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Off-leash: The 3 big dog parks near me

    Bella enjoys a dip in the Spokane River at Stateline

    We don’t get many full days together lately. The Paws of the Panhandle project has me scheduling sessions almost every day.

    It’s OK with me because I’m busy working and, heck goshdarnit, I love my job.

    Bella doesn’t get so thrilled when she sees me leaving the house without her, so on Wednesday, we bumped around Spokane to review the three big off-leash dog parks near me.

    There are smaller dog parks, like the downtown one, built on a traffic island at the intersection of Riverside and Sprague. There’s also the Valley Mission Park, which has separated areas for smaller and big dogs.

    We hit the big ones, the ones with lovely wooded areas and lots of room to run.

    They are, in order of preference:

    Off-leash dog parks near me

    You know I’m a fan of on-leash hiking but sometimes I just gotta let Bella run free, her tongue and tail wagging.

    She didn’t seem to care which dog park she was at. She was just happy to be out and about and with me.

    (I think.)

    That means, however, these reviews are riddled with human bias, rather than dog. I tried to talk to her about it. I really did. My interviewing skills fell flat with her.

    1. South Hill Dog Park

    Find it: 2616 E 63rd Ave, Spokane, WA 99223
    Distance from our house: 19.7 miles, almost a half hour of driving time
    Poop factor: Minimal

    I feel like Bella is happiest at this dog park near me. It’s mostly flat with lots of trees for shade on those hot summer days and the arrowhead balsamroot is in full bloom right now.

    Bella investigating dog parks near me
    The tree stump is a popular spot for dog togs – amateur and pro alike

    It’s a fairly quiet spot and the dog lovers of Spokane’s South Hill are pretty friendly. I know I’m not the only non-South Hiller to frequent this park, too, judging by the members of the very active Facebook group.

    It gets pretty busy on the weekend and parking can be an adventure.

    There are bigger plans in the future for this lovely spot. This dog park was a point of controversy a few years ago when it was set to be closed for construction of a new middle school. The Friends of the South Hill Dog Park gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition to protest.

    A reconstructed park, according to my friends at The Spokesman-Review, will be slightly larger, encompass some of the existing park and stretch over the old landfill site nearby.

    Bella in  balsamroot at South Hill Dog Park
    Bella in the balsamroot

    The greatest feature of the South Hill Dog Park is its cleanliness. The volunteers who tend to the dog park are a force, and the humans who walk their dogs here are pretty diligent.

    There are bag stations everywhere so there’s really no excuse not to pick up your poop. The only struggle is where to put it after you bag it. There’s one set of trash cans at the exit, so you will have to carry it for a while.

    2. SCRAPS Dog Park

    Find it: 26715 E Spokane Bridge Rd, Liberty Lake, WA 99019
    Distance from our house: 8.9 miles, 15 minutes from my house
    Poop factor: High to gross

    We’ve been here more times than not. Because of all the dog parks near me, it’s the quickest to get to. It also has a perk that none of other dog parks near me have.

    Bella at the SCRAPS dog park near me
    Bella on the wooded walking path

    Its official name is the Patricia Simonet Laughing Dog Park, named in memory of SCRAPS animal behaviorist Patricia Simonet who theorized that dogs can laugh and who died in 2010.

    More commonly known as the SCRAPS dog park or even the Stateline dog park, there are two areas to the park: a nice wooded area with lots of shade and a dirt play area, complete with an agility-style tube.

    The play area

    One must be careful when stepping off the trail in this park. Many of the park goers congregate at the picnic table in the play area and pay no attention to their dogs taking a dump in the woods.

    Or they ignore the many — many — stations of trash cans equipped with free — free — grocery bags for them to pick up their shit.

    This is why a beautiful dog park that is maintained by the wonderful, hard-working volunteers of SCRAPS only gets three stars. Because a lot of the humans who take their dogs here suck.

    People … pick up your shit. It is not that difficult. AUGH.

    Now the biggest perk of this dog park near me? Its access to the river.

    After we’ve gone around the park a couple of times and Bella has had a bit of social time with other dogs, she stands by the gate and demands her time at the river.

    There’s a big area with walking trails off the Centennial Trail.

    Bella walking in the woods near Stateline, WA
    Outside the dog park

    This time of year, you can find sprays of wildflowers and Bella can take a dip in the river, like in the image at the top of this page.

    But be warned: there are poop bombs all over the place. Because AUGH.

    3. SpokAnimal Dog Park

    Find it: 330 S A St, Spokane, WA 99224
    Distance from our house: 15.5 miles, 24 minutes from my house
    Poop factor: Pretty OK
    Graffiti wall at High Bridge Dog Park in Spokane
    Bella exploring the Spokanimal Dog Park at High Bridge

    OK, this graffiti wall alone should merit five stars for this dog park near me.

