Here are the questions we get asked most frequently. You can download a print friendly version of the responses to these questions.

Why do we prefer not to use the term Dog Park?

We prefer not to use the term ‘dog park’ because the term conveys the impression that the area of parkland is primarily for dog owners and their dogs, when in fact the wider community might have equal access to these areas.

Unfortunately, there are dog owners who interpret the term ‘dog park’ to mean that they and their dogs have priority access to an area when this is not the case. So, it is best to avoid the use of the term.

So, what do we call areas where dogs are allowed leash free?

Let’s refer to all areas where dogs are allowed leash free as ‘off-leash’ or ‘off-lead’ areas whichever is your council’s preference. These areas can then be unfenced, partially fenced, or fully fenced depending on your council’s policy and the requirements of the site.

Why have fenced or partially fenced off-leash areas?

Fenced off-leash areas should complement other opportunities for dog owners and their dogs and should not be the default option for off-leash areas. Unfenced off-leash areas can provide the same opportunities as fenced areas if the appropriate space is available.

Here are a few of the benefits of off-leash areas, fenced and unfenced alike. It is only the last 3 points that may be specific to fenced off-leash areas:

  • They provide a meeting place oractivity hub for people and communities
  • They may encourage people to exercisemore vigorously with their dogs
  • They allow apartment dwellersor people living on small allotments to exercise their canine companions
  • They provide a venue that encourages dog to dog socialisation
  • They can provide an environment where adviceis exchanged on dog management and where responsible dog ownership is encouraged
  • They provide a focal point for community educationand training programs
  • They can help avoid potential conflict between dogs and other activities parks that have restricted space so that:
  • dogs are physically separated from other people who don’t want to interact with dogs, or dogs off-leash
  • dogs are restricted from sensitive environments such as wetland and habitat areas
  • They provide elderly and dog owners with disabilities, and travelers,with an accessible and safe place to exercise their dogs
  • They provide an opportunity for the travelling public, particularly in council areas that do not allow dogs off-leash.

Are there any challenges associated with fenced off-leash areas?

The potential for serious issues (e.g. dog fights, and dog on dog/dog on people bites) to arise when dogs and people come together is always a possibility. These issues can be compounded when dogs are allowed off-leash, regardless of whether the area is fenced or unfenced; where dogs and people come together; and where the off-leash area is fenced.

It is important that people using the off-leash area understand they do not abdicate their responsibilities as a dog owner because they are in a fenced off-leash area. Local laws relating to dogs in public spaces and off-leash areas will still apply. The following highlight some of the issues that arise in all off-leash areas, whether fenced or unfenced, but which can be compounded by fencing.

Many of these can be minimised by appropriate design and through dog owner education programs and initiatives.

The most common complaints about off-leash areas are:

  • Dog owners not picking up their dog’s litter
  • Dog owners allowing their dogs to annoy other people and their dogs and not having control over their dog
  • Dog owners not actively supervising their dog
  • Dog owners taking Inappropriate dogs (e.g. entire dogs, dangerous breeds & dogs that are too young) to the off-leash area
  • Possible dog rushes and / or bites to humans
  • Possible dog to dog bites.

The above issues are also relevant to fenced areas, however there are a number of other issues that may arise in areas confined by fencing, particularly if they are too small and not well designed:

  • Dog owners and commercial dog walkers/trainers taking too many dogs into the fenced area
  • Parents taking young children into the fenced area and older children left unattended to manage dogs
  • People leaving their dog unattended in the off-leash area.

Why is it important to have an area where dogs can socialise?

Dogs that are well socialised are likely to be more confident and less anxious when out in a community or social setting, and therefore will less prone to inappropriate behaviours.

Dogs can be socialised on and off-leash, but caution must be taken when socialising a dog that is on a lead with dogs that are off-leash. The dog being constrained by a leash may feel trapped and overwhelmed and become fearful. This may lead to defensive behavior that is interpreted as aggression.

This is particularly relevant when taking a dog into an off-leash area where there are already a number of dogs running leash free and eager to greet the newcomer.

How big should a fenced off-leash area be?

A fenced off-leash area can never be too large, but it can be too small. When there are a number of dogs in a small fenced off-leash area there is a far greater propensity for competitive and overly boisterous behavior to occur, and for this to escalate to dominant behavior including biting and although rare, dog on dog attacks.

Dog owners should be educated to understand that if there are already a large number of dogs in a fenced area then the area is best avoided at that time, particularly if their dog is timid, or prone to boisterous or dominant play.

