It’s no secret that Americans love their pets. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are a whopping 79.7 million American households with pets -- making up about 65 percent of all households. In the same survey, they estimate that 54.4 million of us have at least one dog — and that most of us (66.7 percent) consider that dog to be a family member.
As family, we want our dogs to be well cared for — and we even want to make sure that they’re happy! That explains the rise in dog parks across the nation. While it’s great to take our dogs for outings at restaurants, for long walks and to many other human-dominated places, there’s absolutely nothing that beats giving your dog the freedom of running through a special spot designed just for them.
Never has it been more popular for dog lovers to take their four-legged friends to specially designated dog parks, where pets and their owners can enjoy some off-leash fun and recreation. The First Coast area has a number of dog parks that offer a big variety of amenities for you and your furry friends.
Dog Wood Park
74707 Salisbury Rd.
Member access: 7 days a week, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Visitors must check in the office during office hours before entering the park. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
You must bring proof of rabies shot every time you come to the park. A rabies tag on the collar is acceptable as is a rabies certificate or a receipt from your vet showing the date of the shot.
Dog Wood Park is a 42-acre swim and play park for people and their dogs (over 25 acres are currently fenced). The park is one of the country’s largest completely fenced dog parks Dog Wood Park charges $11 per visit for the first dog and $1.25 for each additional dog. Monthly memberships are also available beginning at $35/month.
Dogwood also offers self-serve bathing, which includes raised, warm water tubs, shampoo, towels and brushes. Price is $8.00 for members and $9.00 for visitors. Visit their website to learn more about classes offered at the facility, and upcoming special events.
Tillie K. Fowler Regional Park
700 Roosevelt Blvd.
The Tillie K. Fowler Regional Park offers more than 500 acres of trails, picnic grounds and other amenities, making it Jacksonville’s largest city-maintained public park. The great news is that you can bring your dog to enjoy the trails and even let them off leash in the special dog park areas.
The facility’s dog park offers two areas for off-leash play — one for large dogs and another for smaller breeds. There is no running water inside of the fences for dogs, so be sure to pack extra water if you plan on taking advantage of the dog park.
The park is situated across from NAS Jax, and along the Ortega River. There’s plenty of fun to be had, from the observation tower to the picnic area and nature center.
Oceanway Park and Pool
12215 Sago Ave.
Oceanway Center offers a variety of indoor activities including arts and crafts, billiards, bumper pool, foosball and table tennis. The park’s outdoor activities include basketball, boundball, swimming, fishing, flag football, horseshoes, kickball, soccer, softball, tennis, tetherball and volleyball. Special events, classes and scheduled meetings are held at Oceanway Center & Park throughout the year. Oceanway’s public dog park offers separate areas for large and small dogs, a pet water fountain, paths and benches. Oceanway is the perfect place to cool off with your family and let Fido enjoy themselves too!
Confederate Dog Park
956 Hubbard St.
The city’s historic Confederate Park began welcoming dogs in 2009, when a designated dog park was added to the park. Open to the public, the three-acre off-leash green space features fencing, benches and pavilions. There is a designated area for small dogs. The dog park offers plenty of shade for humans and dogs alike, along with wide open spaces that really let your dog stretch their legs! There is also a pool for dogs and fresh water available for humans and pets. Enjoy panoramic views of the downtown Jacksonville cityscape while your dogs run fee.
468 Penman Road South
Located in Jacksonville Beach’s Wingate Park, Paws Park is a membership playground for dog owners and their dogs.
Enjoy an off-leash dog park with a large-dog area, a small-dog area, watering bowls, benches and an educational bulletin board. The membership fee is $50 plus tax for the first dog and $25 plus tax for each additional dog.
You can find an annual membership application online.
Nocatee Dog Parks
Good news for Nocatee residents! The Nocatee wellness lifestyle extends to four-legged Nocatee residents as well. Nocatee residents have access to three free dog parks within the community, including:
Trails for Tails - Located in Nocatee’s Community Park, Trails for Tails provides space for pets to socialize amid while their owners can enjoy the park’s walking paths and other amenities.
Happy Tails Dog Park - This fenced-in section of Greenleaf Park is open to all Nocatee residents and their dogs.
Paws Dog Park - Located in Nocatee’s Davis Park, Paws Dog Park offers two separate fenced areas, as well as a dog wash. Playgrounds and athletic fields are also nearby.
Dog Park Tips
Take off the leash. Dogs are more comfortable socializing without restraints.
Small dogs need special treatment — so if your park doesn’t offer a special area for them, make sure you keep an eye on them and are close by to intervene for their safety.
Tailor your stay around your dog. If they’re tired, it’s time to go. If they’re having a great time, consider staying longer!
Focus on your dog. It’s tempting to socialize with human companions, but your dog is relying on you to help keep them safe and happy.
Avoid treats and toys, which can cause a scuffle. Save them for home.
Stay up on your feet during your stay and call to your dog to make sure they’re focused on you. Keep your eyes on the dogs around yours, too.
Pick up after them, relax and enjoy your stay at the dog park.