    But …

    This is a big but …

    And I’ve had this chat with a few different members of the community, so I know it’s not just me.

    Getting to this park is sketchy. It’s close to downtown and Spokane is buckling under an ever-increasing homeless population. It’s difficult to feel safe driving through this neighborhood to get to our destination.

    On a narrow street, a car was parked in the lane and a fellow next to it, chatting with the driver. The fellow didn’t move as I approached or drive by, my sideview mirror just missing his elbow.

    Once we got there, the experience at the Spokanimal Dog Park was pleasant enough. There are some neat trails that lead through the woods (and up to the graffiti wall) and the whole space is well fenced.

    I didn’t see a lot of poop bombs even in the large play area where humans congregate to watch their dogs frolic.

    Bella at the play area of the High Bridge Dog Park in Spokane
    Backdropped by the play area

    I remember taking Shep here to investigate dog parks near me shortly after this one, Spokane’s first dog park, opened in 2011. The journey through the neighborhood felt safer then.

    This was Bella’s first trip and more than likely her last. We’ll risk stepping in the poop at Stateline where we feel a little safer, or journey to South Hill for the ultimate experience.

    Etiquette at dog parks

    Here are a few tips to make sure you, your dog, other humans and their dogs have a great day at dog parks near you.

    • Mind your mutt. Keep an eye on where he is and what he’s doing, especially if he’s gone off to drop a deuce.
    • Don’t let your big dog bully the littles. That’s just mean. Those littles can be snarly but that’s because they’re little. They have it tough enough being all the way down there as it is.
    • Don’t let your dog mount other dogs or be too aggressive with the butt sniffing, and know the difference between playing and fighting. “That’s what dogs do naturally” is a bullshit response for you being lazy. Don’t suck as a human.
    • Take a walk. You’re there because your dog needs some exercise. What motivation will he get if you’re just standing around in one place?
    • For Christ’s sake, don’t smoke. And especially don’t toss your butt on the ground. That’s just disgusting.
    • Stay home if your dog is sick, in heat, an unneutered male or unvaccinated.
    • Keep the treats in the car. Food can cause fights. You don’t know whose dog might have aggression problems.
    • Pick up your shit. It bears repeating: Pick. Up. Your. Shit.

    Dogs. Adventure. Outdoors. These words set Angela's heart afire. Angela Schneider, an award-winning writer and dog photographer, documents the story of you and your dog and the adventures you take together. Your portraits will be a statement piece in your home, art that will make your friends and family beg to hear its story.

    8 thoughts on “Off-leash: The 3 big dog parks near me”

    1. Being from the UK dogs parks are a new concept to me, we have park that everyone goes to dog or not and then we have secure dog fields. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your reviews and love your poop factor scale! It is my pet hate too, why do people find it so difficult to pick up their dogs shit?! Poop aside the parks look awesome and I kinda wish we had some here in the UK, guess I’ll have to stick to walking our rural paths 🙂

    2. Love your writing!
      I can tell you in one sentence why – People in my town don’t pick up after their dogs, lack dog park etiquette, understanding of dog behavior, can’t read body language, and are just plain freaking jerks who don’t care about these things. So there you have it. 🙂
      The parks near you look beautiful! I do wonder if any human comforts like shade and tables should be removed from all dog parks to keep the humans from being lazy and socializing instead of paying attention to the dog that happened to ride in the car with them to the park.

      1. Yeah, I think in a lot of ways the dog parks here have been OK because we’ve been a smaller city. As we grow, behaviors are starting to change – for the worse sadly.

    3. Wow, it’s so interesting to see how different dog parks are in other areas! They look really nice – except of course the poop factor and I do think that’s a great idea to add that info into your blog post. I don’t get why it’s so hard, but I can tell you that it does appear to be a hard thing for people to do – watch your dog, pick up when needed!

    4. yep, poop factor is not something I scored on, but fortunately i did not see it as an issue at many of my dog parks

    5. I love your poop factor ratings and I wholeheartedly agree…PICK UP THE POOP PEOPLE! It is indeed not that hard! Lucky Bella to have so many dog parks near you in Spokane!

    6. hello and thank you for your time. I read your article and wanted to reach out on 2 points . 1st your dog Bella. she looks like a great Pyrenees. I also have a great Pyrenees/ bernese Mt dog mix (bailey) she is 2 1/2 yrs old so any tips on socialization would be appreciated. 2nd is the recent problems with lack of dog parks in the area. I have been drawn into the recent discussions of a new dog part on upriver dr and upriver lane.i was hoping I could discuss your views and what you know about this proposal of this spot . thank you. wade A Reiber

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