Major Dog Park Fail

I often like to brag about the variety of off-leash dog parks we have here in the Halifax Regional Municipality. From the sprawling trails at Point Pleasant to the dedicated dog beach in Shubie, there are seven city-sponsored off-leash areas, not including all the sports fields that are open to similar activities from November to May.

Until recently, I had visited all but one of these parks and was very impressed. Not only are the parks well-maintained with services such as garbage cans and poop bag dispensers, but the off-leash areas are sizable. In each one Shiva has plenty of room to get her zoom on.

This might be why I was so disappointed when I finally checked out the last official dog park on our list.

Fort Needham Memorial Park is actually an interesting historical spot. Located close to downtown Halifax, it is nestled in the lovely neighbourhood of Hydrostone, a registered National Historic site, which is a beautiful area to walk around even in the worst weather. In the centre of the park is an eye-catching bell tower, erected in memory of those who died during the Halifax Explosion.

What could be better, right?

My central complaint has to do with size. When I think of an off-leash park, I assume there will be space for my dog to sniff and play and roam around a little. We had a few hours to spare while we waited to attend our weekly agility class. Since I knew Fort Needham was close, I figured we’d head over and spend those two hours wandering around, maybe work on some training exercises. At one of the entrances there was a map of the 0ff-leash area and it certainly looked decent enough.

My expectations for this place were clearly far too high. It took us maybe – maybe – three whole minutes to walk through the designated off-leash section of the park. Perhaps fifteen to stroll around the entire thing. And this includes taking as many sniff breaks as Shiva could ever desire. With an hour and forty-five minutes left to kill, I was as encouraging of her nose as I could be.

“Are you sure you don’t want to sniff that blade of grass just a bit more? How about that shrub? I bet a lot of dogs have peed on that!”

Shiva just gave me a look that said she was pretty sure other dogs had owners who took them to better parks than this teeny space.

The lawn behind this almost makes up the entirety of the off-leash section.

She was probably right. We only saw one other dog the entire time and it was hanging out off-leash on the playground, the one decidedly not off-leash portion of the park.


If you ask me, there is hardly any point at making this an off-leash park at all. It is located just off a busy road and there is no fencing. Any dogs that like to run for more than a millisecond will inevitably be running out on to the sidewalk and potentially getting hurt. When I saw the size, I didn’t even bother letting Shiva go and kept her on the leash the full hour we were there. It was just too dangerous.

For a city that seems to care a lot about creating great spaces for dogs, Fort Needham stands out as a giant letdown. It just doesn’t fit in with the others. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled?

Despite our boredom, Shiva and I somehow managed to get through the two hours before our class without killing each other or any passers-by. I probably whined about it a lot more than necessary but I’m not the kind of person who takes disappointment very easily. Especially when I expected to have fun and ended up just poking at the ground with a stick.

Shiva is terrible at “I Spy”.

What is your idea of a good dog park? Do I have overly high expectations?


For Petfinder’s Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, each day I am sharing the stories of a few of the cats waiting for their forever homes. If you’ve got a minute, why not stop by to help spread the word?

 Fran here is a sweet six-year-old at the S.H.A.I.D. Tree Animal Shelter in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, she has been through some recent mouth surgery and will require a little extra love, not that it will be difficult to give. Her grey fur looks as soft as velvet.



Ash on the other hand is a sprightly young male from the East Greenwich Animal Protection League in Rhode Island. Abandoned by his owners, he is ready to find his next set of adoring fans. Ash is a snuggler and has been without a snugglee since December of last year. I find that pretty hard to believe.

20 thoughts on “Major Dog Park Fail

  1. Fort Needham is such a weird spot. Sometimes Mufaasa and I will loop through there if I’m just taking him for a quick on-leash walk around the neighbourhood, and frankly, unless there’s someone on the sports field, I let him roam there. But really, it’s exactly as you said, not a lot of room, and way to close to the road. And most of the dogs that I see there are either on leash or their owners are pretty clueless. There was one lady who had three big dogs, all with prong colars on, and she dropped the leashes and let them roam the park WITH THE LEASHES STILL ATTACHED TO THE PRONG COLARS. One of them wound up going after Mufaasa, and I’m pretty sure it was because Mufaasa accidentally stepped on the leash. She responded by alfa rolling the dog, but it just riggled around like it was having a fun wrestling match. She later alfa rolled her hound for howling at me when I pulled out some treats for Mu. *sigh* I see her walking sometimes and I just want to go up to her, steal her dogs and make a run for it.


