Bella’s park, Newtown Dream Dog Park, features rapids, tunnels, and a seasonal sprinkler in the larger breeds section. Territories weighing 30 pounds or less feature a huge, milky white dog bowl.
“Our garden is unique in that it offers half an acre of artificial turf and half an acre of woodland. “We have exercise stations with fake rocks and fire hydrants,” says Robbie Newtown, Parks Manager at Newtown Dream Dog Park. The park, which benefited from a grant from a dog food company, is a magnet for those who want an excellent pet experience. “It’s a regional hotspot for northern metro cities,” he says. “We have people coming from 45 minutes to an hour just to get here. It’s always busy, even when it’s raining. It’s a super popular convenience.”
And if the citizens of Jones Creek want to know where their tax money is going, well, there’s about $1,000 a month in dog waste bags.
Woofstock Park opened in 2013 and features approximately 25,000 square feet each for small and large dog sections. “It’s very crowded and we will be adding new agility equipment, dog ramps and hopefully canopies and seats,” says Michael Hafstettler, Director of Parks and Recreation. “We have morning groups that come and hang out with their dogs and then another group in the afternoon.”
Fallon takes Bella after work and gets to know the owners and their dogs. “Bella is a social activist and has her best friends in the park. She’ll also go up for adults and sit on anyone’s lap. She’s in the small dogs department and they love to run and chase each other; that’s where the work is. For bigger dogs they have loops to jump through and more things to do it out”.
Fallon also loves to socialize. “I’ve met some really cool people and enjoy their company – and their dogs.”
Most municipal dog parks like Woofstock, which require dogs to be vaccinated, legally licensed, and to wear a visible dog tag. However, there is hardly anyone around to force it, which is one reason Summer Benton has moved his Labradoodle, Willa, to Fetch Park.
“Not only do they order the dogs to be vaccinated but they check the records. One time I walked in and they told me it was time to vaccinate Willa. I totally forgot,” she says.
I think dog owners are generally reluctant to go to dog parks. It’s like the wild wild west. You never know what you are going to get and some owners do not care if their dogs are aggressive. They have the idea that “dogs are going to be dogs,” says Stephen Osch, founder and CEO of Fitch Park. Each dog has a profile with vaccination records, a photo and a behavior report. Bark Rangers ensure that dogs behave and will break up any fights. In the event of a problem, the owner is called to discuss his dog’s behavior. Three hits and the dog is forbidden.
“We have strict guidelines for certain behaviors, and if we notice severe dominant behavior, it’s an automatic ban,” he says. “We are not in the business of banning dogs, and if the owner works with a dog and a trainer to correct the problem, we will welcome the dog back,” he says.
Even in parks, problems tend to be few. “Often there will be a problem but most of the time the dogs will break it up themselves. Dogs tend to get to know each other but the next new person will have to acclimatize to their dog when they come to the park,” Fallon says.
She supports separating dogs by size. “Some big dogs, who aren’t used to small dogs, are arrogant and will beat them all over,” she says.
Not only does Fetch have Bark Rangers to make sure the dogs play well, but they have an Airstream that helps owners play nice with drinks, food, live comedy nights and karaoke. “It’s all about building a community and making it the happiest place on earth,” says Ochs. “We want owners to relax, have a drink and not worry about the safety of their dogs. We want people to get off their phones and meet people.”
Benton, an Atlanta Police Department homicide detective, says Willa loves fetch so much that, “Even when we get past it, she gets angry. She’s a single kid and will stand in the car groaning and seeing her friends and seeing friends she hasn’t yet met. She’s constantly making new friends and running around.” She’ll come just to see if I’m still there and then go back to her friends.”
Benton enjoys camaraderie, especially since the park attracts a diverse group of people and dogs. “You get to know new breeds and it’s great to meet people you wouldn’t normally meet. You just start petting a dog and talking. It’s a relaxed atmosphere. Even if you’ve had a bad day, it totally changes you.”
Newtown Dream Dog Park. 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday to Tuesday; 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Wednesdays. free. 3150 Old Alabama Road, Jones Creek. 3200-512-678, johnscreekga.gov/recreationandparks.
Woofstock Dog Park. 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. free of charge. 150 Dupree Street, Woodstock. 770-517-6788, woodstock.recdesk.com.
Adair dog park. 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. free of charge. 600 Trinity Place, Decatur. 404-377-0494, decaturga.com/activeliving/page/dog-parks
Piedmont dog park. 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. free of charge. Park Drive NE, Atlanta. 404-874-7275, piedmontpark.org/dog-parks.
Chattapoochee Dog Park. 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. free of charge. 4291 Rogers Bridge Road, Duluth. 770-476-3434, duluthga.net.
Fitch Park. Times vary at each location. $10 a day pass; $30 per month $300 per year. Old Fourth Wing: 520 Daniel Street, Atlanta; Buckhead: 309 Buckhead Ave. Alpharetta: 11440 Maxwell Road, Alpharetta. fetchpark.com.