As the number of millennial campers rises, so too does the number of folks who love to bring their dogs with them while they travel. Of all campers, 38% are millennials, and as of 2020, 80% of millennial pet owners have dogs. How can you cater to these millennials who are eager to camp with their beloved pups? A campground dog park is a fantastic offering that you may want to consider adding to your facilities.

So What Is a Dog Park?

Blue and red agility equipment at a campground dog park.

The American Kennel Club defines a dog park as a “park, typically fenced, where people and their dogs can play together…they offer an off-leash play area and the chance to socialize with other canines and their owners.”

The Benefits of Dog Parks

An australian shepherd at a campground dog park

Among their many benefits, dog parks provide an excellent opportunity for beloved pups to socialize with other dogs in safe, enclosed areas.

Campground dog parks also offer a great space for dog owners to socialize with each other. Campers may forge new friendships here and make plans to meet up with their new human and canine friends in future years.

A dog park is also helpful to the campground because these well-exercised pups will be tired out and less likely to bark all night or destroy campground property.

Guidelines to Build Your Own Campground Dog Park

An Australian shepherd at a campground dog park

Consider Your House Rules

You don’t want your campground dog park to be a total free-for-all. Laying out ground rules can help ensure that dog owners behave responsibly so everyone can enjoy the park safely.

Here are some sample guidelines to consider:

  • No more than two dogs per person.
  • All dogs must be vaccinated, as well as spayed/neutered.
  • Puppies must be at least four-months-old.
  • Do not leave dogs unattended.
  • All dogs must wear tags.
  • Keep dogs leashed when entering and exiting the dog park.
  • Clean up after your dog.
  • No dogs with a history of aggressive behavior allowed. If signs of aggression are shown, the dog will be asked to leave.
  • Follow designated dog park hours.

You can post these rules on signs at the park and on your website so campers can research them in advance.

A Note on Dogs of Different Sizes

A golden doodle dog at a campground

At some dog parks, pups are separated into a small dog and large dog section. Consider whether you’d like to implement this at your park. The typical range to be considered “small” is 35 pounds or less. This can be helpful for making pups feel comfortable with dogs of their same size. It does require more fencing and planning though, and may be seen as a downside for folks whose pups love playing with dogs of any size.

Paul Brennescholtz, owner and CEO at Four Paws Kingdom Campground and Dog Retreat and Campspot customer shares some insight about their campground’s dog parks which are designed specifically with dogs in mind.

“We have a dog park reserved just for dogs 30 pounds and under and we have a “private” park available on a first come first serve basis that allows dogs that might not be as well socialized to have some private room to roam.”

FAQs on Building a Campground Dog Park

A golden retriever at a campground with campers

How much space do I need?

The general rule of thumb is that you need at least one acre for a dog park. If you have more room, that’s great—the bigger, the better! It gives pets and their owners more space to comfortably run and play.

When you consider the location of your dog park, you may want to place it somewhere it won’t be in the way. You don’t want it near a busy road, nor too close to cabins where barking might disrupt guests. But you’ll still want it within walking distance of your campsites.

Another important consideration is land that’s not currently being used. Is there a hill or slope where you haven’t been able to build? That could become part of your dog park! Dogs love bounding up and down hills, so you may be able to make use of an under-utilized area.

When it comes down to it, campground owner Brennescholtz recommends that you provide more space than you think is necessary. “Dog owners notice these things and they can tell when a dog park was just slapped into a small piece of land.  Give the dogs room to chase a ball.  After all, they’ve been cooped up in an RV!”

What kind of fencing will I need?

Experts recommend a 4-to-6 foot-high chain-link fence. Four feet is about the minimum to prevent larger dogs from jumping over. The ideal setup would also include a double-gated, self-closing entry to prevent dogs from escaping.

Make sure to think through the placement of your entrance. Placing the gate in the corner may result in dogs rushing the newest arrival, stressing the pup and possibly resulting in fights. Instead, placing entrances along the sides of the park may be better, as pups will have more space to enter calmly.

Campground owner Brennescholtz shares the following as it relates to fencing maintenance:

“Not surprisingly, keeping up with our fences and gates can be time-consuming. Our number one priority is keeping the dogs safe, so inspecting and repairing small imperfections in the fencing before it gets to be a big issue is an essential part of our park maintenance.”

Grass is the perfect surface for dogs, right?

Actually, grass may not be the most advisable option. Playful, perpetually-running dogs may tear up the grass, resulting in a muddy mess after heavy rain. An artificial turf or decomposed granite may last longer and require less maintenance. Keep in mind that such alternatives may cost more up front, but can be worth it for the sake of durability.

Do I need to include any other amenities?

Yes! Plenty of benches and picnic tables are important so folks can sit down and relax. Include at least two benches and two tables in a one acre park. A dispenser of waste bags is also a good idea, as well as garbage cans, so folks have no reason not to pick up after their pets.

Water fountains (a high one for humans and a low one for dogs) are also wise to include so everyone can stay hydrated. Dog water fountains are preferable compared to placing water bowls around the park, as standing water can attract bugs and spread disease.

Consider these amenities in your long-term budgeting process. You may only need to replace benches and picnic tables every few years, but waste bag dispensers will need to be refilled far more often, and you’ll need a waste management resource for trash removal.

What else does my dog park need?

Trees! Shade is essential to help dogs and pet owners alike to stay cool.  Campground owner Brennescholtz also recommends a way to rinse dogs as well, sharing, “A nice piece of hose around six feet long attached to the faucet can be great for a quick rinse down or cool-down for a dusty and hot dog.”

How can I go the extra mile when it comes to appealing to campground guests with dogs? 

When it comes to wow-ing their guests, Four Paws Kingdom Campground and Dog Retreat knows how to truly delight their campers and their doggos. Brennescholtz shares a few of their campgrounds special amenities below. Consider how you might add extra elements to your own campground that help provide a special touch and accommodate your furry guests.

“We have a dog park that has a pond in it. The dogs LOVE to be able to splash around and swim.  We also have a park that is set up with agility equipment. This provides a great first experience for many dogs AND their humans about how much fun doing agility training is.

We also have a dog wash room in our bath house that has 2 tubs—one on the floor for the big dogs and one on a table for the small dogs.”

I hope this helps you build a wonderful dog park for your campground that dog-loving campers from near and far will enjoy! Once you’re set up with your dog park, be sure to add the pet-friendly tag to your Campspot listing, so dog lovers can find you and book easily.

Emily Hessney Lynch is a social media strategist with ten years of experience helping organizations share their stories through engaging digital content. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and their three rescue dogs. They love getting outside year-round and enjoy paddle boarding, hiking, and snowshoeing. You can follow her on Instagram at @servemethesky.

Photo credit in order of appearance: Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort: Hill Country, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort: Hill Country, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort: Hill Country, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort: Hill Country, Tyler Way, Tyler Way