Dog Park Add-Ons
By Roseanne Conrad
Dog parks are wonderful recreational venues for outdoor-loving dogs and their owners. Dogs running freely—without the restriction of a leash—and interacting with other dogs has many benefits. For these reasons, dog parks continue to grow in numbers and popularity across the country.
However, like everything else in life, the excitement and intrigue of a park can wane after people have frequented it for a while. Even the grandeur of the most elaborate dog park can become a little boring if the spark is allowed to fade by not making changes or adding to existing programs.
Municipal, community, and private dog park managers can keep the interest alive by adding new elements, programs, and services to their parks—much to the delight of park patrons.
Bathing stations are popular because dog owners love the luxury of hosing off their dirty pooches before taking them home. This is particularly welcoming for people who have those fast-running, hard-playing bigger dogs and pets that love rolling in anything “stinky.” Manufactured bathing stations, complete with grooming tubs, warm water, and hair dryers are great where electricity and water are accessible. Or, a dog park may subcontract with a portable dog groomer who can bring a grooming van to the park on particular days. Both of these options will naturally require the owner to pay for the service.
Another less expensive but equally effective method is to add gravity-fed rain barrels. Or, parks can contract water trucks to bring water in on a regular basis to fill barrels. The barrels will need to be sealed to prevent debris and insects from entering. If the barrels are positioned properly, the water will be of air temperature on overcast days or warm when the sun is shining to heat the contained water. The barrels can be placed on a small concrete slab, a loose brick patio, or small stones contained within a landscape timber frame. These bathing stations are usually provided at no charge, but posting a set of rules for their use is highly recommended.
Agility Or Confidence Courses
If the park is not outfitted with equipment that challenges a dog’s natural inquisitive nature, low ramps, tunnels, jumps, weave poles, and wading pools can be installed. These pieces not only benefit dogs physically, but mentally as well. While some companies manufacture this equipment specifically for the use of dog parks, many of these pieces can be added with little effort and money, using items manufactured for other purposes. Safety cones make great weave poles. Old tires attached side-to-side and buried into the ground at a depth of ¼ the height of the tires makes a great tube. Sections of 18-inch (diameter) storm-drainage pipe also make great outdoor tunnels. Local contractors may have pieces left from jobs that they may be willing to donate to a park. Above all, the equipment must be safe for all concerned. All wooden items should be free of splinters and sealed. There should be no sharp edges on any of the equipment. Owners must be trained to know how to use each piece of equipment.
Classes are a great way to keep people coming to the park. Veterinarians and dog trainers may partner to provide monthly classes on a variety of topics of interest to owners. Most professionals are happy to cooperate because they understand how the value of exposure can benefit their own business. Topics can range from flea and tick prevention to behavior-modification techniques. Classes should be free or low cost. People can bring their own lawn chairs if there are not enough to go around. If the park does not have a building and classes are to be held outside, a rain date can be posted.
The power of events is undeniable. Events can benefit a dog park, rescue groups, canine health research, other nonprofit organizations, or can be held just for fun. Benefit dog walks, canine sports exhibitions, costume parades, and vendor fairs are a few examples of what can be offered. Partnering with other canine-oriented organizations is another option. If a manager is unable to take the task on alone, a park patron who has the skills and the enthusiasm may volunteer. Notices can be posted to form a committee of patrons to assist or initiate events.
Rainbow Bridge Memory Gardens
Anyone who has ever lost a pet knows that the experience significantly changes them. A great way for owners to memorialize their pet is to go to a Rainbow Bridge Memory Garden. This can also act as a fundraiser for the dog park and has the potential to engage the entire community in its creation. The idea is simple—find an area in the dog park (perhaps outside the fenced area or entrance to the park) to build a small bridge over a dry, pebble-lined ”stream.” Around the bridge, a variety of flowering shrubs can be planted, and a brick sidewalk can be added. Owners can purchase bricks to have the name of their pet engraved and added as part of the sidewalk. People can even sponsor the shrubs, bridge, and any other components offered. The popularity of this project may be a real surprise!
Park Store/Gift Shop
If space is available, a small store can be created where people can purchase items for their pet, such as bottled water, stainless-steel bowls, collars, treats, etc. If a permanent building is not available, an EZ-Up tent or a tarp can be set up during the weekends, events, or other busy times.
Whatever amenities are offered, patrons of the park should be consulted first to see what might be of interest and whether they would be willing to help. The key is to keep people interested in the park and to keep them returning. The more active the dog park, the more often people will visit and the more new patrons will be attracted.
Roseanne Conrad is the founder and president of the National Dog Park Association and is corresponding secretary of the Blair County Dog Park Association. She owns and operates AlleyRatz Lit’l Dog Daycare, a daycare and boarding service. Reach her at email@example.com
Embry, Ann. Dog Agility Equipment Construction Instructions: YOU CAN! Build Better Obstacles For Your Dog. 2010.
Arrowsmith, Clair. Brain Games For Dogs: Fun Ways To Build A Strong Bond With Your Dog And Provide It With Vital Mental Stimulation. 2010.