By recent figures, pet owners in the United States collectively spend nearly $30 billion annually on over the counter medicines and veterinary care for their four legged family members. But what most of us dont realize is that many pet illnesses and injuries can be avoided by maintaining clean, litter-free dog parks.

Dog parks are becoming an increasingly popular amenity in communities nationwide. While these off-leash parks are intended to serve as safe, open areas for pooches to run and play, they can quickly become dirty and dangerous without continuous upkeep. If you are fortunate to live in a city, town or private community with a designated dog park, it is important to understand that keeping it clean, orderly and well maintained is a responsibility held by all pet owners in the community.

One of the most important aspects of keeping dog parks clean and safe is making sure that dog waste is never left on the ground.

Unbeknownst to many, dog waste is more than just a gross and unsightly mess. When pets become sick, pathogens are often times passed through their poop and can easily be picked up by other dogs upon contact. The longer infected dog waste stays on the ground, the greater a contamination becomes, and when this waste is not picked up, pets have a high risk of catching the infection over and over again.

The best way to keep a dog park poop-free is to install pet waste stations. Consisting of a bag dispenser and waste receptacle attached to a pole with a sign on top, pet waste stations help dog owners do the right thing by making waste pickup simple and convenient. These stations also communicate your park’s position on poop cleanup: When it comes to pets doing their “business” in the community dog park, it is the owner’s responsibility to scoop and dispose of the waste.

Although pet waste stations go a long ways towards curbing dog waste issues, there will still be some people who fail to pick up after their pet. For bustling parks welcoming large numbers of dogs, occasional full-fledged cleanings are highly recommended. Staying ahead of waste accumulation is critical. Once the amount of unscooped dog poop reaches a certain level, other dog owners will begin leaving their pet’s waste on the ground too.

In addition to wayward pet waste, rocks and other debris are also hazards commonly found in unmaintained dog parks. While most dogs are expert runners and have no difficulty dodging obstacles in pursuit of a flying ball or frisbee, loose rocks and other debris that can easily shift underfoot put dogs at risk of slipping and tripping. For dogs running full speed, losing footing can lead to a number of injuries. With this in mind, always be sure to walk the park upon arrival and clear any objects that may be scattered about.

Finally, the type of surface used in your dog park can have a considerable impact on the overall cleanliness of the recreational area. Contrary to popular belief, grass should be avoided as a surface for dog parks. For starters, the constant running and romping of dogs will tear grasses up, leaving only exposed dirt, which then becomes a soupy, muddy mess when it rains. Additionally, dog urine contains high levels of nitrogen, which damages grasses, killing them even faster.

For these reasons, alternative surfaces are preferable to natural grass in that they reduce long term expense and maintenance headaches, and provide a cleaner area for dogs to play. Decomposed granite, for instance, is extremely durable, requires minimal upkeep and is environmentally friendly. This surface type is made up of very small pieces of granite and can range in size from ¼ inch to a sandy consistency. There are also specially designed artificial turfs for dog parks available on the market today. While the initial cost of installing artificial turf is higher, the surface will be cleaner, more attractive and more manageable for a longer period of time.


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