  2. We don’t do dog parks. Just give me a large open field. 🙂 The map you posted shows the off lead area as quite narrow. Before I made your picture larger, I thought it might be a pond…guess not. I would think having off lead dogs in that narrow area might be a recipe for dog fights. Oh well at least you have the other, better parks. 🙂


  3. We’ve only been to the dog park a couple of times. Both times we ran into some rather aggressive dogs so we haven’t been back since. Which is too bad because Blueberry loves going to get her zoom on too.

    But that’s really a disappointment about the park you visited. Aren’t there standards for what constitutes a dog park?


  4. No dog parks near me. One place I lived had a fenced in area for dogs, but it was smaller than a tennic court. also the morons that used it seemed to think as it was for dogs only, they didn’t have to pick up the poop. I wouldn’t let my dog go in it as it was disgusting.

    Hope the move is progressing ok. Do you have a move in date?


  5. My idea of a great dog park is fenced in, it has trails for walking and training, brooks for splashing and playing and of course a nice clean pond for swimming. Sadly I have no idea where this park is.

    We don’t take the dogs to a dog park anymore. Down here they are smaller enclosed areas with lots of other dogs and a lot of stupid dog owners.


  6. Hi Kristine, rant is understandable and deserved. My dad could probably throw a ball farther than the length of the grass area. And the danger of an unfenced area is just too risky. Dogs running, jumping and playing won’t necessarily be mindful of the “invisible” boundaries that separate the edge of the park from the edge of the roadway. Dogs won’t necessarily “come when called”. The result can easily be an “accident” between a car and a dog. That doesn’t sound very good at all.


  7. Sounds like some of the green areas here in Balmain. I wouldn’t call them parks. More like islands in the middle or by a road. Good for a quick pee and poop and little else. You can do better Shiva! X


  8. Any area called a dog park that doesn’t have adequate fencing is many problems just waiting to happen. And then not to have enough sniffable material for Shiva…

    We don’t have dog parks nearby, but we have a great college campus just down the street that has a track, driving range and lots of open space. It also has the occasional student walking around.


  9. I have really high expectations with off leash areas in parks. My city has three really nice areas where dogs are allowed off leash. The fenced dog park, however, is a huge disappointment. I don’t go there. There isn’t room for dogs to run, people don’t watch their dogs in there, and the entire atmosphere and spacing basically encourages dog fights if there is more than one active dog in there at a time.


  10. We don’t have a dog park in my tow, though there is talk of at least one getting started. Truth be told, I wouldn’t go there when other dogs were there. I see a lot of ill mannered dogs on leash on the sidewalk, I’m not eager to be in an environment where even that gesture of control is absent. I would love a big (FENCED) area where Elka could really open up, though.


  11. Hmm… That’s a total bummer. We have a gorgeous dog park here in town, but there’s a steep annual membership fee that (especially with three dogs) doesn’t allow us to go! A nearby apartment complex has a little fenced-in square with some agility equipment that we try to use when no one else is around, but otherwise, that’s it! I’m so jealous that you have six other off-leash parks! Enjoy!


  12. I’m with you! I think dog parks should be big enough for dogs to get a good run in, safely fenced, and have enough space for the dogs to not be on top of each other. We have some great dog parks close to my house, but one really silly one that would only be big enough for pocket sized dogs! Sorry you were disappointed!


  13. What a bummer. Glad you have other alternatives, but why would they even bother to label that area an off-leash dog park? Giving people “permission” to let their dogs loose in an unfenced area close to traffic by calling it a dog park is a recipe for disaster.


  14. Unfortunately there are very few big off leash areas where I live. You have the big ones like Fort Funston and a few off leash hiking trails. But most off leash dog parks are small, gated areas with not much to do but play fetch. You can walk the entire thing in 5mins. Glad you guys have other options besides this one park!


  15. Ah, how disappointing! It seems to have a strange layout. I think the best dog parks are ones that are square/rectangle in shape so you can see what’s going on everywhere. I’m from New Jersey originally and they seem to keep the pups happy. 😉


  16. I don’t think you over-reacted at all. Small parks like that are not only disappointing, if they get a lot of traffic they can be dangerous. Too many dogs with too much energy in too small a space leads to problems. Better to skip this one and hang out in some of the nicer dog parks you’ve found.


  17. My dog park would probably disappoint you too– it’s not very big, it’s all about the ambience. But it’s still the biggest park I know of in this burb.

    And off-leash beside a ROAD? Seriously? I don’t get that at all.


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