The American Dog Trainers Network


Dog Runs and Dog Parks
a rainbow-colored separation bar

Photo Copyright: Bruce Fizzell


Dog Runs and Dog Parks

Many communities throughout the United States now have safe, legal and enclosed dog runs (and dog parks) where friendly, well-behaved puppies and dogs can play together off-leash. As a founding member of The New York City Coalition For Dogs (a group which was formed in 1989 to address a variety of dog-related issues or concern to dog owners), I have for years been actively involved in establishing official, city-recognized dog runs throughout New York City. When I first became involved in campaigning for dog runs and dog play areas, I was the Vice President of the only legal, city-recognized dog run in Manhattan (New York City): the Mercer Houston Dog Run Association.

There are now at least twelve such places throughout Manhattan (as of the time of this writing). In some states, there are actually entire Dog Parks where dog owners can go to exercise their dogs off leash!

Benefits Of A Dog Run

Some of the many benefits of enclosed dog runs/dog parks include:

  1. Puppies and adult dogs have a safe(r), enclosed place to play.

  2.  Enclosed play areas prevent off-leash dogs from infringing on the rights of other community residents and park users such as joggers, small children, and those who may be fearful of dogs.
  3. By their mere presence, groups of dog owners (and their dogs) help deter crime, and frequently act as the eyes and ears for the police.
  4. A well-exercised dog is a happier and healthier dog.
  5. An exercised dog makes a better next door neighbor than an under-exercised dog. Puppies and dogs which get enough excersize by playing in a dog run, are less likely to create a nuisance, bark excessively, destroy property, jump on passers-by, etc.
  6. In an era where people are often reluctant or afraid to approach or converse with a complete stranger, dog runs bring people together and create a greater sense of community. Dogs help shy people "break the ice". People's love for dogs often creates an important common ground, which as if by magic, serves to break down otherwise impenetrable social and ecconomic barriers. Dogs (and dog runs) are in fact responsible for many a lasting friendship between those who might never otherwise have met.

Recommended Dog Run Rules

Members of the dog run and/or community representatives should establish and enforce reasonable health and safety rules for the dog run, such as the following:

  1. Puppies and dogs must be properly innoculated, be healthy (have no contageous conditions or diseases), and be parasite-free (both internally and externally).
  2. To help prevent dog fights, owners are encouraged to inquire about any dogs already in the run which are unfamiliar to them, prior to entering the run. Observing dogs' body language is also recommended
  3. No dogs known to be aggressive towards other dogs or people (or exhibiting any threatening behavior) may enter the run.
  4. No bitches in heat may enter the run at any time.
  5. Owners must clean up after their dogs.
  6. Owners are asked to closely supervise their dogs, and at no time should an owner leave the run without their dog(s).
  7. If the dog run is located near local residences, hospitals, schools or libraries, owners should discourage their dogs from barking excessively. This is especially important prior to 10AM and after 9PM.
  8. Parents must refrain from bringing toddlers and small children into the run. Parents are strongly discouraged from bringing children under 12 years of age. Children should at no time be allowed to run with or chase after dogs in the dog run.
  9. Do not bring rawhide or food into the dog run as dogfights may result.
  10. For safety reasons, please remove pinch (prong) and spike collars from your dog  prior to entering the dog run. Many dogs and puppies have been injured by playing  with another dog who was wearing a pinch collar. A basic flat buckle collar (with  city lisense, Rabies and identification tags) is recommended.

How To Establish A Successful Dog Run In Your Community

    If you are interested in establishing a dog run or dog park in your community, here are some of the recommended steps:

  • Begin by contacting neighborhood dog owners and dog-related  clubs, associations, and organizations in your area.

  •  Post, mail and distribute notices with relevant dog run information.  (Recommended destinations include: neighborhood bulletin boards,  pet supply stores, animal hospitals & clinics, groomers, etc.)

  •  Organize community residents to contact (write letters, sign petitions,  e-mail, and telephone)your community representatives, parks  department officials and media, favoring the idea of establishing dog  runs in your area, and asking for their support. Letters should be  brief, polite and articulate.

  •  Write and e-mail all local newspapers, including weekly "freebies".  List several reasons that a dog run will benefit your community  (including the non-dog-owning public). Include information about  already existing dog runs in other communities/states.

  •  Seek out endorsements from local veterinarians, community leaders,  and celebrities who support your cause.

  •  Encourage dog owners and other dog run supporters to attend and speak  up at community board and community affairs meetings. Pro dogrun buttons and flyers are recommended.

  •  Don't give up! It took us (The NYC Coalition for Dogs) more than three  years of active compaigning to get the Washington Square Park Dog  Run approved by community board members, park department  officials and other relevant community representatives!  When I first began petitioning for a dog run in Washington Square  Park (in Greenwich Village, downtown Manhattan) I was told by a  prominent community board member that I was wasting my time,  and that I would NEVER succeed in getting a dog run in Washington  Square Park. Famous last words!

  • copyright Robin Kovary, 1996



    All The Dog Parks In The United States
    (Jan de Leeuw)

    Dog Run/Dog Park Reporter
    Comprehensive listing of dog runs and dog parks throughout the United States, with an emphasis on New York City. This informative site by Martin Waxman offers detailed dog run info, and covers topics such as: dog owner guidelines, sample dog run rules, maintenance info, potential problems, area dog laws, special news flashes, and much more!

    Dog Parks, Dog Runs and Off Leash Play
    (Diane Blackman, Dog Play)
    Great page (as are all of Diane Blackman's pages!) Answers: "What is a Dog Park?", "How Do I Start A Dog Park?", "Where Do I Get More Information?" and "How Can I Find a Dog Park Near Me?".

    Marin County Dog Parks
    (Marin Humane Society)
    This is an excellent page pertaining to dog parks (in California). It includes: Community benefits, the role of a dog park group, the ideal dog park, things to consider before developing a dog park, and people/owner etiquette. The information this page offers can be applied to almost any area of the country.

    Dog Runs -- Living With Dogs

    FreePlay -- Dog Runs and Dog Parks
    (Jan de Leeuw)

    Off Leash!



    FIDO / NYC
    Contact: Stacy Shub
    Brooklyn, NY

    Floral / Riverside Park Fund
    475 Riverside Drive #249
    New York, NY  10115

    Floral Volunteers
    P.O. Box 330
    Planetarium Station
    New York, NY  10024

    Friends of Museum Park Dog Run
    Contacts: Peter Wright  (Co-Founder) /
    Linda Sue Alexander (Co-Chair)
    New York, NY

    NYC Coalition for Dogs  (defunct)
    Robin Kovary  (Co-Founder)
    (212)243-5460  (after 1 PM)

    Riverside D.O.G.
    (105th St. Dog Run)
    Contact: John Herrold  (Vice President)

Copyright 1995 - 2000,  Robin Kovary

Photo Credits











Robin Kovary is the American Dog Trainers Network helpline director
 and canine behavioral consultant.