Property Management Strategies: How to Add the Perfect Dog Park

Pet ownership is on the rise, according to the American Pet Products Association, and dogs and cats are becoming more accepted at apartment communities. Based on the APPA’s National Pet Owners Survey, 62 percent of U.S. households (72.9 million homes) own a pet. Dogs live in 46.3 million households.

Needless to say, dog parks have gained in popularity and are becoming a desirable amenity at apartment properties. But maintaining a manicured look that’s consistent with the property’s landscape – plus an area friendly to the senses – has been a problem.

Dog park designs that were typical a decade ago at municipal parks and recreation installations included vast swaths of green space; but wear and tear, plus residues and odors left by pet waste, turned them to eyesores. Unsightly bare patches and foul smells from urine turned dog parks into undesirable areas.

To address these problems, city officials and apartment owners are turning to decomposed granite.

Decomposed granite has become the surface of choice for dog parks because it can withstand wear and tear and manage pet waste while affording a property a well-manicured look.

Decomposed granite has been popular at dog parks on the West Coast for the last decade and is has gained in popularity in other parts of the country over the past year and a half.

With decomposed granite, waste can effectively leach through to an appropriate sub-base. For best results, the area should consist of 6-8 inches of material that includes the sub base and decomposed granite surface. A 4- to 6-inch sub-based of drainage rock or crushed granite should first be installed underneath the 2-4 inches of the finer decomposed granite. This allows extra room for the urine to filter through the soil.

Irrigation is still important even though there is no grass to maintain. Sprinkler systems should be left intact when converting a sod-based dog park so that watering will clean the top layer and push waste through the rock down to the soil, where it can leach out normally.

Irrigation also controls dust, especially stone dust that is more commonly used in the Northeast, and keeps the area looking clean.

One of the issues for grass-based dog parks: unsightly bare patches

Dog parks with existing surfaces of grass and wood chips can easily be converted, whether at a city installation or apartment community. The Thompkins Square Park in Manhattan, at the encouragement of New York City animal interest group “Friends of First Run”, replaced a wood-chip surface with decomposed granite.

Some multifamily properties are keeping some greenery by combining decomposed granite and grass, blending the materials with walkways and seating areas for a more manicured look. One apartment community created its dog park with a large dog-bone area in the middle surrounded by other surfaces.

Also, decomposed granite dog parks are a great solution for urban areas that have little green space to offer pets. A project in Dallas will afford residents adequate space to walk and exercise their dogs within the coziness of downtown living.

It’s doubtful that urban dogs will have a bone to pick with that.

What are your thoughts on apartment community dog parks? If you have one, how do you maintain them? Would you consider converting to decomposed granite?


President, Earthworks

author photo two

Chris Lee is President of Dallas, Texas-based Earthworks, which specializes in multifamily housing landscaping. He is a contributing author to Landscape Management magazine, licensed irrigation specialist and a Toro Intellisense certified technician. Chris studied business at the University of Arkansas from 1990-94 and horticulture and landscape design at Tarrant County College from 1999-01. He has been employed at Earthworks since 1998.

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  • Kevis

    Recently did an interview on this, and vehemently disagree with the assessment. While the granite is certainly easy to maintain, it is a safety liability to the owner’s dogs using the surface, many of us that use the dog parks this has been done to, have to stop using them and find others.

    There are dog parks that have grass surfaces, and very few bare spots. An amazing discovery was made centuries ago, that is you actually water plants, they grow. Many of the parks with the bare spots, I also noted are not irrigated (sprinkler system) and if they have one, its not used enough, that is nightly it should run at least a few minutes per zone. It serves to wash the urine down into the soil where nitrogen fixing bacteria can mitigate it. There are dog parks in the area here, albeit an annoying drive thru traffic from my home, where they are using ball fields (soccer & football) part time as dog parks. Pet waste policing is rigidly enforced.

    Exercising a dog on a granite surface incurs injuries, it can be broken down into injuries per dog hour at some level. While exercising dogs can get other injuries like sprains, adding the risk element of a sharp, hard surface where dogs are running is negligent. Especially when people are virtually forced to use said space due to leash laws as its the only place you can throw a balls or Frisbee the dog can chase.

    In a dog park, a dog shouldn’t be digging there – owners are supposed to have control of their pets and that behavior means you either stop them or remove them. Excavating a pothole wouldn’t be possible. I know in my dog’s case they are busy being engaged in chasing a ball or other activity, too busy to dig.

    As for surfacing a dog park in decomposed granite (talus), that should actually be charged as cruelty to animals. Do you surface play grounds in glass shards? Silica is cheap too.

  • MS1J

    Breathing the ground granite is awful.. Since NYC converted the dog run next to my apt to ground granite we have only gone there 5 times (in 2 years). My nose bleeds every time I leave there and my dog coughs all night. We are both covered in sticky white dust. The dust mixes with the water from the water fountain and turns to paste. Its a health hazard!

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