Dog Owners, Would You Consider a Fee Based Dog Park?

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Would you pay a fee to go to the dog park?

Recently, I read an article about a dog park that charged a fee and although I don’t think a place like this would work for us, because Rodrigo wants to dominate, I wonder if charging a fee to belong to a park would benefit dog owners who just want to go to a place and watch their dogs have fun and connect with dog parents.

The common complaints I hear about dog parks are…

  • Aggressive dogs and/or dog owners
  • Dog owners aren’t picking up after their dogs
  • Dog owners who bring toys and get angry when other dogs want to play
  • Dog owners who bring small children
  • Dog owners who bring sick and/or unvaccinated dogs

The benefits of a dog park are…

  • An opportunity for our dogs to be dogs and have fun
  • Meeting neighborhood dog owners and making friends
  • Getting out of the house, switching up the dog walk routine, and new training opportunities

I reached out to see how common fee-based dog parks are and only received one response, but now know about 3 parks…

Friends of Orianna Hill Park is one.  They charge $50/year (per dog) and Suz, who told me about the park, mentioned that they received a price break on their second dog, making it more affordable.  “The main benefits for us is that it is an enclosed, safe area where all the member dogs must ascribe to a certain code such as must be neutered, cannot wear the spike collars, and must not be aggressive toward other dogs (or people). Dogs (and their owners) violating these rules are expelled from the park and membership until they can certify they now comply. It makes the park environment more pleasant.”

Every quarterly, this park requires members to attend a meet-up to help clean up the park.  I’ve seen this in our local dog parks, but the attendance is spotty.  I wonder if more people would show up if they’re paying for it; once you make an investment, you want to see that investment pay off.

The Rules…

I was curious to know what the rules of this type of park would be and visited the site to see and was impressed that the rules mirror many of our complaints about dog parks – here are the highlights

  • All dogs must wear tags (issued by the dog park)
  • All dogs mush wear name tags
  • No prong or pinch collars allowed
  • Never leave your dog unattended
  • If your dog behaves aggressively towards another human or dog, you must leave immediately
  • Dog park attendees may not bring more than 3 dogs to the park at a time
  • No visiting dogs
  • Dog park attendees must be 18 years or older if they are without adult supervision
  • Clean up after your dog immediately
  • No dogs younger than 4 months old
  • No dogs with a history of aggression

Although this is absolutely fantastic, a fee based dog park isn’t responsible should our dogs get injured, something that this park makes clear on the site.  Speaking with others about their park – the fee seems to attract the responsible dog owners and repel dog owners not interested in cleaning up after their dogs or monitoring their dogs – two situations which seem to be the source of many of our Dog Park Pet Peeves.

So what do you think?  Would you consider a fee based dog park?

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23 Comments

  1. This is very interesting! I think the fee-based dog park (with more rules) sounds like a good solution to many of the problems that plague dog parks. We don’t have something like that in our area, so our solution to the dog park conundrum is to host doggy play-dates at our house with dogs we know and trust. This is made possible by the fact that we now have a large fenced-in yard (that’s frankly about the size of some of the dog parks in our area). I’m very grateful for that, but I know it’s not an option for many dog owners. I like this idea, though.
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  2. We actually belonged to a paid dog park when we lived in Indiana. The fee did serve to keep it lovely: beautifully-maintained grass, benches for people, a dog wash station, etc. However, it was the same people problems – the ones you mentioned above, plus others like people camping out on the benches with their laptops instead of watching their dogs – we encountered at other parks, so we ultimately discontinued membership.
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  3. I’d absolutely support a fee-based dog park. It would most likely keep out the people that are not willing to follow the rules. We personally don’t take our dogs to dog parks anymore because of our bad experiences with others not following rules – even having a parent not caring that their kid was hitting dogs with a little stick. Totally unacceptable.
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  4. I’m working on a 1-2 post series about why humans shouldn’t be allowed at dog parks (I, of course, believe humans need to be there but I have to make a point!). The only rule that annoys me is that you can’t bring a dog with a history of aggression – I work almost entirely with dogs with histories of aggression that are doing wonderfully. Kayo has a history of aggression but I can almost guarantee that she’s now 10 times more reliable and balanced than just about any dog we encounter at a dog park. The problem is that people cause most problems at a dog park, not dogs. And because I have to spend so much time at dog parks for training sessions, I see way too frequently that people completely misinterpret dog behavior. Emotion is often a factor and people begin to feel their dog is being “bullied” by other dogs. They miss important points about their dog’s social inadequacies. I see that dog parks often become social clubs where like-minded people engage in cliquish behavior and isolate those they aren’t fond of. I believe dogs can feel their owner’s fear and insecurity in that setting and may act out when they normally wouldn’t. I think charging for dog parks could result in nicer dog parks but I do worry that imposing that fee is more about the people than the dogs. Maybe I’m jaded???
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    • Not jaded; realistic. I know that whenever Rodrigo has behaved badly at the dog park, I can track it back to my own behavior – like taking out a treat when other dogs were nearby so that he was rushed by too many dogs and he became possessive. I also don’t allow him to great when he’s on leash, because he gets so over excited and it turns into aggressive when he gets frustrated by the leash restraint.

