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Do you have more property than you have time for? No time to take your dog to the park? Consider bringing the park to your pup by building a dog park or playground in your own backyard. It doesn't take a lot of time, and you can probably use items you already have. Keep reading to learn how to create awesome backyards for dogs.
Why Build a Dog Park in Your Backyard?
Typically, dog parks are more than just places for your pup to run and play off-leash. Many dog parks not only provide a variety of ways for dogs to exercise, but they also encourage mental stimulation and socialization opportunities.
Taking your dog to such a park isn't always an option, though. Your community might not have such a space. If it does, its hours of operation might not fit into your schedule. There could be dozens of things going on in your life that make it inconvenient or even impossible to load your pup in the car and chauffeur him to the dog park regularly.
Generally, public dog park rules include health, socialization and behavioral standards, and even breed restrictions that might exclude your dog from entering. Some parks set aside special areas for small breeds or elderly or disabled dogs to safely play away from larger, more rambunctious pups, but not all do, which might make the dog park unsafe for your dog.
While your dog might be perfectly happy hanging out in your backyard just as it is, transforming a section of your yard into a miniature dog park just for your pup and his friends, be they other dogs or his favorite people, will provide both him and you with the best of both worlds. Park-like backyards for dogs provide the convenience and safety of home and the entertainment, exercise and mental stimulation provided by a dog park.
Building Your Own Dog Park
There are a number of things you should consider beforehand when it comes to building a dog park in your backyard. Installitdirect.com advises planning your DIY dog park according to the following criteria:
- Location. Consider your space and the layout of your yard. You probably don't want the recreation area to include your flowerbeds or the patio where you do all your grilling. At the same time, it should be in a location where you can keep an eye on him if you let him go out alone, preferably in easy view of a door or window. The play space should also offer plenty of room for a game of fetch. After evaluating your space, you might find that a side yard, accessible but set apart from the outdoor family living area, is the best location.
It's a good idea to think about the space from your dog's point of view, advises Dogtipper. There should be plenty of space for him to run, jump and play. Obstacles and equipment shouldn't be placed too closely together. Consider whether there is anything in the space that might be dangerous to your dog, such as poisonous plants he might be tempted to nibble, or something that might tempt him to get into mischief, like an off-limits spot where he might be tempted to dig. If your dog has a high-prey instinct, it's probably not a good idea to install his park near your bird feeder.
- Amenities. Your backyard dog park should be fun, safe and comfortable for your pup. With that in mind, here are a few amenities you might want to include:
- A dog house or a shaded area where he can escape the elements.
- An outdoor dog bed for lounging.
- A water feature in which to splash around and cool off.
- Food and water dishes, and a mat, platform or small patio on which to place them.
- Comfortable paths for walking and patrolling. Cesar's Way recommends using materials that will be comfortable for your dog's paws, such as smooth stones, bricks or concrete.
- A designated restroom and a cleanup station. Consider using artificial turf here for easy cleanup and to protect your lawn from browning or retaining bacteria.
- An obstacle or agility course.
- A designated spot for digging, such as a sandbox.
- What to avoid. When building a dog park, knowing what to leave out is as important as what to put in. Here's a list of things that could spoil the fun if allowed into the play area.
- Toxic pesticides or herbicides. If you spray these in your garden, then your dog park should be placed well away from the garden.
- Toxic plants or flowers. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers a list of plants that are potentially toxic to pets. Ensure that none of these plants grow within the confines of your pup's play space.
- Spiny cacti or any plants that have thorns, burrs or needles.
- Sharp edges, hot surfaces, or objects that might be a choking hazard.
Additionally, make sure the fence surrounding your park is in good condition, without splinters, broken pieces or gaps through which he might escape. Avoid cluttering the area with too many obstacles or toys. In small spaces especially, less is more.
Using What You Already Have
Creating fun backyards for dogs doesn't have to cost a lot. Chances are, you already have most, if not all, of what you need to build your own dog park, especially if you have kids. An unused kiddie pool can become a splash pool for your dog, or set up your backyard sprinkler for his enjoyment. Have your kids outgrown their sandbox? Fill it with dirt and invite your furry pal to dig to his heart's content. Assemble a dog obstacle course out of a plastic backyard slide, empty boxes, old tires, rain barrels and cast-off hula hoops. Get creative! Just be sure that any items you use don't have sharp parts, splinters or small pieces that could detach and pose a choking hazard.
With some careful planning, a little sweat and a lot of ingenuity, you can transform your backyard into a dog-friendly playground where your pup will be happy to spend his days — no travel required. It will also give you more time to spend playing with your lovable pooch, and you can customize your DIY dog park to suit your personal needs and his favorite activities.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is fiction author and freelance writer and editor living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She writes frequently about pets and pet health in her home office, where she is assisted by a lapful of furbabies.