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Dog Run Ideas for Your Kennel

What is a Dog Run?

A dog run is a designated and enclosed outdoor space designed for dogs to exercise, play, and roam freely within a confined area. It provides a secure environment where dogs can enjoy outdoor activities without the constraints of a leash. Dog runs, also known as dog parks, come in various sizes and layouts, catering to different breeds, sizes, and temperaments of dogs. Exercise helps dogs stave off destructive behavior, like whining, chewing, and excessive barking, and is great for their hips and joints to be moving on a regular basis.

How to Build a Dog Run

The United States has over 800 dog parks alone, and the number of dog parks increased by over 42% from 2009-2019. These promising numbers may make you inclined to start a dog run in your area, especially if there isn’t one close to your home or town. While many dog runs in public parks are free or donation-based, some are attached to dog daycare facilities and kennels, so business owners can effectively charge pet parents who want to supervise their dogs and stay for a shorter period of time than even an overnight stay. Additionally, offering a dog run in your kennel or daycare is a benefit to parents: If their pets are staying overnight or for weeks at a time, they’ll be happy to know their pups are running free and playing with other dogs in the fresh outdoor air. 

Building a dog run is relatively simple: you can start by selecting an outdoor area to enclose. If possible, find one near some trees for built-in shade on hot days. Next, you’ll want to build a gate for easy access. A fenced-in space will ensure safety and security from oncoming traffic, large animals, and just about anything you wouldn’t want to come into contact with pups. You can also decide on the kind of ground you’d like for the run: grass can be more cost-effective, but artificial grass like astroturf may be more durable. From there on, the rest is (very important) gravy: you can add potty areas, agility courses, toys, and benches for trainers to sit on.

If you already have a kennel, adding a dog run can be a lucrative value proposition for your existing and new customers, but can come with some administrative hurdles. Consider using a pet business software like PetExec, where you can store owner contracts and pets’ vaccinations in the cloud, secure your data, automate your marketing and so much more.

Dog Run Best Practices

To ensure pets’ safety and enjoyment, you need to consider the following factors.

  • Consider dog size. You may want to set up separate gated areas for small dogs (dogs under 25 lbs) and for large dogs (dogs over 25 lbs). Some smaller dogs may be less comfortable around larger dogs and vice versa. With PetExec, you can store tons of information about pets like their weight to know where to place dogs in the run.
  • Consider the climate. If your business is in a sunny and hot location, consider placing your run near some trees for shade. 
  • Ensure the space is safe. You might want to install gates and fencing to keep dogs from running into the street, or to keep large dogs from coming into the small dog area. You’ll also want to ensure there are no poisonous plants around your dog run. 
  • Consider Dog Occupancy. Some dogs might not want to play if your space is too crowded, or a dog might not want to spend time at your run if they’re the only one there. PetExec will help you track occupancy so you have just the right amount of pups for a fun time. You can view your play areas in real time with PetExec, seeing which dogs are at your facility and what parts of the dog run they might enjoy. PetExec also partners with iDogCam, the pet industry’s leading webcam provider. You can assign different cameras to each play area, giving you and your clients further visibility into the action.
  • Consider Dog Temperament. Dogs can be very social, but not all personalities mix well with each other. Luckily PetExec has a pet and owner advisory system where you can enter any details about a pet’s temperament, ensuring the dogs who like to roughhouse are with each other on your dog run, and the dogs who are lower energy might be napping inside. You can customize these advisories to suit your facility’s needs as well.

Dog Run Ideas

Many dogs will be happy with just a safe space to run around and sniff, but you can add toys, agility courses, potty areas, and other items to give your dog run an edge over others in your area.

Small Dog Run Ideas

Just because you have a small space to work with, doesn’t mean dogs can’t have fun tiring themselves out! Here are some ideas for smaller spaces.

  • Long Corridors: Dogs love to exhaust themselves playing fetch, and if you have a long yet narrow space to work with, they can go long with a dedicated space.
  • Small Hills: Let dogs play with each other on a new level when you build small hills in your run. Dogs running up and down them will help them exert energy.
  • Tug of War Stations: Tie ropes to poles and have dogs play tug of war with them.

Large Dog Run Ideas

If you have more space, you can create more areas for dogs to play.

  • Agility Courses: you can add tunnels, tubes, ramps, weave poles, and elevated boards for dogs to access their inner American Ninja Warrior.
  • Doggy Pools: Fill a kiddie pool or pool specifically for dogs with water, and pups can jump in there if they are feeling too hot.
  • Rock Piles: Stack rocks and logs so dogs can climb and explore, giving your dog run a more rustic vibe.

Stimulating Dog Run Ideas

Dogs like physical and mental stimulation, which can help produce calmer dogs.

  • Dog-Friendly Plants: Some dogs love to sniff around to find plants to graze on, so set up an area of safe vegetation where pets can chow down.
  • Pre-Dug In Holes: For dogs who love to dig, but you don’t want them destroying your property. Simply dig holes and then fill them in, so dogs redirect their digging energy to only the indicated areas. You can even stick toys in the holes so dogs will want to pull them out.
  • Interactive Toys: Attach dog toys like Kongs or other treat-dispensing goodies to gates so dogs can enjoy using their brains to access food.

Dog Run Supplies

In addition to the above supplies, you may consider adding water bowls and a hose, benches for handlers (and dogs) to sit on, and a sound machine if you want to play music that keeps dogs calm. If you added every enrichment idea on this list, the supplies you’d have to buy might get quite overwhelming, Luckily, PetExec has great features to help you with inventory, including recording vendor information, product names, expiration dates, and product counts so you can keep up to date if a dog breaks a toy on the run, for example. 

Commonly Asked Questions

  • How to start a dog daycare?

Starting a dog daycare can be incredibly rewarding, but may be challenging at first. Here are some basic steps you can follow: 

1. Perform market research: Assess your competition and your potential customers’ incomes and lifestyles so you can offer services they’ll like at prices they’ll love.

2. Create a budget. What are the upstart costs? What would rent or a mortgage come out to? How much can you spend on marketing in a month? And how much do you need to charge so your costs are all squared away?

3. Write a dog daycare business plan. This is helpful in case you’re looking to get your business acquired, but it’s also great as a document to have on your dog daycare journey. It’d have an executive summary, company description, competitive analysis, a marketing plan, staff, finances, and a services description.

. Figure out the dog daycare location. Will you have enough space for dogs to play, eat, drink, and take naps? 

5. Make sure that you comply with any laws and regulations in your city, state, and country.

6. Make sure you’re compliant with health and safety rules and get a facility license.

7. Make a marketing plan. You’ll want to consider making a website, social media handles, a discount or loyalty program, branded swag, and flyers for your new business.

8. Hire staff that are smart, talented, and empathetic: you’ll need a receptionist, business manager, employees who care for dogs, dog trainers, and marketing staff.

  • How can I manage my dog runs?

Managing your dog runs is important to ensure you don’t overbook your furry friends, leading to unhappy dogs, unhappy staff, and unhappy clients. Additionally, there are rules and regulations in your state or city that regulate how many dogs can be in a dog boarding facility or run, how much food and water dogs need, how much space they need in kennels and outside, and suitable shelter from the elements, like heat, wind, and rain. You’ll need to assess what seasons are your busiest (maybe the winter when clients go home for the holidays, or the summer when it’s too hot for owners to take their pups outside) and staff up accordingly.  

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