Park amenities ranked: What dogs are really after at the playground

ZENICA, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - OCTOBER 27: A person walks her dog at a park covered by fallen yellow leaves in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina on October 27, 2021 (Photo by Samir Jordamovic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ZENICA, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - OCTOBER 27: A person walks her dog at a park covered by fallen yellow leaves in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina on October 27, 2021 (Photo by Samir Jordamovic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /

Which park amenities do dogs really want to use? Here’s an in-depth ranking of standard equipment to help you choose the best play space for your furry friend.

What Do Dogs Want in a Park?

Different breeds look for varying amenities in a park because their energy levels and physical capabilities vary. That said, many share interests. Every pet owner wants to see what dogs like at the playground — do they really enjoy jumping over agility hurdles, or would they rather sit in the shade?

Almost 70 million American households have one or more furry friends, each with different preferences. That means there’s no single answer to what dogs are after when they go to the park. Still, you can get a pretty accurate answer if you look at science and behavior.

12 Dog Park Amenities Ranked

Although some park amenities technically rank lower than others, they’re all great equipment. This ranking relies on accessibility, physical benefits, enjoyment and health perks.

1. Leash Post

Although dogs don’t typically prefer staying on a leash when there’s an option to go without, they still enjoy it if it involves socializing. Surprisingly, dogs love leash posts partly because they’re a pet-friendly way to interact with others.

A leash post is one of the most overlooked park amenities, even though it’s valuable and fun. It gives dogs space to calmly play and be around each other, which is ideal for those who are nervous or have attachment issues.

2. Off-Leash Areas

An off-leash area is a top park amenity because it gives dogs the freedom to do whatever they want. They can roll, run, dig and jump to their hearts’ content in an ample, open space. Since other dogs do the same, they get a lot of quality playtime.

According to one survey, dogs enjoy socializing with each other and even receive health benefits from doing so. Most prefer plain off-leash areas over equipment since they can talk and play without limitations when their leashes are gone. Thankfully, they’re common in parks.

3. Natural Spaces

A big, natural space is what dogs like at the playground since most only have a patch of backyard to explore. If you’re lucky enough to live nearby one with trees, rivers or bushes, your pet probably takes off immediately to go sniff and inspect them.

4. Dog Crawl Tunnels

Crawl tunnels don’t need to be fancy — the ones in parks near you may just be big concrete tubes. Most dogs enjoy chasing each other through them because it’s more engaging than just running on an open surface.

Many also use them to play games with each other to experience something new. For example, hide and seek is mentally stimulating for them, requiring them to reason and think critically. A tunnel lets them play in ways they usually don’t get to, which is exciting for them.

5. Shade

Shade is one of the most underrated park amenities because it has health benefits on top of being relaxing. To dogs, nothing is better than flopping in a tree’s shadow after running around in the sun for half an hour.

Furry breeds often overheat at dog parks because they want to keep playing with the other dogs. They know they need to sit in shadows to cool down, so a large, shaded area is the best of both worlds — they get to run around while keeping their temperatures down.

6. Water Fountains

Some of the best park amenities aren’t for play — water fountains are great for your furry friend’s health and happiness. While many places expect you to bring your own water and bowl, built-in stations are better because your dog doesn’t have to ask for a drink. Instead, they can hydrate whenever they feel thirsty.

Experts recommend an ounce-per-pound ratio every day, but you should give them more if they’re active or it is hot outside. To put that into perspective, a 20-pound pet must drink about one bottle of water daily.

7. Wading Pool

Even though most dog parks and playgrounds don’t have wading pools, they’re an excellent addition. Although some dogs fear water, many love lounging in it to cool off or splashing around to have fun.

While wading pools are great, they rank lower than other park amenities because some breeds don’t like water and aren’t built for swimming. For example, corgis have long bodies and very short legs — they’re at the perfect height to be underwater, even in shallow pools.

8. Weave Poles

If you’ve never seen weave poles before, they’re the half-moon hoops sticking out of the ground. Your pet is supposed to run through or around them to work on their balance, coordination and reaction time.

Dogs learn a form of trick training when using weave poles — the kind of thing professionals use in fancy dog shows. It’s beneficial because it stimulates them mentally and gives them confidence. They tend to feel a lot better about themselves when they can sprint through obstacles without running into something.

9. Fake Fire Hydrants

A fake fire hydrant might seem like a comical interpretation of what dogs like at the playground, but it’s real. Its bright colors draw animals’ attention because it’s much more vibrant than the surrounding architecture. Your furry friend is essentially red-green colorblind, so anything colorful interests them.

10. Doggie Walking Ramp

A walking ramp isn’t all that exciting on its own, but it adds another level to play when dogs run around with each other. They enjoy the height difference since it forces them to use their brains and adapt to new play styles.

11. Agility Hurdles

Even though most furry friends find hurdles fun, they rank lower because only a certain percentage has the energy and the physical ability to use them. Still, active dogs enjoy agility sports regardless of their breed since they involve so much physical activity.

12. Standing Hoops

Only some dogs have the ability, energy and drive to aimlessly jump through hoops at a dog park. Still, they’re an entertaining piece of equipment for those that want to use them. Even though they’re not accessible, there’s no harm in them since they don’t take up much space.

What Dogs Want

Although only pet owners can truly know what their dogs like at the playground, most enjoy mentally engaging equipment that gives them a unique style to play or releases all their pent-up energy.

Next. Pros and cons of dog parks: The good, the bad and the ugly. dark