Good dog parks share many features: a large enclosed area, double gates, trees, benches, water stations and free cleanup bags. Many dog parks also provide a separate fenced-in area for smaller dogs and are open from dawn to dusk. According to the website for PAW Park, a metro park with two acres at the corner of N. Grand Boulevard and Hefner Parkway in northwest Oklahoma City, 20 minutes in a dog park is the equivalent of two miles on a leash.

According to Kelly Barger, a veterinarian at Acre View Pet Hospital, 1900 S. Bryant in Edmond, the amount of exercise a dog gets inside a park varies widely based on the personality of the dog. Some use their time to sit with their owner and watch the action, while others run the entire time.

PAW Park was built and is managed by PAW OK, a nonprofit organization that focuses on animal welfare. The park was named one of the top dog parks in the nation last year by Dog Fancy magazine. PAW Park boasts trees, park benches, watering stations and waste management facilities. On the north end, a “duck pond” was created, including a gravel beach to allow dogs to play in the water and swim.

The Edmond Dog Park, opened in 2006, is located at Bickham-Rudkin Park and also includes two fenced-in areas and pond access. The park is operated by the City of Edmond in cooperation with Bark Rangers and Paws for Life Inc.

In Del City, doggies are treated to Wiggley Field Dog Park at Ray Trent Park at Interstate 40 and Sunnylane Road. The three-acre park boasts turf, trees, play equipment, chairs, fire hydrants for dogs, a pond and walking paths. The park is supported by the Del City Dog Park Association.

Normanite pups play at the Norman Community Dog Park located at Griffin Park, 1500 12th Ave. Managed by the city of Norman and the nonprofit Norman Community Dog Park, the park has two acres, complete with a separate small-dog area, and the usual amenities.

Barger said it’s important to follow safety rules when taking your pet to dog parks, especially in the heat.

“Heat stroke is common this time of year,” she said. “Dogs cool off by panting, and that’s not enough when it’s a hundred degrees outside.”

She advises owners to know their dog’s limits and use common sense at the park. “If another dog is being aggressive and the owner isn’t refereeing, leave the park,” she said.

Pet etiquette is also in order. No one wants the dog park to resemble a frat house. Friendly play is encouraged, but owners need to keep an eye on their pet to ensure aggression and misbehavior are kept in check. And, yes, do pick up your dog’s waste.

To avoid “fear biting,” Barger suggests letting your dog ease into the social situation and to not take them out of their comfort zone. They may warm up to other dogs in their own time.

She recommends that owners not let their pets drink stagnant water, which can lead to intestinal parasites, and to also bring their own bowl instead of “communal drinking” from the faucets. That’s a great way to catch kennel cough, which is spread through mucus secretions, according to the vet.

In the heat of the summer, Barger suggests taking your dog to the parks in the morning and evenings, avoiding the hottest part of the day. And for the humans at the park? Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, cool clothing and water will ensure we have a good time right along with the animals.

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