Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Creating the Perfect Wollongong Dog Park

Before I go into what creates the perfect Wollongong Dog Park, I should state very clearly that it is really the pet owners that will ultimately control how perfect it will be.

Do you want to appreciate the positive human - dog - dog interactions that can occur?   Why not visit my recent video taken at Whittaker Street Agility Park in Shellharbour.

If the people who use the dog park are not going to follow basic "fair go" rules, then no matter how great the intention is going to be, no matter how well designed we may want it to be,  it will turn out badly.

"When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will.
- Abraham Lincoln." via Pollyanna (1960) Hayley Mills.  

So let us always look for the good in people and their pets.

At the point of posting this, I have visited  8 fully fenced dog parks, some which also include agility equipment.  I have also visited 8  unfenced  unleash dog areas, 1 of which is also listed as a "dog agility park".  And I can add multiple offleash beaches within the Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama Council areas. 

So, let us have a bit of fun, and create the Perfect Wollongong Dog Park!

Big Dog Vs Small Dog

  • Whilst our human kiddies come in one size, our dog's don't. 
  • Having two separate areas for our dogs is ideal
  • A larger one for the larger, more boisterous dog
  • A smaller, separate one for the smaller, more frail, elderly or shy dog

Ideal:  An area not adjacent, but physically separated.
Good Example: O'Connor Dog Park, Canberra. On Fairfax Street (near the roundabout at the intersection of Fairfax and Dryandra Streets).
Bad Example: Any of the Wollongong unfenced off leash areas - there are no small or large dog areas.


  • A minimum of 4000 square metres for the large dog section
  • The smaller dog area can be slightly smaller.
  • The larger the area, the more likely the dogs and people are able to spread out, giving dogs some space if needed if they don't feel like a group play.
  • An irregularly shaped block is best
Tuggeranong Park Lake view
Tuggeranong Park
Ideal: A minimum of 4000 square metres

Tuggeranong Park
Example: Tuggeranong Dog Park, Canberra, Mortimer Lewis Drive adjacent to Lake Tuggeranong

Bad Example: Whittaker Street, Shellharbour as it is a rectangle shape, and is quite small if there are more than 7 dogs present.

  • 6 ft mesh wire fencing with no sharp edges
  • Irregular corners (no 90 degree corners to reduce "cornering" and "bullying")
  • Mesh small enough to stop little dogs squeezing through
Ideal: Well constructed, 6 foot high wire fencing with no 90 degree corners.
Good Example: O' Connor Dog Park, Canberra (as above)
O Connor Park in Canberra -  Disabled friendly also. Corners are angled and it
is a secure fence of sufficient height.

A bad example of fencing- a flimsy, low fence at Warrigul Run, Western Sydney
Bad Example: Warrigul Run, Western Sydney and Forde Dog Park, Pooley Street Canberra where the fence is flimsy, with large gaps. It is easily jumped or pushed over.

Entrances and Exits number and design:
  • A minimum of two entrances/exits to reduce the excitement of existing dogs within the park to newcomers
  • Double entry  (double gated) which
    • allows for dogs to be herded into a smaller area prior to departure,
    • allow dogs to be let off the leash prior to entry into the main area, and
    • ensure current dogs are unable to escape inadvertently
  • Large gate to allow for easy access to mow lawns and other maintenance
Ideal: Pool gate latch kind and a self closing gate or sufficiently wide "disabled" access opening in.
O'Connor Dog Park in Canberra is very high and wide, with a disabled friendly latch.
Good Example: Allen Street Dog Park in the Strathfield Council Area and O' Connor Dog Park in Canbera.
Whilst it could be higher, the pool latch self closing type is suitable.
The side access gates at Yarralumla Dog Park in Canberra

Bad Example:  Whittaker Street Agility Park in Shellharbour Council Area - no double gating, with a stiff standard gate latch.

Provision of Water and other animal cooling facilities:

  • Multiple human and dog water bowls
  • Tippable water bowls (allows owner to clean out and refresh easily)
  • A dam, pond, lake edge or beach access to allow  a means of cooling down during activity
Ideal: Access to beach or dam either within the facility or adjacent
Good Example of a tippable water bowl: Tuggeranong Dog Park, Canberra
It had a separate tap for the dog's bowl, and the bowl could be easily tipped,
emptied and refilled with fresh water.

Good Example of water access:  Yarralumla Dog Park, Banks Street (opposite Brown St Junction) with access to the adjacent boat ramp at Lake Burley Griffith

Yarralumla Boat ramp area
Piper on the Lake's edge.
Bad Example: Queanbeyan Dog Park which had a large murky filled water tank that would be impossible to drain and keep clean water available, hence someone leaving a small bowl of water nearby.

