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  • Robert Berkelhammer

3 Dog Park Improvements: One Fenced Area Doesn't Support More than One Play Style

Dog parks have wonderful benefits for those dogs and their owners with consistent success stories. However, many dog owners I queried while researching my book informed me of unsuccessful experiences. I suggest 3 steps to make dog parks accessible and higher functioning for more dogs with different play styles.

Step 1

Dog parks would benefit greatly from a second separate fenced area. The second fenced area would better accommodate dogs with a play style characterized by slow walking and moving, resting sedentary dogs needing gentle play styles, and dogs with medical problems related to orthopedic ailments, old age, and high anxiety. The two fenced areas with a common side view of each other would feature opaque fencing to decrease over-stimulation.

Two separate fenced play areas would segregate dogs with a highly kinetic and physical play styles, such as play biting, play wrestling, and play running, from the more sedentary dogs mentioned above. Two separate play areas, I believe, would bring back dog owners who have decided to never frequent a dog park again. This therapeutic segregation of differing play styles is addressed in my book in the context of dog behavior modification groups and doggy daycare resources.

Step 2

The transition of a new dog into a dog park understandably creates much excitement at the gate entrance. However, excessive transition stress can lead to unsafe aggression and elevated anxiety. I suggest a dog owner inside the dog park transition to the gate when a new dog and owner are about to transition inside. The second dog owner can stand between the gate and the off leash dogs to form a transition buffer to allow the new dog some physical space separate from excited charging dogs. This intervention is a skill dog owners who don't know each other can learn to assist with.

Step 3

Basic obedience training for all dogs and their owners should precede visiting dog parks. Basic obedience is something dog owners will apply on a daily basis throughout their dogs’ lives. Practice the basic obedience at home on and off leash, preparing you and your dog for dog park visits.

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