What is a Dog Park?

wiseGEEK Writer

A dog park or off-leash park is the modern solution to many cities that have extensive leash laws. Growing concern about doggy behavior off-leash, and the lack of enjoyment of public spaces when dogs were allowed to roam free has resulted in many cities establishing leash laws. This has left dog owners with few public places to allow their dogs to play or socialize with other dogs, and the result has been the creation of dog parks inside public parks, where dogs can run off leash without annoying people who don’t care for them.

Dogs should be vaccinated before visiting a dog park.
Dogs should be vaccinated before visiting a dog park.

Dog parks may have different features. For instance, some have a pond area, which should be kept clean and well filtered. Others separate dogs by dog size, and there may be a smaller park for dogs that weigh less than 20 pounds (9.07kg). Most dog parks feature some rakes, or baggies for picking up dog litter, and many parks ask owners to consider the social nature of their dog before letting it run free.

A dog park is a place where dogs are allowed to run off-leash.
A dog park is a place where dogs are allowed to run off-leash.

Usually, dog park users police themselves in this manner, but not all dogs in a dog park are passive. Larger parks that have a lot of dogs may not be safe for your pet, since aggression tends to come out with greater numbers of dogs, and fights are more common. Further, while many dog owners responsibly clean up after their pets, some won’t and don’t, making the park a mess. The success of a dog park really depends upon the owners of pets using the park responsibly.

While a dog park can be a great place for dogs that need a lot of exercise, it’s important that your dog be well-behaved. Many animal behaviorists suggest that a dog should not be in a park unleashed until it will definitely respond to a “come” command. If it is unreliable in this respect, it probably shouldn’t visit a park until it has more training.

Veterinarians also recommend that your dog be completely vaccinated prior to visits to a dog park. In particular, bordetella or kennel cough is a common illness passed from dog to dog quite easily. Parvo, distemper, and rabies vaccinations are equally important.

When you’re planning on visiting a dog park with your pet, consider going at an off-peak time, perhaps early morning on a weekday instead of mid-morning on a weekend. This way your dog has the opportunity to familiarize itself with the surroundings with relatively few other dogs around. Also expect to really pay attention to your dog’s behavior and the behavior of other dogs. If you note an aggressive dog in the park, leave. You can’t always depend on another person to do the right thing in these situations and it's important that you keep the safety, and the behavior of your dog in mind when you visit a park.

Leash laws have reduced free-range dog territory in many places.
Leash laws have reduced free-range dog territory in many places.

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Discussion Comments


I miss the days when my dog could roam the neighborhood all day and come home when he got tired of aggravating the neighbors. Since those days are gone, I think dog parks are a good way for the animals to get needed exercise. It's sad when dogs only get out of the house when they are being walked, especially large dogs.


There's a new dog park in my neighborhood that has attempted to cut down on the fighting and skirmishes that go on when so many dogs get together in your average dog park and owners don't follow the dog park rules. This new park is divided into smaller sections by hedges, fences and walls. This allows smaller groups of dogs to play together while being separated from the other dogs in the park.

The dogs are not actually locked in these smaller areas. The play/exercise stations have barriers on three sides and the owners stand at the open end and monitor their pets. I like these stations because I don't have to be as concerned about my dog's safety.

There is a group of us who generally bring our dogs to the park at the same time. We find an empty station and let the dogs go. This way they have their own little play group.

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