A wide open field filled with lush grass. The playful barks and wagging tails of friends greet us as we pull up. I wave to the couple of familiar faces and pat the heads of the dogs that wander up. I quickly unclip Belle and off she goes. She races between her doggy friends and scopes out every new scent she finds. Her grin is plastered on her face with no end in sight. I grab a bench under one of the overarching trees to wait for her zoomies to end. I watch her eventually wander over and curl up under the shade for a quick sip of water and a breather before racing her friends again. This ideal scene of dogs being themselves is what I hope all dog owners get to experience at some point in their life. However, dog parks that allow this off leash fun are not the easiest things to find. When you do find one, they are not always the right fit for you and your dog. So here is my list of 4 things that a park has to meet before I make it a regular park we go to.
This is super important to me because I don’t like stepping in dog poop. I would never want Belle to play somewhere covered in poop and can make her sick. You can tell if a park is well taken care of by walking around the perimeter and seeing if you can find poop piles. You can also see if they have readily available poop bags for those who need it or a pooper scooper.
2. Coverage and Space
The second thing I look for is shade and a large space. Shade is super important in Texas where it can easily get hot and muggy in the spring and summer. You don’t want your dog to experience heat exhaustion or even yourself while you are out there. I also look for a decently sized park that allows me to easily keep an eye on my dog and at the same time allows her freedom to run around. It is sad to say that I have been in dog parks that offer next to nothing in their fields for the dogs or cut space to where it is only slightly bigger than a backyard for the smaller dogs.
3. Pack Mentality
I think having the right group of dogs that go to the park at the same time is important. For example, Belle is a very submissive dog when it comes to other dogs. She loves wrestling and playing with other dogs but after she greets them. The first several dog parks that we went to, we had dogs come flying all around us and tackle her for dominance and not let her up without the humans playing referee. If the pack of dogs is already used to each other, they may not accept a new dog enter their ranks or their play area even for a short time.
4. Responsible Owners
Responsible Owners are owners that trust their dog but still look outs for them. They clean up after their dog. They don’t bring food into the park. They don’t bring their dog’s favorite toys as to avoid issues like toy guarding and aggression (snapping, growling, etc). I really dislike it when owners take their dogs to the dog park and check out mentally. They allow their dogs to roam freely without supervision to make sure no incidents with other dogs occur by accident or by dominance. They often forget to clean up after their pet and allow chaos to ensue. That inattentiveness ruins the park for others because not only are they having to watch their dog but the inattentive dog owner’s dog too. It is important to that any dog park has responsible owners going so everyone can enjoy it.