Walking the dog should be one of the highlights of your day. But, increasingly, for many owners, it has become a fraught and stressful experience. So, what has changed in recent years?
According to a recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report, while 47 per cent of owners interviewed had no worries about walking their dogs, others expressed concerns, including fear of their pet being attacked by another dog, time restrictions, worries about their dog’s behaviour on a walk, and specifically their dog’s lack of recall.
Of those owners who admitted to not walking their dogs at all, sixteen per cent cited restricted areas to exercise a dog where they lived as the main reason for this.
“During the last seven years, the world of dog walking has changed considerably,” agreed Nick Parkinson, founder of PawPounders dog park, based in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands.
“Today, many dog owners are nervous about walking their dogs off-the-lead in parks and public spaces. This may be because they have a nervous dog who is scared of loud noises and passing traffic, older dogs with health conditions, or because their nearby parks just aren’t big enough to satisfy the exercise needs of their dog, or have open access to neighbouring roads.
“Nervous dogs lead to nervous owners and the combined stress between pet and owner makes for an unpleasant walking experience when it should be a wonderful time to bond and enjoy each other’s company.”
Nick has been running his off-lead dog park, which spans 10 acres in total, as an independent business for more than four years, offering owners a safe, secure, and exclusive space to walk their dogs on a pay per hour basis.
With more and more owners looking for quiet, safe areas to exercise their dogs, we spoke to Nick to find out more about the benefits of off-lead parks and enclosed exercise areas.
Q What is an off-lead park?
A It’s a fully secure field, which you can hire to exercise your dog. The size of these fields varies, from under one acre to three acres plus. Some fields are pure grassland, while others include trees and other features, and may offer agility equipment.
PawPounders has three fields and the largest is around four acres in size.
Q What are the benefits of an enclosed exercise area?
A Many council parks offer lead-only exercise nowadays, but a dog park can offer a totally secure place to exercise your dog off-lead with no other distractions. A dog takes17 times more exercise off-lead and it is more beneficial for his cardiovascular system. Most importantly, the owner has a stress-free time; there’s no need to feel you’re on guard, which may be the case when walking around your neighbourhood or in the local park.
Q What facilities can you expect at an off-lead park?
A This will vary depending on the individual set-up, but you can get a good idea of the facilities by checking the website or contacting the park directly with any queries. The owners of dog fields should have planning permission and public liability insurance. It is worth checking on the type and height of the fencing, and bear in mind that an athletic dog will probably require
a fence of at least 1.8m (6ft) high.
At PawPounders we offer an online booking and payment system, automated gate entry, and a private secure car park. Our fields are fully fenced to 2m high, with walkways cut into the grass, poo bins, water supply, a toilet, and a coin-operated dog shower. There is CCTV for security and we carry out a full inspection in the morning and evening of the perimeter fences.
Q Is it expensive?
A You can expect to pay around £10 – £12 per hour, but this will vary depending on the size of the field and the facilities; some places offer 30-minute slots. The PawPounders average cost is £10 per hour for one dog, and £2.50 for extra dogs. We also offer six monthly and annual passes at a discounted rate.
Q Is a dog park suitable for all dogs?
A If you have a reactive dog, you’ll find that many dog parks are designed to prevent your pet from meeting other, strange dogs
— that’s certainly the case at PawPounders. And because there are different sized fields, there’s something to suit all types and breeds as well.
Image: PawPounders exercise fields.
In a bid to spread the dog park ethos, Pawpounders is offering a franchise opportunity to those interested in having their own pet business, but without the risk of being a start-up.
“We are currently looking to open 200 more parks by franchising,” explained Nick. “It’s an ideal business for those who have a genuine passion for dogs and want the very best for their well-being, and it’s a franchise that I’ve developed and enhanced, drawing on my years of experience in the world of dogs.”
● For more information, call Nick on 0121 308 6404 or email [email protected]
● To find out more about PawPounders, visit www.pawpounders.com