Here are my thoughts about
dog park design. This is the result of 10 years of watching and
playing with dogs in 10 dog parks in middle of the San Francisco
Peninsula where land for dog parks is limited. I originally submitted
this to the officials now at work on a new dog park in San Mateo,
CA at the new Seal Point Park by the San Francisco Bay. This will
be the culmination of many meetings and hard work of a lot of
local dog folk who worked hard to get to breaking ground soon.
Maybe October 2004 opening? Make it so Maggie.
These principles are based
on dog parks in an urban setting and may need to be modified for
areas where land is plentiful and differing from flat earth. Parks
where water is one edge of the park such as a lake or ocean have
other considerations than many of those presented here.
Dog park Entrance: To prevent fights between entering dogs
and inmates, the dog park entrance should be far from the main
center of dog activity. The main center of dog activity is usually
a bare spot in an all grass dog park. This design is discussed
further in the section below on separation of large dogs from
Dog Park Gates: The entrance should involve a double
gate design to minimize escapes from the park and also to prevent
fights at the entrance by inmates and newcomers. The entrance
location is the single most important consideration to prevent
the gathering at the gate spate. Just as a dog will rush to greet
you at the door, dogs in a dog park will rush to the gate to greet
all new arrivals. Often the greetings break into fights. This
can be lessened by locating the gate far from the center of the
park where most dogs play.
Dog Park Gates in Large and
Small Parks: In large parks,
the location may be less critical. A park with 10 to 20 acres
would rarely be full unless it is located near a major metropolitan
area. Gate location should be near the parking lot so that the
inmates don't have a chance to watch the new arrivals for too
long as they approach the entrance. For a rectangular park, a
location might be on one side of the park. Gate location in corners
don't work as dogs can easily be cornered; but gates along the
side don't have the "corner effect". Dogs entering now
have 180 degrees to travel vs. 90 degrees in a corner entrance.
A double gate is a must and the entrance vestibule of the double
gate might work better if it were out side the DP. That way the
entrance is less prominent. If corner location is the only option,
the Safety Gate for Dog Parks design
may help stop fights.
Surface: Decomposed granite (DG) is the most durable dog
park surface. DG needs no water except to manage dust in high
wind or high dog activity. Water requirement for this is less
in the rainy season. The park in Belmont
has a 3 times per week schedule for watering. DG surface now has
the "green" factor of using less energy than any other
choice. DG is weathered granite and this material is non water
absorbing. DG varies in particle size from sandy to a larger particle
size up to 3/8 inch material. DG is easily brushed from a dog's
fur. DG is more sterile than soil as it is devoid of organic material
and microbial life present in soil that will support the growth
Shores Dog Park,
the new dog park in Burlingame
and Mitchell Park in Palo Alto have areas of grass surface. In
these parks, grass is losing in the dog vs. grass arena. Mitchell's
grass is now thin all over. Redwood Shores Dog Park has all DG
at the entrance of the big dog section and extends into the park
where traffic is greatist. A grass border surrounds the DG area
further removed from the entrance gate. The grass in the small
dog is doing well area but even this small dog section has surface
damage. In the big dog area, the grass is doing well around the
edges. On the negative side, complaints are many about small flying
insects in the grassy area in this park during the warmer months.
The new dog park in Burlingame
is a mix of DG and grass. The grass in the park is thin all over
except at the little used western end. The loser in this surface
category is the all grass San Bruno
Dog Park where the grass surface is swamp like in the rainy
season from poor drainage.
The impasse with grass:
Grass needs more water.
Grass adds mowing and maintenance
Grass is not compatible with
traffic. Or few dogs gives good grass.
Grass is incompatible with
dog urine or few dogs gives good grass. A grass surface in a dog
park will be OK if the park is as large as an 18 hole golf course
and has similar foot traffic. Devots are not as bad as dog digging
and golfers go in the bushes rather than anywhere on good grass
Separation of large dog area
from small dog area: The
most important design for parks having small and large dog sections
is to plan a center of activity in the big dog area removed from
the little dog area. The design at Redwood Shores works well.
In this park, the double gated entrance area is large enough to
prepare your dog for the entrance and acts in part as a space
barrier between the two areas. The parks at Belmont,
Foster City and Mountain
View have no space separation. I personally favor a space
separation of some design between big and little dogs. Were I
a little guy, I wouldn't want to be around big dogs on my day
out. Do little dogs think this? Ask them.
Access: Belmont dog park flunks the ADA rules. Only those
with superior wheel chair skills would bother going there if so
disabled. Mitchell Park has special
parking rules depending on school activity. In that case, parking
is far from the park and the park path goes through squirrel territory
so your dog might enjoy that. The lot at Mitchell adjacent to
the park is off limits during school hours but is used after school
lets out and on weekends. To get to the entrance, entering dogs
are on display as they walk the entire length of the short side
of this rectangular shaped dog park. It's often a noisy display
as the inmates greet more of their kind. At Mitchell the dog park
is next to the Stevenson House, a low income retirement facility
and the barking led to a showdown at city hall in Palo Alto in
1995 from complaints. A better design would have the parking next
to the entrance as at Burlingame's new dog park or like Foster
City. Redwood Shores Dog Park also has parking next to the entrance.
