Dog Parks

These answers are in response to a question posed to the ShowDals list members.

One of the big topics of discussion in my area is the proposed creation of Dog Parks within the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. A very active group calling itself R.O.M.P (Responsible Owners of Mannerly Pets) has worked very hard to get this moving and is getting ever closer to success in both cities. The counties (Hennepin and Ramsey) both have dog parks on county land, but identifying usable space in our crowded cities has been quite a chore.

I belong to the organization, and have followed their efforts with great interest though I doubt that I would ever use a dog park. The concept of a Dog Park sounds logical, fun, and a lot easier on ME, but are they safe?

Does your community have Dog Parks? Have you been involved in their development? Do you use a Dog Park? WOULD you use a Dog Park?


  • Indianapolis, IN, has recently started a "Bark Park". I think it has a 50-dog limit. Don't know how they monitor capacity, but I know it was designed as a place for people to take their dogs and let them run free. The only knowledge I have about it is what I see on the evening news when it has been featured.

    I know there was quite a bit of discussion from dog owners who were concerned that not all people who used the park would be able to control their pets if they were allowed to run loose. Many people feared dog fights, injuries, illnesses, etc. from unvaccinated and uncontrolled pets. Despite these concerns the park opened and according to the news reports, it has been very successful. So successful that there is talk of opening a second park somewhere in Indy.

  • Here's a link I have in my "favorite places" about dog parks in California. Other states are accessible too, I believe, as is information on how to start a dog park, etc.

  • I only have one dog, a "pup" still at just under 2 years, so occasional trips to the dog park are a lifesaver for me. I've never SEEN any problems at our particular park. I've been quite pleased that the owners seem to be very responsible. Here's a link to "my" park's website (I am a member but was not a participant in the initial planning of the park).

    I know of two other DCA members who live in this area who do occasionally visit this particular dog park and have not heard from them that they've had any problems. Both of them have multiple dog households.

    What I like best is that my girl is VERY social and LOVES to play with other dogs. She runs from one end of that park to the other playing "chase me" and "now I'll chase you." No running on my part ... no throwing of balls or frisbees ... the other dogs do all the work for me!!

  • I have used Dog Parks in Wisc. without any major difficulties. Meaning dogs were mostly well behaved and everyone got along. I have used one of the Dog Beaches in Chicago Area, where one of my Dals was attacked several times by unwatched, unruly dogs. After finally removing the dog off his back by the collar and handing the dog to it's owner along with a very sharp comment of uncontrolled dogs should not be off their leash I went back to my old habit of getting to the local beach at 6:30 am before the public arrives. We have much more fun and don't have to worry about bad dogs. The dogs that show up at that hour are usually well-behaved.

  • I live on a private 2+ acre "farmette" in the middle of about 3000 acres of public Farm The major Dog walking area is the cranberry Bog next to me. I don't really use it with the dogs much one can never predict how others dogs are gonna act (and mine can run at home) BUT it is very popular and is used from dawn to dusk by others. I don't mind a bit and am glad it's there for when I feel like using it. Not many people clean up after their dogs but it is sandy and large enough that nature has managed to keep it from disgusting. I'd fight for it if anyone tried to close it.

  • Dog parks have popped up all over Los Angeles and Ventura Counties (mostly LA County).

    Would I use a Dog Park? Never. Many of the dogs are not properly socialized. Their owners bring them to the parks to "play" and are quite surprised when "Princess" is not so sweet. The park space is usually small as well and that can make for territory issues. I know too many people whose good intentions of taking their dog to the dog park has ended in a dog fight. I think the idea, in theory, is a good one...a park for dogs. Personally, I can't afford to take the risk.

  • Here's one item that a friend pointed out to me about Dog Parks: Those dogs that frequent dog parks on a regular basis develop a kind of pack among themselves. Therefore, when a new dog comes in (or one that visits infrequently), there is a bit of "adjustment" within the pack order to accommodate the newcomer. Sometimes there is no adjustment and the newcomer feels threatened. It could become dangerous under such a circumstance. Just something to think about.

  • I have used a Dog Park near where my mother lives when I have gone to visit her. My last experience was 6-7 years ago, however. I did not have any problems then, but I would not use one now. My youngest Dal is rather dog-aggressive and my male has a very strong prey drive. My oldest bitch would be fine in a dog part setting. If I could use it alone, just my dogs, I would use one now.

