Dog parks have become more common due to the increased demand by dog owners for places where their dogs can exercise off-leash and socialize with other dogs.
This demand is the result of increased enforcement of leash laws and less tolerance for dogs being off-leash in urban areas.
The benefits to the dogs are an increase in physical exercise and greater mental stimulation. This off-leash exercise and socialization with other dogs and people help the dogs to be healthier physically and better adjusted mentally. The benefits to the owners are greater enjoyment of their pet and the formation of a community with other dog owners. It helps society in general because it promotes greater compliance with the law.
The best dog parks are fenced away from traffic and from other people such as joggers and bicyclists. This keeps the dogs safe and prevents unwanted contact with other park users. Many parks have provided this service to dog owners and special permits are issued.
A major downside to dog parks is the potential for dog aggression to other dogs. People need to watch their dog's behavior carefully for signs of aggression or fear. Some dogs do not enjoy free interaction with other dogs. A dog with its tail tucked and ears back is displaying fear and sometimes will become aggressive because of this fear. Other dogs push too hard and can bully other dogs. Some dogs may not be good dog park candidates. It may be better to set up play dates with dogs they know well instead. Young puppies under 6 months of age or very small dogs should not go to the dog park because of the potential for injury. The dog park is not a substitute for good training and early socialization.
Dogs are more susceptible to parasite transmission at the dog park so please be considerate and pick up your dogs droppings. A monthly parasite preventative medication is strongly recommended. Your dog should be up to date on all vaccinations. The Bordetella vaccine (also called kennel cough vaccine) is also a good idea to prevent this contagious cough. Your veterinarian can provide these medications for your dog.
Dog parks are a wonderful play space for dogs and a great place for their owners to interact with them and other dog owners.