The drinking water at Queanbeyan Dog Park "The Scar"
Large enough though to step into to cool yourself down though

  • Multiple shelters against rain and sun for pet owners
  • Picnic type seating within the shelters
Ideal: Large enough shelters for multiple groups of people in the event of sudden hailstorm, rain or heat
Good example: Warrigul Run, Western Sydney - with two large pergola shaped shelters, suitable for multiple people comfortably

Bad example: Whittaker Street, Shellharbour - with a single small shelter that will accommodate 2-4 people, and most of the Canberra dog parks (had a heavy reliance on the trees for shelter)

The only shelter at the Whittaker Street Dog Park, Shellharbour

  • Bench seats scattered randomly throughout the park
  • Some seating in the sun, some are in the shade
Ideal:  Sufficient seating in both shade and sun
Good example: Tuggeranong Park, Canberra
Bad Example: Whittaker Street, Shellharbour - the seating available is in the pergola area


  • Sufficient number of suitably sized trees placed within the park
  • Natural visual barriers within the park
  • Offers variety
  • Offers a means for dogs to hide and separate if feeling threatened, to distance themselves from the threat
  • Natural source of shade, smells and natural beauty
Ideal:  Plenty of trees within the park and along the boundary
Good Example:  Tuggeranong Dog Park and Yarralumla Dog Park
Yarralumla Dog Park  Canberra  - a lot of trees providing natural shade, novel experiences and protection

Bad Example:  Queanbeyan Dog Park and Warrigul Run Dog Park - the trees are small, immature and unlikely to offer any shade for many years.

Surface type:
  • Grass is preferred as is soft on the feet, and cool in the hot months
  • Gravel has been published as being suitable (small diameter only)
Ideal:  Decent non-clover grass with no bindi's or other burrs or weeds
Good Example: Allen Street, Strathfield City Council

Bad Example: Whittaker Street, Shellharbour (which is predominantly clover and full of bees when unmowed), Queanbeyan Dog Park (The Scar) which is predominantly dust.

  • "If...... then you must leave" clause is important (not seen in any Australian dog park but is documented in some overseas)
  • Get pet owners to agree to a "In principle" agreement to the rules and regulations of the park, and charge a fee to allow ongoing access to the park
  • Clear, obvious signage with spells out
    • the dos and don'ts
    • who to contact when something needs repairing  or replacing
    • who to contact when something is wrong
    • responsibility of the users and the responsibility of council
    • the authority of users to remove from the facility the pet owner who does not monitor or control the actions of their dog
Ideal: Decent, clear, explicit signage
Good Example:  Bombo Beach Headland "Stop" signage, and all of the signage from Canberra

Bombo Beach

Bad Example: Any of the off leash areas in Wollongong

Poo Bags and Bins
  • It is the law in every council (locally and overseas), that it is the owner's responsibility to clean up after their dog
  • Sufficient bins available (preferably at each exit/entry gates) to facilitate easy disposal
Ideal:  Owners are responsible for bringing their own poo bags and are required to do so or council ensures a sufficient supply all the time.
Good example:  Queanbeyan Dog Park - the local council obviously provides nothing, as there were multiple shopping bags along the fence line filled with shopping bags, specifically to pick up the poo.

Residents are forced to bring their own poo bags in Queanbeyan - obviously some have taken
time and care to ensure a steady supply.
Kiama Council provided poo bags with disposal

Bad Example:  Whittaker Street Dog Park (and others) where the council provided poo bag dispensers are empty and spider web filled.  Also saw a similar thing happen at Allen Street (Strathfield council).

Fun Stuff:

  • Fun stuff can be either natural or man made.
  • Natural fun stuff includes hills, irregular surfaces, lots of trees and bushes, and a means of meandering or moving through the park to offer novel smells and experiences
  • Man made fun stuff includes agility equipment
  • Agility equipment needs to be chosen carefully with an understanding of the potential end user - in general, the dog park is for the general dog owning population, and the potential for harm is possible with poorly chosen agility equipment.
  • Suggestions would include tunnels (such as pictured below), weave poles and jumps (such as Forde Park in Canberra)
Ideal:  The average pet dog in the average off leash experience will benefit more from an interesting natural environment. 
Good example:  Offleash beach areas (although these are not fenced areas),  Lake Tuggeranong Dog Park as it has undulating ground, a lot of trees, bushes and novel surfaces.

Bad Example: Bombo Beach Headland with the agility equipment which appears to be placed randomly. 
Agility equipment placed in an unfenced area (such as Nowra - not visited, but seen online)

Forde Park, Canberra


Queanbeyan Dog Park "The Scar:

Bombo Beach Headland

Allen Street Dog Park, Strathfield Council
Logistics - Parking and Access

  • Easy access from a main road
  • Good parking which is located in a safe area
  • Have to understand the possibility of dogs walking unleashed from the park to the car, and have the area accommodate for that possibility (i.e be safe for the dog and for those around them)
  • Suitable for disabled access
Ideal: Multiple car parking spots with easy access to the dog park
Good example:  Warrigul Run, Western Sydney - there is offsite parking, but will need to leash the dog to get from car park to the run. O Connor Dog Park in Canberra  where there is a dedicated disabled access to the large dog park area.
Disabled Carpark

Bad example: Allen Street, Strathfield Council and Whittaker Street Dog Park in Shellharbour. Street parking available only.

I am Dr Liz, and I am still learning/exploring the dog parks and off leash access areas with our dog, Piper. 

She is a well socialised, mature dog, and is perfectly suited for an off leash fun time.  Our previous dog, Teddy, was not.  

In other words, off leash activities are not for every dog... you are not a bad pet parent if you do not take your dog outside of your property if they are fearful.

My goal is to encourage Wollongong City Council to re-consider their off leash areas for our dogs, to increase the off leash beach areas to accommodate the proposed growth in the population, and to create suitably sized, well fenced off - leash park areas. 

Do you have any suggestions to add to my perfect Wollongong fenced dog park?

Don't you agree that Wollongong is, and should continue to be a dog friendly city?