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Dog Parks: Benefits and Liabilities

By Laurel Allen

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Dog parks have emerged in the last decade or so as places for pet owners living in suburban and urban areas to exercise their dogs. Providing a safe environment for both dog and human is a tremendous challenge. If done correctly a dog park can be that place. In the 1950s and 1960s, some state and regional parks had liberal policies and permitted dogs to run free or off-leash on certain trails, but in most cities and other urban areas, dog owners were required to keep their dog on-leash when the animals left their own premises. The concept of a dog park, an enclosed area devoted exclusively to canine activity, evolved in California in 1979. Dog parks are now found in every state, but Alaska, and in at least six Canadian provinces. These parks generally consist of one or more acres of open grassland surrounded by a chain-link fence. Unfortunately, legal ramifications, design considerations, social and behavioral patterns of dogs, and environmental and health issues relating to dogs and humans have not been adequately addressed in the design of many of these dog parks.

The goal of this paper is to provide guidance for those who may want a dog park developed in their town. I have gathered and synthesized information from designers, veterinarians, environmentalists, dog trainers, and a dog behaviorist to develop an approach and tools that the novice dog park implementer will need to execute a project. Six dog parks have been used as case studies to demonstrate what problems may exist and what forethought should go into the design of an optimal dog park. A photographic study has been taken to help demonstrate some of the problems and solutions. Questions given to dog park patrons to help demonstrate the reasons why people take their dog to a 5 dog park and what things can be done to improve the experience. Burlington City, New Jersey was used as a sample urban area that might be in need of a future dog park. Questions were given to a random sampling of Burlington City residents to help determine if a dog park might be needed in the town and what the residents' opinions were about the concept.


Angel Tobey

Purdue University

Date 2008
Pages 129
Publisher Penn Libraries
Department Earth and Environmental Science
Degree M.A. Environmental Studies
Language English
Notes Presented to the Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Environmental Studies 2007.
University University of Pennsylvania
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Activity
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal roles
  4. Animals in culture
  5. Animal welfare
  6. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  7. Design
  8. Dog companionship
  9. Dogs
  10. Mammals
  11. parks
  12. Pet owners.
  13. Pet ownership
  14. Pets and companion animals
  15. Physical environment
  16. recreation
  17. Recreation Areas
  18. safety
  19. Social Environments