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Because you’re not the only one who deserves a gym membership

By Kristan Schiller

 

When the first dog park in America opened in 1979 in Berkeley’s Ohlone Park, the idea of a designated area where dogs could run and exercise off leash was downright innovative. More than 30 years later, more than 600 official city- or county-sanctioned dog parks across the U.S.— varying by size, amenities and general vibe—give grateful canines a safe place to play.

Most neighborhood dog parks can be located by doing an online search (dogpark.com is a newish website listing some parks), or simply by asking dog-owning neighbors, your vet or your local pet store. Once you find a dog park near you, it’s essential to observe some basic etiquette. Reputable dog parks have rules visibly posted on a sign by the entrance, and individual park etiquette can be learned by observing others who are well-behaved.

A few common-sense guidelines: Never leave your dog unattended, always clean up after your dog, check to ensure that your dog’s shots are current and his or her license is valid before you go, don’t take treats into the dog park and don’t bring a female dog who has not been spayed to the park while in heat.

Now that you’ve learned the ABC’s of dog-park protocol, what are you waiting for? Load Rover into the Traverse and make your way to one of these fantastic canine utopias. Your dog will thank you for it!

Fort Woof
Fort Worth, Texas

The five-acre Fort Woof boasts separate areas for big and small dogs, water stations, free poop pick-up bags and faux fire hydrants. It is also open conveniently late (until 11:30 p.m.) and is well-lit at night. Regular events such as Barktoberfest and Fort Woof after Dark contribute to the neighborhood atmosphere here. Free admission.

Bea Arthur Dog Park
Norfolk, Virginia

Regulars rave about the 24/7 access to this tiny, one-acre dog park in suburban Virginia. The free space, named after the late comedienne and animal rights activist Bea Arthur, features water stations, a toy bin and ramp access to a swimming area. For those wishing to take a rest, there’s even a picnic area under the shade of trees.

Point Isabel Dog Park
Richmond, California

With 23 acres and amenities such as swimming, hiking, biodegradable poop bags and grooming stations, Point Isabel is the luxury 5-star hotel of dog parks. There’s even an amazing view—much like being in the Penthouse Suite! Owners will enjoy additional activities such as biking and bird watching. Open until 10 p.m.

Dog Wood Dog Park
Jacksonville, Florida

A great destination for young, active pooches, Dog Wood Dog Park has 25 acres of play space; swimming; Frisbee fields; a sand pile for digging, and park-provided toys. There are also separate areas for smaller dogs and an area for child-friendly dogs where kids and canines can feel comfortable cavorting. While daily passes are available, the yearly fee to enter the park is $289.

Shaggy Pines Dog Park
Ada, Michigan

This sizeable, 20-acre park offers distinct areas for different-sized dogs, a swimming pond, and water stations and washing stations. There are jogging and hiking trails for owners, as well as a deck with seating, a coffee bar and a lounge. The park is well-lit at night, plowed during winter, and hosts charity and adoption events throughout the year. Membership fees for the park start at $256 a year.

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Kristan Schiller is a New York-based travel writer and blogger whose articles have appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and Fodor’s, as well as on Forbestraveler.com and Salon.com.