  • At the National Specialty in Washington State a few years ago, the hotel allowed us to use the tennis courts for an exercise area. I did use that to let the dogs run for a while. As far as I know, people were cooperative about sharing and/or not "hogging" this space.

  • We have so called "dog parks" here, I don't use them. Instead I take my dogs to the school 1 1/2 blocks from me. At the "Dog Parks" I have run into people that have no clue whatsoever that their dogs are aggressive. My problem with that is you have no way of policing what dog comes into the park and if it will behave with your dogs. I've given up on it rather than my dogs get abused by another dog (owner).

  • In Dublin, laws were passed a few years ago that prohibited taking any dog off lead at any of the parks. The laws have since been changed to allow dogs to run until 11am and again from an hour before closing (the time varies with the season). Individual parks can make different rules.

    The following arguments were made to effect the change:

    1. Park land was set aside either permanently or temporarily for a number of sports. Walking the family dog is the most common form of exercise. Surely some accommodation should be made for it.
    2. One of the major human health benefits of owning a dog is the increased opportunity for social interaction. For most dog owners, this is easier when the dogs can interact freely. This sort of canine socialisation creates dogs that are less likely to cause trouble with either people or other dogs.
    3. The reason people wanted dogs leashed is the problem with owners not cleaning up after their pets. Leashes do nothing to reduce this problem (indeed, they concentrate the problem where it is most likely to bother others).
    4. There are certain hours of the day when the parks tend to be rather empty. Encouraging dog walkers to take advantage of those hours to let their dogs run off lead will prevent drug dealers and other undesirables from having the parks to themselves. There's nothing like the presence of possible witnesses to discourage criminal activity. A number of parks had already asked the dog wardens to stay away so they could lure the dog owners back again by allowing their dogs to run free. They had learned the hard way that there are much more dangerous things than a romping dog.

    Now it's largely a matter of common sense. If the park is full of children on a sports day, people will leash their dogs. Dogs are also prohibited in children's play areas. Apart from this, dogs run freely most of the day in most parks. There is a Dangerous Dogs Act that requires certain breeds to be leashed and muzzled at all times, but it is largely ignored even by the authorities. The Irish police actually decide that certain laws are sheer nonsense or unimportant and turn a blind eye to any violation.

    I am happy to let my girls romp with other dogs at the park.

  • We have dog park here on the Eastside of Seattle. The one and the only biggest doggies'Disneyland in Washington state!! 40 acres devoted as off-leash area dog park within the county park that has many other areas and facilities. Operate and care for by the the volunteer group called S.O.D.A. (Serve Our Dog Areas) which I've been a member (officially two years now but I've been taken my dogs there much longer than that). The group relies solely on members' donations. SODA began back in 1987, at the time its goal was to "Save Our Dog Area" instead of "Serve...", the county parks division planned to close the off-leash area. Eight years later the county council voted to save the dog park for 7 years. But SODA succeeded in convincing the elected park officials that off-leash dog exercising area is an important and valuable use of park land, and SODA has become a non-profit org. However, the Park Master Plan is coming up for review again in 2002, so we'll have to defend our dog park again... Last year, reported - over 500,000 visitations were made to Marymoor dog park.

    In my opinion, I love this off-leash dog park, so are my 3 Dals. My youngest one who just turned 15 mos, practically grew up in this park, he's a "Marymoor boy". The other two have been going to this park on and off in their early years, but now that we only live 2 miles away from the park, we go there everyday, if I can manage it (and the stooges WILL make sure that I do that!!).

    We have the regular doggie people here, that we now have become good doggie friends, among us the two leggies and the four leggies are buddies as well. My young dog practically has a huge circle of his buddy friends, from Pug and Boston Terrier to Gt. Danes (his favorite!!), they play together so well.

