Establishing A Successful Dog Park In Your Community

You've heard the complaints from the members of the community: dogs barking, dog messes, dogs off-leash and scaring others. What can you as a Board member to do control this problem and create harmony? Do you have ample space in the community common area to develop a dog park? If so, consider establishing a Dog Park Committee to work on this problem. Here are some helpful tips on what can be done.

Bow-Wow Benefits
  • An enclosed dog park where dogs can play together off-leash is a tremendous community enhancement.
  • The dogs have a safe environment to play (no more off-leash maneuvers on the streets or the dodging of vehicles).
  • By having dogs in an enclosed play area, this prevents off-leash dogs from chasing community residents and park users such as joggers, small children, and those who may be fearful of dogs.
  • Dogs, by their nature, help deter crime.
  • A well-exercised dog is a happier and healthier dog, making it less likely that the dog will be a nuisance to neighbors by barking or destroying property.
  • Dogs create a sense of community. People are brought together in a dog park and conversations begin, much like people with children are brought together in school and through other related activities.
  • Many public parks and public schools prohibit dog owners from exercising their dogs on private property - - - thus necessitating that citizens break the law to find a nice recreational setting for their dogs.
Dogs Need Rules and Regulations Too

Just as the members of the community have restrictions, so should the dog and dog owner who use the dog park:

  • Owners should make sure that puppies and dogs are properly inoculated, are healthy (have no contagious conditions or diseases), and are parasite-free (both internally and externally).
  • It's important to encourage pleasurable time for the dogs, but dog fighting prevention is key to a favorable visit to the dog park. Owners should discuss with other owners if there is potential for discord between animals.
  • Aggressive dogs (or people) should not enter the dog park.
  • No female dogs in heat should enter the park at any time.
  • Owners must always clean up after their dogs.
  • The community must maintain open and closing hours for the dog park so that nearby residents are not disturbed by any noise.
  • Toddlers and small children should not be permitted inside the dog park.
  • Food must be left outside the dog park, as doing otherwise may encourage dogfights.
  • For safety reasons, pet owners should remove any collars or restraints that may become hazardous to dogs while they play with other dogs.

Ready to Begin the First Steps?

If you think that a dog park might work for your community, why not look at some ways to begin? Keep in mind that you are supporting a cause for those that can't speak for themselves.

Begin by seeking out a space in the common area of your community. There are many websites that offer suggestions on how large a space is required for a successful dog park. Remember that key features include: (1) entry - double gated; (2) shade & water: (3) adequate drainage; (4) grass area with routine maintenance; (5) waste scooper stations; (6) benches; (7) wheelchair accessible; (8) safe location - not isolated.

Community involvement is also a must. Organizers should post, mail, and distribute notices with relevant dog run information to encourage community members to participate. They should also prepare a list of reasons that a dog run will benefit the community (including the non-dog-owning public). It is wise to find out if other dog parks exist in the area that can be used as an example for fellow residents to visit. One can also seek out endorsements from local veterinarians, community leaders, and celebrities who support the cause. Finally, it is worthwhile to conduct meetings and events where dog owners and other dog park supporters can speak to promote the concept.

How do you finance this project? While homeowner assessments are one method, organizers should look for ways to finance the dog park by means other than using the association's funds. Dog park usage fees may be established that apply only to dog owners who frequent the facility. Sponsorship opportunities from local veterinarians, pet supply stores, the humane society, dog trainers, dog clubs, or other organizations which would support your efforts provide another avenue. Donations of products (doggie bags, cleanup material) are always welcome. Your homeowner group might even generate income by seeking out a dog trainer who would be interested in renting the dog facility for his/her business needs. (Note: As with any new venture, consult your insurance professional to assure adequate property and casualty coverages are in force.)

Don't be discouraged by initial reaction to your concept. Some members may be opposed to spending association funds for such an endeavor. Others will see this as one more future maintenance issue for the community. However, your greatest chance for success will come by having an organized plan, a charismatic spokesperson, and a positive outlook on what this can do for your community. In the end, the project will prove to be about far more than developing a dog park. It will serve as one more means to build a spirit of community within your neighborhood.

Source: Association Times
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