The Sunnyvale dog park has a high fence which is covered with
additional wood slates that further restrict visibility through
the fence. So if a promenade is the only access, then the Sunnyvale
example might work to prevent commotions. The other solution is
to have the center of dog activity far from the entrance. Again
Mitchell Park dog park is an example of the center of activity
close to the dog park entrance. There are 3 benches next to the
dog entrance and dog and people fights with name calling are common.
Newcomers are often put off by the antics of dogs committed to
defending the park.
1. Drinking water for children and adults as well as
2. Rest room accommodations close by. Of 10 parks in the area, only 3 have
rest rooms nearby (Belmont, Mountain View and Burlingame).
3. A covered gazebo or ample shade. Mountain View is the first and only park with
a covered structure but it is the only shade. Trees at Hoover
Park make this park in PA shady all day long; too bad it's so
small. Trees are ideal for with their shade comes the ability
to adsorb surface moisture by their root systems and add aesthetic
appeal to a barren strip of DG.
4. A cooling off cage.
The Burlingame dog park has the only structure designed to confine
bad actors. This kind of confinement for trouble makers is an
alternative to park banishment for rough necks. Mitchell Park
has a structure that has been used for this kind of discipline
but it's use for this purpose is unintended not allowed.
Wood is preferable to metal as it is not as damaging to dogs that
run into them. The surface should be incapable of allowing a dogs
limb to get stuck in a narrow slot typical in the design of park
6. Plastic chairs:
there are a number of new births of plastic chairs at Redwood
Shores dog park I suspect were donations (?). These are handy
to move around if you want to sit with "the gang" while
you watch your dog. Or you can move a chair to an unused part
of the park to play with your dog only.
6 feet or more. Dogs can easily jump the fences of most parks
I've been to except Sunnyvale, San Bruno, Foster City and Burlingame.
8. Bulletin board
that allows users to post notices instead of the key only boards
at Belmont and Redwood Shores.
9. Accessible phone.
This might seem superfluous in the Valley to some but they never
come to you when you need them. Dog parks are not safe areas for
children under 8 or the elderly as both can be seriously injured
by spontaneous high levels of dog activity. A 75 lb. dog running
at 40 M.P.H. has the same amount of force as a 2000 lb. car at
about 10 M.P.H. Children can easily get life long trauma by being
in the way of a dog running for a tennis ball.
10. Hours of use:
If it's in an isolated area the hours can be longer especially
if additional night lighting is installed. Foster City closes
10 PM. What about 24/7 with maintenance closings? This is a hard
sell to most government bodies as all kinds of bogey men arise
like phantoms of any number of evils for any 24/7 area.
11. A well designed watering area: One design at Redwood Shores that works is a
4-5 Ft. concrete square surrounded by a border of 1-2 inch pebbles
and some kind of metal or plastic(?) partition from the grass
surface. However the same watering area design at this park at
the entrance end is a mess. So this design does have a failure
factor that may limit it's use.The good watering area is at the
highest portion of the park and against the fence separating the
park from Radio Road. To refill the bowl it's an easy toss to
the low bushes through the fence or into the street if you think
perhaps that the close bushes getting more water might lead to
an unbalanced ecosystem. The fountain at the other end is cornered
with one side being the double gate area and the other is the
separation fence for the little and big dogs. The fence to throw
the water over or rinse the bowl is +6 ft. away over usually muddy
terrain. Finally it is the lowest point of the park. The simple
fix is to move the watering area 6 ft. so that the little dog
side is the same but now on the other side of the fence is the
lagoon. In that position, water would drain directly to the lagoon
from any over flow at the bowl and dirty water can be added to
the lagoon or to the soil on the bank of the lagoon if you're
worried about polluting the lagoon with bugs in the dog water.
So soil bacteria would gobble up any bad guys.
12. Pooper Scooper
for clean up: and a roll of plastic bags for fecal removal with
waste bins closely spaced. The big loser here is Mitchell Park
as the city refuses to pick up from containers on the inside.
This means a long walk to the dumpster outside the park (you can
toss it in without having to exit the park).
13. Dog management:
everyone's nightmare is bad fight. High pressure water noses are
one simple and safe method. This was suggested by Michael Heppler
in the south bay who was planning a doggie day care center. Any
successful plan still means moving faster to a control point than
the dogs are at fighting. The time it takes from peace to fight
is far shorter than the average persons response time capability
even for the trained. Water bottles are for some standard equipment
for controlling dog skirmishes.
14. Dog limit:
Most parks have a 3 dog limit. This is rarely inforced and a number
of dog walkers in the area break this rule but there have been
few bad consequences.
15. Dog park shape:
rectangular or square, flat or hilly.
This drawing (Fig 1) shows a double gate
design to prevent entering dogs from interacting with leaving
dogs. In this plan, the double gate area is covered to prevent
exiting and entering dogs from seeing each other. Often the worst
situation is a dog leaving confronting a highly excited entering
dog. This is my own design but have no objection to public use
of the plan and also am not libel for any damages arising out
of any implementation of such a plan or variations of design.