Understanding why and how dog parks have a positive impact on the broader community, plus surprising insights on who is building them.
By Pet Pro Supply Co. Featured Dog Park Expert,
Marketing Manager at PlayCore, owners of BarkPark Dog Park Equipment
This article is a part of a larger Pet Pro Supply Co. series on Dog Parks. See the list of articles below:
- Dog Parks: Great for Everyone, Not Just the Dogs
- How to Design a High-Quality Dog Park
- One Size Does NOT Fit All – Separate Spaces for Large and Small Dogs
- How to Maintain Your Dog Park
- Dog Park Safety Measures in the Age of COVID-19
- What Type of Surfacing Should I Use in a Dog Park?
- Buy Dog Park Equipment
Sloppy kisses, wagging tails, floppy ears, and don’t even get me started on those puppy dog eyes… Dogs have proudly worn their title as “Man’s Best Friend” for centuries, and this bond is now stronger than ever. Did you know that nearly 90% of pet owners consider their pet a member of the family? (YouGov; How America’s pet owners feel about their furry friends) These individuals live all around you, and YES they would love to show you pictures of their furry favorites doing all things adorable.
With this mindset it is easy to understand why so many communities advocate for dogs to have their own safe space to socialize, exercise, and bond with their owners. What are these doggie havens you ask? You guessed it, dog parks! With pet ownership on the rise, we are going to continue to see more and more dog parks popping up across the country - and for good reason.
In this article we are going to discuss the various health benefits dog parks provide for both dogs and their owners, the positive impact they have on communities, as well as the diverse settings that seem to be growing in popularity every day.
Dog parks are good for you!
As we know, dog parks are great for dogs! They provide a safe space where dogs can exercise, socialize, challenge themselves, and bond with their owners and other pups. But, did you know that dog parks are good for people too?
When we take our pups to the dog park, we tend to mimic their behavior. We are actively playing, socializing with our neighbors, and challenging ourselves, you may even find yourself going through a tunnel or climbing the A-frame! This activity and social interaction provides a combination of social, physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.
Now more than ever, people are isolated, which can very negatively impact well-being. This has brought pet ownership into the spotlight, and in-turn reduced pet populations in shelters across the country! These health benefits include increased walking time, reduced sitting time, reduced symptoms of depression, stress, anxiety, and grief. When you have a dog you aren’t alone, you always have a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, and someone to celebrate with!
As PlayCore's Unleashed mentions: “Since dogs thrive on structure and consistency in daily life, they depend on their owner to be walked, exercised, and loved. For some, having a dog means the difference between a life lived and a life merely endured. Dogs can help a person to find purpose, stay safe and be independent: They can be ears, eyes, and mobility enhancements for people with disabilities as well as an early warning system for danger.” (2018, p.7-8)
Dog park communities are thriving!
Communities are facing various adversities and differences every day, which often results in disconnect and discontent. Dog parks are filled with a diverse group of people from all walks of life, who are instantly connected by one commonality, they all LOVE dogs. This instant connection is unique to dog parks, breaking down the barriers of the outside world, cultivating friendships, and bonding community members that may not have crossed paths otherwise.
“Dog parks are social capital catalysts. These green open spaces bring people “out and about” by promoting walkable neighborhoods and an enhanced sense of community. In addition, communities have seen a positive effect of the visible presence of individuals walking with their dogs and the motivation dogs provide for their owners to walk. This generates an increased feeling of collective safety. Further research explains that “animal presence can facilitate human social approach increase the likelihood of social contact, and serve as a conversation trigger between strangers or casual acquaintances.” (Unleashed: Off-leash Dog Park Design Trends and Planning Tips, 2018, p.9)
Aren’t dog parks... just for parks?
Dogs are travel companions, workout partners, brunch buddies, co-workers, and play a BIG role in where their 2-legged counterparts decide to call home. While traditionally most dog parks were found at your local park, times have changed, pet owners prioritize their pup’s happiness and in-turn are spending more time (and money) at dog friendly establishments. While some of these may seem unconventional, they certainly are growing in popularity, especially with the rise of outdoor meeting spaces.
Who is setting up dog parks, and where?
Parks & Recreation: Most likely the original location of any dog parks in your community were found at your local park. Parks and Recreation departments have historically been the first to notice the need for these open spaces and as a response strategically placed these areas to promote cross usage of park amenities.
Housing Complexes: Dog owners want their pups to feel just as happy at home as they do, and housing complexes across the country have taken note. With the rise in pet ownership it comes as no surprise that more and more complexes are now offering dog parks and dog related amenities to appeal to their furry residents.
Resorts, Hotels & Motels: Vacations are just more fun with your best friend! Dog-friendly resorts and hotels are becoming more and more popular with some offering exclusive welcome gifts for dogs and various amenities that cater to pups and their owners including, dog parks, room service, and even massages.
Airports: With the increase of doggie travel companions’ airlines have made changes to accommodate. Some airports now offer doggie relief areas or outdoor dog parks. These are not available at every airport so careful planning must be taken when traveling with your pup.
Rest Areas: In addition to airports, another segment that is growing in popularity due to increased doggie travel are rest areas. If you have ever road tripped with a pup you know two things, potty breaks are a must and energy levels can be high from long hours of confined spaces. Thankfully finding spaces to take a potty break are easy, but actual fenced in areas that allow dogs to run off leash can be challenging. Thankfully rest areas seem to be noticing and more unleashed areas are slowly becoming available. Even some gas stations are jumping on the trend.
Restaurants & Bars: It is common to see pups on outdoor patios, but something newer to the industry are restaurants and bars that are designed specifically with dogs in mind. These new hot spots are popping up in cities across the country and typically boast an outdoor area with plenty of space for dogs to run and agility obstacles. Their menus often feature specialty treats and snacks for both humans and pups.
RV Parks and Campgrounds: Another industry embracing our furry travel buddies are RV Parks and Campgrounds. Many of these locations are now pet-friendly and offering amenities like dog parks to attract furry visitors.
Rooftops: Rooftops are a great way to make use of un-used space, especially in urban settings where green space is limited. This can be the perfect space to incorporate a dog park for condos and apartment complexes. This expands their amenity offering, attracting new residents, while boasting a picturesque city backdrop.
Corporate Settings: Another space we are seeing growth in dog parks are corporate campuses, especially those within the pet industry. With the increased acceptance of dogs in the workplace and national holidays such as “Bring Your Dog to Work Day”, it seems more companies will be jumping on this trend.
Dog parks are on the rise and it is exciting to see what the future holds for this growing industry. The good news is dog parks come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny relief areas to extravagant doggie theme parks. You are sure to find a solution to meet almost any budget! Be sure to take a look at BarkPark's convenient "Park Kits" - all you need to set up a dog park, in just one package!
About Mimi Marler:
PlayCore, Unleashed: Off-leash Dog Park Design Trends and Planning Tips, 2018