The size of the fenced area will also vary depending on the type of activities is accommodating.

A fenced off-leash area should be no smaller than 1 hectare with well-designed and separate spaces with vegetation and landscape features. This will help minimise potential behaviour related issues.

Ideally a fenced off-leash area should be it will be larger than 1 hectare so that the area does not feel ‘fenced in’; there is opportunity to include different features (e.g. ball-play areas, agility equipment) that attracts repeat visits; and importantly room to create an attractive environment with trees and other natural features. A larger area will also spread activities over a larger area and preserve any soft ground covering.

A larger park also allows for separate large and small dog areas and ‘time out’ areas.

Why is it necessary to plan a fenced off-leash area & how do you select a good site?

By careful planning you will ensure any fenced off-leash area is a success and importantly supported by the local community.

Councils need to clearly understand how fenced off-leash areas fit into their overall provision for dog owners and their dogs. A number of provision options should be considered including on-leash only areas; unfenced off-leash areas; fully or partially fenced off-leash areas; and of course, there will be areas where it is inappropriate for dogs to access. These may include waterways, wetlands, and sensitive flora and fauna areas.

Councils must not feel under pressure to install fenced off-leash areas because other councils are doing this. Rather, councils need to fully understand the issues and implications associated with fenced areas.

As a community member, it is important that you understand the complexity of the issues that your local council has to deal with when planning this type of facility and the process the council needs to work through.

If you want your council to consider a new fenced off-leash area it is important that both supporters, and those who are not convinced a fenced off-leash area is a good idea be involved in planning process. You should not go about this process alone – get it wrong and you may get people off-side! Get it right and it will be a safe and worthwhile opportunity.

In terms of a possible site you cannot assume the park down the road will be the most suitable site. There may be a number of reasons why this is the case, but you may not be aware of them. The range of issues that need to be considered in choosing a site include the proximity of residential properties, the availability of car parking, profile of the site (safety), and other activities competing for space in the park.

Why landscape the fenced off-leash area?

A well-designed fenced off-leash area will address the needs of both dogs and people. A good design will encourage more use and will ensure all the different activity areas within the fenced area are well integrated. Landscape design will consider robust areas for dog free-play and rummaging activities as well as opportunities for dog education equipment. It will also address amenity considerations such as shade, water and seating and the type of ground cover. Appropriate ground cover is important in high use areas to prevent dust, erosion and mud! Different ground surfaces (textures, hard, soft) can also be an advantage in introducing dogs to the different surfaces which builds confidence.

You may be lucky enough that your council has already identified a number of different site options for a fenced off-leash area. Whether you have one site or a number of sites up for consideration a site checklist is very important.

The advantage of a checklist is that it allows you to rate each site against the other and importantly it takes the emotion out of the evaluation process. This is critical especially if you are going to convince the naysayers that a fenced area is a good idea in your neighbourhood!

Paws4Play has a checklist of considerations to get you going. Remember this will not be a complete list. You should add to this list as other considerations come to light as you investigate your site opportunities.

Is dog education equipment necessary in an area dedicated to dogs?

Equipment provides another activity option and it allows dog owners to practice skills being learned at training and obedience classes. However, the most important reason for dog education/agility equipment is that it teaches dogs confidence, and confident dogs are more likely to be relaxed and comfortable in social settings.

Each piece of Paws4Play dog agility equipment has a different educational focus – e.g. Sit–stay platforms(Paws4Play) – obedience, Jump Hoops(Paws4Play) and Jump Throughs (Paws4Play) – Agility and the Bridge(Paws4Play) – Confidence development.
As with different ground surfaces, equipment can introduce dogs to different situations they will encounter in community spaces e.g. height as with the Bridge(Paws4Play) or A-Frame(Paws4Play) or ‘open steps’ as with the Step Platform(Paws4Play).

Is Paws4Play dog agility equipment the same as competition agility equipment?

No, for the simple reason that equipment designed for public parks has to consider public safety.

Typically, the height of Paws4Play equipment is lower than competition equipment and angles not as acute. Paws4Play dog education/agility equipment is designed primarily for dog education, confidence development and fun for the dog owner. It does however simulate competition equipment so is great equipment to use for practice after dog training classes.


We are happy for you to quote material in this information sheet, but ask that you acknowledge Paws4Play and LMH Consulting as follows:

Information provided by Paws4Play/LMH Consulting and quote relevant reference e.g. website, Information Sheet

To arrange a time where we can discuss your needs further.