Feature Article - March 2017
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Parks Gone to the Dogs

Planning & Programming a Park for Pooches

By Dave Ramont

Can't They All Get Along?

As far as providing separate areas for large and smaller dogs, most agree it's a good idea—if space allows. "Dogs have different playing styles, and keeping them separated by size is imperative to help keep dogs safe, and also helps keep the peace with their guardians," according to VandenBerghe. She said that smaller dogs have a tendency to get underfoot when playing with larger dogs, and for a bigger dog with a strong prey drive, a particularly small canine may trigger that desire.

"Another consideration is to have a dedicated space for shy or elderly dogs who may not want to run, but just meander about and quietly explore their surroundings," she added.

Sarver agreed, suggesting that you plan to have a shaded, soft area for senior dogs to also have a place to be part of the park experience.

Sarver also suggests asking patrons to get a letter from their vet to make sure the dog has a friendly, park-like temper. "It's important to keep the small dogs and large dogs separate, but it's also very important to make sure there are no aggressive dogs in the park, and having the dogs pass a local temperance test might be a good idea." He said that dogs have many different personalities, and some large dogs can be more aggressive to the smaller dogs. "They could do a lot of damage really quick if something got out of control, so it's advisable to keep them separate." He also recommends that owners stay close to their dogs if there are questionable or unfamiliar dogs in the park.

Doggie Playtime

And now (if you're a dog), the fun stuff! Agility equipment is very popular for modern dog parks, with many preconfigured agility courses available, depending on the size of the park. And many of the features are adjustable, including jump bars, hurdles, beams, A-frames and other types of ramps, as well as wait tables, flexible weave poles, hoop jumps and tire jumps. There are agility walks, crawls, tunnels, barrels and teeter-totters. Popular lately are the various nature lines, so dogs can crawl, jump and balance on realistic-looking logs, boulders and stumps. And of course there's the classic fire hydrant, which is "typically the most popular spot in the dog park, creating a fun, social hangout that is super adorable," according to Palacios and Marler.

Have a dedicated space for shy or elderly dogs who may not want to run, but just meander about and quietly explore their surroundings.

"When we're designing the agility areas, we believe it's best to cluster the equipment in a separate area to leave adequate room for running, ball throwing, etc. You also want to ensure safe spacing between each component," VandenBerghe said.

Make sure components are rust-proof and walking surfaces are slip resistant and free of perforations. "Most dogs are not experienced in agility, so making sure the ramps are extra wide with a safe incline and adjustable jump components to accommodate all sizes and abilities is important to us, as it's likely their first introduction to agility," she added.

Sarver explained that "Dogs dissipate most of their body heat through their tongues, so when a dog starts to get hot, it's important for them to have drinking water as it helps keep them cool."

There are many types of water fountains available, servicing both dogs and their humans. VandenBerghe said there are many options to customize the fountains, such as leash hooks, freeze-resistant valves, custom plaques, dog treat bins and hose bibbs. There are also various water spray amenities available, such as fire hydrants that spray a mist from the top or sides by pushing a button, some with adjustable timers.

Dog wash stations are becoming more popular, too. "This is growing immensely—they range from a slab of concrete with a hose and a drain to a fancy wash station with shampoo stations and much more," Palacios and Marler explained, adding that these are great if your pup gets muddy or needs to cool off.

VandenBerghe said multi-function units are popular, where the wash option is integrated into a fountain. And dual wash stations feature a leash hook and a set of metered valves that allow for two users at once.

In areas that have extreme winters, stand-alone dog wash buildings are great, according to Sarver, since they "have heaters and water heaters to make washing the dog comfortable even during winter months. The canopy-style outdoor stations are good, but do need winterizing in areas that require winterizing of water systems." He said these stations can be self-service or offer vending options where the machines accept credit cards and cash/coins. There are even K9 dryers available.

There are also a myriad of benches, tables, shade shelters and signs available. And, of course, pick-up or waste stations—a must at every dog park. "We just launched a new customizable waste station that includes some cutesy and funny signage options, and also a new waste station with hand sanitizer that we think will be really popular," Palacios and Marler said.