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Elements of a Good Dog Park

The following information is taken from Sue Sternberg's book, Out and About With Your Dog available from

What makes a good dog park? Here are a few elements to look for when deciding which dog park might be safe for your dog.


  • Ample space. The larger the fenced in area, the better, but if it is a small space, look for a limited number of dogs. Crowding fuels fights and increases stress and tension.
  • Separate areas within the larger space. This allows smaller social groups to form.
  • A surface that requires the dogs to work hard to move - e.g. sand or gravel - keeps dogs from moving too fast and getting too much speed and over-stimulation, and condenses their exercise benefits.
  • The fewer the human comforts (benches, etc.) the better the interaction seems to be between owner and dog. The best dog parks may not be the most luxurious for the humans.


  • You should very quickly be able to match each dog to its owner. In other words, owners should be attentive and involved enough with their dogs so that you can easily tell who belongs to whom.
  • Cell phones should be banned from dog parks! They distract owners. Only emergency calls should be allowed, and then the owner's dog should be leashed and taken out of the park for the duration of the call.
  • Owners actively involved with their dogs indicate the best dog parks. Look for owners throwing balls, calling their dogs, petting their dogs, watching their dogs play, standing near their dogs.
  • Annoying people aren't worth the stress. If there is someone you dislike or feel is irresponsible at the dog park, don't go, or go at another time.


  • Dogs should be off leash and relaxed. If someone has a dog on leash, they are likely experiencing an aggression problem with that dog. Don't go in if another dog remains on leash.
  • Look for dogs similar in size to your own. If the dog park is filled with big brutish dogs, and yours is smaller, or slighter, consider finding another dog park, or finding a time when more physically compatible dogs are present.
  • It shouldn't matter why a dog is behaving badly - i.e. the dog was abused, or the dog was rescued from a traumatic situation, etc. - if the dog is behaving rudely or aggressively, find another dog park, or find another time to go.
  • If many dogs linger about the entrance gate and pounce on the new arrivals, try to find another time to join. Entrances are difficult for dogs, and if there is a whole crew waiting to pounce on your dog...
  • If there is one out of control dog that seems to be bothering all the other dogs, and the owner who is apathetic or just thinks his dog is "fine", find another dog park or another time to go.

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