      I agree that most of the problems are due to humans, not the dogs.
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  5. Sure. I’d be happy to pay a reasonably fee to use a dog park where all the rules are followed and enforced. Dog parks are a great invention, gone bad (for most part) If paying for access could lead to solving the problems associated with dog parks these days, I’m all for it.
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  6. I agree with some of the others above, that I would not pay for the dog park. I think that unless the park is supervised, which requires a different level of fee, it will always be the same thing. We got a dog park in our town and it really wasn’t for me and with two unaltered dogs…it is just asking for trouble. I spend a lot of money (according to my husband) on dog classes, agility/obedience club memberships, and hunt club memberships to give my dogs a more controlled environment. After class, we let that dogs play a little, but we all know each other as do the dogs. There is also a group kind of like a meet up that sets up canine social activities. We do with them when we can…it is fun and fee! Through all my dogs classes, pet therapy, kennel club, etc I’ve made a lot of dog friends and we all try to get together when every we can in doggie play groups ….I like knowing who my dog’s friends are and who their parents are!
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    • I have to say that if we only had 2 dogs, I would love to try some of the paid parks I hear about around the country. What’s interesting is that for every success story, I hear a story of a park that imposes a fee, but it’s the same as the free dog parks we all avoid.

      Now that we have four dogs and live on land, we can have a blast with our own pack. We’ve been taking the puppies to class and play dates, which has been great for them. I would love to do puppy play dates, but we don’t have a fenced property and I worry about dogs not used to our territory. A friend takes her dogs to a fenced field that’s privately owned – we’ve been invited to join so we’re thinking of that for this spring and summer.
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  7. We do belong to a fee based dog park in Baltimore – http://pawpoint.org/. For many years, it was an unofficial off leash park, and it frankly got disgusting. The city of Baltimore sold it to the county, who invested some money, fenced off a specific area, created safe, roped off lake access, and instituted a fee system. It’s $35/year for one or two dogs, and a person is limited to two dogs to make sure they are supervised. It is our dogs’ favorite park, and we drive some distance to go there. We have also paid the day fee at another great park in Howard County, Maryland. Close to home, we don’t go to the free county dog park because of the unsupervised dogs/clueless owners, but we do go to the free park located at the humane society. That park may become fee based in future – if it does, we’ll pay that as it supports our local shelter. In general we’ve found the fee parks are better, and our dogs’ safety and our peace of mind is worth it.

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      • We do – there are park monitors who come through periodically and check the dogs’ tags to make sure they are members. It’s a good system and we’re happy to pay a bit to support it. Especially the one with the swimming lake – with lab mixes, the water is a big hit!

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  8. I would give a fee-based dog park a try.

    For many of the reasons you listed, I will not return to a traditional dog park. I say “traditional” because there is a fantastic fenced 36 acre dog park inside a state park near me. The owners and dogs are fantastic. And now that I think about it, there is a park fee!

    At the few surrounding dog parks I have witnessed too many aggressive dogs with clueless owners. A few times my dogs have been targeted by other dogs, and the owners responded with “oh, my dog is just playing!” No. No they are not. I’m just not willing to allow my dogs the potential to get seriously injured.

    I have too many horror stories to count. One includes someone entering (opening the first gate) while someone else was exiting through the second, interior, gate. This resulted in one of my dogs escaping the park! Luckily, a different woman was right outside the gate and caught Beatrix as soon as she went through. I never went back to that park again.
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    • And what annoys me most about the story your shared is that the people who created the circumstances where your dog got out remain clueless. No one wants to take responsibility. One time I was trying to leave with our dogs. They were leashed up and I was off to the side. Three people allowed their dogs to approach me even tough I asked for space to leave. Finally, two dog owners with brains were kind enough to keep their dogs away from us so that we could leave.

      Instead of people being apologetic, they yelled at me for having leashed dogs at the dog park. I was trying to leave! *sigh*
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      • Oh, no one said ANYTHING to me. No “Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry!” or even a “You should watch/train your dog better!!!!!!” Ugh.

        Ah, that’s another reason I dislike dog parks! The dogs rushing the gate and owners doing nothing about it.

        Without trying to be crass, I feel like the average dog park is the breeding ground for so many bad habits and information.
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      • Oh, no one said a word to me! Not even a grumble about me needing to watch my dog better or train her. (Because that seems to be what happens instead of showing concern!)

        Wow. How could they not see you were trying to leave! Ugh.

        Without trying to sound crass, dog parks seem to be the breeding ground for bad habits and misinformation.
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  9. Where I live, the Forest Preserve District runs the dog parks. County residents pay less than those who live outside the county. It is a yearly fee and you get a lanyard to show you paid. I wish they had a pay per visit system. But I guess it would be hard to enforce.
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  10. We have a couple city dog parks here that charge an annual membership fee. Unfortunately neither of them are close enough to us to justify buying a membership. But I have heard that the people that attend these parks are a little more considerate and have better dog park etiquette. But that tends to vary by dog park in general…
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  11. I take Wynston to dog parks. All of the dog parks I take him to are separated for small and big dogs. Here is my break down of the complaints:
    – Aggressive dogs and/or dog owners: I have never dealt with this in the years I have been going.
    – Dog owners aren’t picking up after their dogs: This can be an issue, but not too often.
    – Dog owners who bring toys and get angry when other dogs want to play: Some owners bring balls to play with, and welcome others to play as well. Never experienced an angry person.
    – Dog owners who bring small children: There are rarely small children where I go. But if there are and they try to touch Wynston, I will tell them to stay away because Wynston is scared of children.
    – Dog owners who bring sick and/or unvaccinated dogs: I have never experienced this either.

    I would pay a fee because I love going to the dog parks. I live in an upper class suburban area where all of the parks are gorgeous and kept up well. The type of people that these parks attract abide by the rules and are always very friendly. I have yet to have a bad experience, but I would pay the fee if that meant keeping the good times going!
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    • Rodrigo can’t go to a dog park, but the puppies could go and I would be afraid to take them to our local park. If we had a place where everyone put the dogs first, then I think we’d visit even for a fee.
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