    I think dog park has more positive things to offer than the negative ones. I think it's a great place to socialize puppies and build up their confidence. I introduced the young dog to this park when he was 11 weeks old. Most dogs behave well, they learn the way of the big (doggie) league fast. Courteous to older dogs, puppies, and the little ones. Although there will always be bullies, trouble makers or one that has never been with other dogs before in life and didn't know how to behave among other dogs that run free and come up to them. Those that refused to adapt and learn, usually you won't see them back much more... 'cause other dogs won't tolerate it, neither its owner!! They will be told quickly. Usually the newcomers will get a hang of it after a few visits to the park, after that it's history! ..the owners of the newcomers (turn regular later!) usually report that they and their dogs love it so much that they have to make a habit of coming out to the park whenever they can and their dogs really looking forward to this. Being able to run free at break-neck speed in tall grassy field with ten other dogs trailing them behind... There's doggie-beach access to the river (part of lake Sammamish) that dogs love to lunge into, to swim and fetch toys.

    Now, Marymoor off-leash dog park has gained such a popularity that it has become the model park for other counties in the state to copy and adopt an off-leash dog parks in their areas as well. We have park rules; clean up after your dogs...and plastic bags are provided at every entrance (bags like Safeway's produce bags, come in big roll).

  • With regards to parks. The one I am familiar with in St. Paul is a small one...Battle Creek near the 3M..... but I live in Mpls. We received 100,000 from the city to fund the fencing around the parks once they were selected. That has been an issue since you have to get approval from the nearby residents. There are 3-4 opening up this Aug-Sept. however. I personally now use the one off 28th Avenue and the Crosstown Hwy. which is an unofficial "park" and the land is owned by the airport commission. If you go to you can select the state and they will identify them for you. Do I like them.... YOU BET I DO! A happy dog is one that is exercised and gets to socialize. Any problems? not for mine and I have 3 Cockers. Going to the puppy park is the highlight of their day. Most of up pick up after our dogs, of course there will always be a few that don't. We have a trash container, water dishes, although I carry a water bottle. Most all the locations are away from heavy traffic so that removes a big worry. While I do see children occasionally, it's mostly adults.... and they socialize with each other as well. I go, fall, winter, spring and during the summer and like I said everyday almost... It's an outing for me as well. ROMP... Responsible Owners of Mannerly Pets are folks that are just that. We wouldn't take our dogs there if we didn't feel it was safe.

  • The safety issue depends on safe from what. I have had calls from people whose dogs were ensnared in dangerous dog proceedings resulting from incidents related to dog parks, and from my perspective of keeping myself and others out of the legal system, I don't think they are worth the risk. Your dog doesn't have to be guilty of anything to be accused, and once in the system, the consequences are very serious, particularly if you are a fancier.

    There are dog parks that are carefully developed "playgrounds" and then there are "off leash" areas, not necessarily fenced or otherwise developed. What I have never seen is a dog park that addresses the need for training space, and if anything, training is either discouraged or prohibited. AKC has a new brochure (item number GLEG01) encouraging dog clubs to work on developing these. In my experience going back to 1986, I have never seen anyone except pet owners in the leadership for these, and our clubs are having a very hard time with access to and affordability of training and trial facilities. In some cases, I've been worried about these pet groups getting too much "power" as one thing that comes up is whether all canine users ought to be s/n. But I must say that one of the prominent people in off leash access here in the SF Bay Area is a (man) pet owner who did help us in opposing Berkeley s/n ordinance. As to health safety, I think it's like child day care, risks are probably slightly elevated but minimal.

    I was involved in a group that tried, unsuccessfully -- we sold the concept but the problem was land availability. The other people were pet owners.

    Would I use a Dog Park? I wouldn't rule out the possibility under some circumstances ever, but I try to avoid risky situations for myself and dogs who can play with one another in our own yard. I'm sure mine could play nicely with selected other dogs, but I want to do the selecting of the dog(s) and owners.

    I'm the secretary of a therapy pet organization that does have an interest in dog parks and is having a "fun day" this month at the Pt. Isabel dog park in Berkeley where there is a barbeque facility (for their salman barbeque, dog games, etc. We're giving a couple "grand prizes" of $50 value dinner for 2 and a dog at a restaurant that has an outdoor area allowing dogs and apparently serves dog guests a fancy dish of rice and some sort of beef item.) A board member reported attending the "opening" of a new park in Alameda (an island city adjacent to Oakland) and described it as "double gated" completely fenced, no beach access and apparently quite nice.

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