About six months ago, my wife and I took our slightly overweight Black Lab, Moose, to a nearby doggie park to exercise him. We had been aware of the facility since it opened four years ago, but had never been there. We've been very pleasantly surprised at what an awesome experience it has been – for us and for Moose.
When we first inherited Moose from my sister he was pretty lethargic, and not very dog-like. He never sniffed, rarely barked, moved very slowly, and never marked. He only peed to relieve himself. His years in an apartment made living as a normal dog impossible. But once we got him to the doggie park, he began to change almost overnight.
At first we only took him two or three times a week. It was winter then and the cold temperatures and wind chills made it easy to justify staying home. When we did go, there weren't a lot of dogs there, so we assumed the place wasn't very heavily used. But as winter slowly subsided and the temperature moderated, more an more people began bringing their dogs to the park, and Moose loves it. We never realized he was such a social animal.
Not only does he love running around the entire 27 acres greeting every dog, he also loves to meet the owners. It has been an awesome experience and well worth the twenty dollars per year for the privilege of using it. Moose has lost about thirty pounds – I wish I could say the same for myself. He has learned how to be a dog again and is not only healthier, but obviously much happier too.
A bonus has been the nice people my wife and I have been able to meet. There are as many different types of people as there are dogs. The common denominator, of course, is our love for our dogs. So there is a readily apparent commonality that makes conversations easy to start and easy to keep going.
If you're a dog owner and don't have access to a public doggie park, I'd suggest you lobby your local or state government to create one. You may even be able to enlist the help of your local humane society. They usually have some clout with local government. The doggie park we go to is located on a tract of county owned land that is adjacent to the airport. It's land that can't be developed because the planes fly directly overhead when they take off and land (the noise doesn't even phase the dogs). They completely fenced in 27 acres of the land and put in a gravel road and parking lot. There are even two porta-potties in case mom or dad have to go. It's nothing fancy, but the dogs absolutely love it. I'm sure you could find unused land in your area that could be put to good use as a doggie park.
Do it for your dog.