than they do with other humans. Our canine friends are equal parts companions and wards. People are in charge of their safekeeping, and a crucial component in their weekly satisfaction is keeping them entertained. Puppies are the most playful pets, and our society is starting to recognize this through widespread adoption of dog parks.

In fact, the data suggests America is becoming a canine society. The United States Department of Health recently noted that 2013 witnessed a record low for birth rates among women aged 15 to 44. With only 62.5 out of every thousand women bearing children, there has been a symmetrical meteoric rise in canine ownership over the past decade. In 2004, 73.9 million dogs were kept as pets. Fast-forward to 2014 when records indicated that 83.3 million people owned a puppy, an increase of almost a million dogs a year. Amazingly, there are now 5 million more households with dogs than with kids.

The chief explanation for why dog parks are rising in popularity is because they fill a niche in the country's evolving living arrangements. As urban areas attract a larger portion of the population, the need to entertain exists not just for the pets but also the people. With many high-rises lacking outdoor space, residents must find a designated location for their puppies to run and play. If the options are a sidewalk or a dog park, which one would you pick?

Primarily due to the increase in furry family members, dog parks have become prevalent. As the growth of actual parks stagnates, canine playgrounds have become the new urban sanctuary. Over a half-decade period, the top 100 cities in the country in terms of populace added 34 percent more play areas for man's best friend. You may be considering adding a dog park to your area, and if you are not, these numbers indicate that you should. Here is what you need to know about the newly popular puppy playgrounds.

Presuming you want to build a dog park, here are some steps to take. First, you must understand the difference between a dog run and a dog park. While the terms are oftentimes used interchangeably, they represent vastly different facilities. A dog run is basically just a walled-in tract of land that is rarely larger than 1.5 acres in size. It is a place for dogs to interact on a small scale, doing all of the things they would do on a sidewalk, only in a more open area where they can run and play freely.

Amazingly, there are now 5 million more households with dogs than with kids.

A dog park is a much bolder endeavor. Most people believe that it should comprise at least three acres of land, and much more is preferred. Many of the most popular dog parks across the country cover 20-plus acres. Obviously, such sites include much more than a simple fence and some land. Many feature park equipment that functions as toys for the dogs. Popular structures include hurdles, hoops, dog slides and even fake fire hydrants. These interactive toys can distract and thrill your pup for hours. There is a reason why so many pet owners view dog parks as Disneyland for their dogs. And contrasting a dog park to a dog run is like comparing Space Mountain to a bus ride. You'll want the bigger space with the larger-scale activities. Otherwise, your new area is little better than a sidewalk.

Once you have embarked upon building a dog park, the next step is finding the perfect place. You will want to find a parcel of land that suits the needs of your potential guests, both human and canine. The first concern is bureaucracy. Trying to build infrastructure will draw the attention of the local government. You want these people on your side.

Owner Katie Kelley of Dog Wood Park, one of the largest dog parks in the country, has a brilliant suggestion for building a facility that will make you a hero with the government. Investigate if there is a landfill in your area that could be converted into a dog park. If your local city, district or county is amenable to this suggestion, you can develop a current wasteland into a future communal visitation destination. Using this strategy, Dog Wood Park fundamentally changed a 42-acre area of Jacksonville, Fla., from landfill into a popular site for dog lovers.