Dog Park 101: Pet Waste Stations and More

Dog parks are a vital part of the community – an indispensable resource for dogs and their humans alike. Dog parks give our canine friends a place where they can interact with other dogs, sniff new things, and do all the running, jumping, and barking that's discouraged when they're at home. For humans, they promote interaction with other dog owners while promoting a sense of community involvement. Those who use the dog parks regularly count on them to be clean, safe places for their dogs to be. Probably the most important factor in keeping dog parks clean and usable is the utilization of well-stocked pet waste stations.

Many communities punish owners who don't clean up dog waste in a prompt and appropriate manner. Fines of $25 to $200 are common, and with good reason. Leaving dog waste in the grass or on sidewalks is unsightly, offensive to the nose, hazardous, and just plain inconsiderate. The average dog can produce more than 200 pounds of waste every year! Just a few dogs can create a toxic environment in a short amount of time – not to mention all those pairs of ruined shoes. Many dog owners are diligent cleaner-uppers, and make it a point to always have a waste receptacle on hand. However, being human means forgetting sometimes. That's when properly maintained pet waste stations come in very handy.

Pet waste stations are part form and part function. In an average sized dog park, there should be two or more pet waste stations that are amply stocked with waste disposal bags, as well as a large receptacle to hold bagged waste. Receptacles that hold and dispense empty bags vary in size from those that hold 100 bags, to those that can dispense 500 bags or more without refilling. Obviously, dispensers that hold more bags need to be refilled less often, reducing the chances of running out. Waste bags are the most vital part of pet waste stations, so keeping them fully stocked is crucial to promote compliance. Dispenser boxes can be mounted on sign poles or fences, on trees, or conveniently placed near benches. Benches for weary humans, by the way, are also an important feature of successful dog parks. Most adults simply can't keep up with the energy level of an active puppy, or even an active adult dog.

Appropriate signage is also important. It's a good idea to put a sign on each of the pet waste stations installed. This lets the uninitiated know about the waste station (and what a great feature it is – thus encouraging them to return to a particular dog park) and reminds everyone to dispose of pet waste properly. Signage can be witty or serious – or even include a warning about the consequences of non-compliance such as fines, citations, or a ban from the park. Either way, it should be easily visible in order to increase compliance. Even the most conscientious dog owner may not bring water on every trip to the dog park. Watering stations, best installed on concrete slabs, are an excellent amenity that encourages dog health through proper hydration. These may be as simple as a tap with troughs underneath, or as elaborate as fountain-style watering stations that beautify parks to delight canines and humans alike. Having a concrete base also discourages a muddy area for digging and rolling around, as well as reduces breeding grounds for mosquitos or potentially harmful bacteria.

To review, effective pet waste stations should be visible and utilize signage to direct dog owners to the proper place to dispose of dog waste. There should be a properly installed bag dispenser box that is large enough for bags to last between maintenance visits. Also required is a large receptacle fitted with a trash bag, where the bagged dog waste can be placed after collection. Additionally, this makes cleanup easier for park management staff. Benches and watering stations are excellent amenities that dog owners will use and appreciate. An investment in pet waste stations is the most effective way to keep any dog park clean, safe, and fun to use.