One Size Does NOT Fit All – Why Your Off-leash Dog Park Needs Separate Spaces for Large and Small Dogs

Provide unique, secure areas within an off-leash dog park for both large and small dogs.

By Pet Pro Supply Co. Featured Expert,



This article is a part of a larger Pet Pro Supply Co. series on Dog Parks. See the list of articles below:

Off-leash dog parks are everywhere - and we mean EVERYWHERE. Rooftops, alleyways, old tennis courts, unused open fields and not surprisingly, even airports. No matter the space, one area you do not want to skimp on is designating two clearly labeled areas in your off-leash dog park: one area for small dogs and a separate area for large dogs.

This promotes safety and health for different size breeds at your park, and ensures your off-leash dog park will be enjoyable for its users and owners alike. 

Large and Small Dogs are Different

Dog ownership is booming, and we do not see this trend slowing down anytime soon.

The wonderful thing about dogs is, the perfect one for you does exist.  Are you a runner who wants a dog to run by your side? German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers are just two of the numerous breeds that would fit the bill.  Want a dog to join you on errands and around town? You may want something smaller like a Chihuahua or Pomeranian. Remember to always check your local shelters as there are tons of dogs of all shapes and sizes waiting to find their forever homes! #adoptdontshop

Regardless of the type of dog that will best fit an owner's lifestyle, at some time or another owners will want to take their dog to an off-leash dog park.

A crucial best practice for off-leash dog parks therefore is having two separate enclosed areas so that large and small dogs can run and play independently with other breeds of a similar size and ability level. A good rule of thumb is: a dog is considered “small” if they are under 35 pounds.

Providing separation helps to prevent unnecessary friction should a larger dog try to play a little too rough with a dog a fraction its size. Limiting this risk for pets (and owners!) and easing the minds of park-goers is important.

It is also important to note that not all dogs fall into the “small” or “large” category. Large puppies, senior dogs or ones with disabilities may feel more secure in the smaller dog area. Owners should be encouraged to make the decision based on not only their dog's weight, but by their socialization level and ability.

Design Solutions and Amenities for Small and Large Dog Areas

When designing an off-leash dog park, it can be tricky to determine not only the layout, but what amenities are most appropriate in the small area versus the large area.

By design, the small dog area should be smaller and include less amenities than the large dog area. If space allows, each area should have its own, unique, double-gated entrance. Knowing that this is not always possible, it is totally acceptable to have one double-gated entrance with individual gates to each section.  

While there are many parks that do not include agility equipment, a great off-leash dog park is packed full of amenities for both dogs and dog owners to enjoy, while still providing ample space to run and play. While most agility products on the market today are suited for any size and breed, there are agility products designed specifically with little (or big) paws in mind.  

Large Dog Area

Small Dog Area

Appropriate for Either Area

 Check out BarkPark's Small & Large Dog Park Combination Course Package.

Other non-agility amenities which are appropriate for any area include shade, water fountains, benches for owners and waste stations.  

Providing unique, secure areas within an off-leash dog park for both large and small dogs will reduce the fear owners have for the safety of their dog, encourage more owners to visit, and extend the time that they play.


Stephanie Devine - writer at Pet Pro Supply Co.

About Stephanie Devine: Stephanie is the Vice President of Marketing and Brand Strategy for several brands at PlayCore and works with the BarkPark brand by UltraSite.  She has worked in multiple roles within PlayCore over the past 15 years including marketing, product development and sales.  Her favorite part of her job is meeting new people across the globe and promoting her love for bringing communities together.



SOURCE: PlayCore, Unleashed: Off-leash Dog Park Design Trends and Planning Tips, 2018

Check out Playcore's guide for a huge range of dog park equipment ideas and suggestions to utilize when you go to design your dog park.

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