A “Tail” Of Four Dog Parks, Part I: Shaggy Pines

Shaggy Pines 1

In this series I will discuss examples of four types of dog parks:
Part I - Shaggy Pines - a private membership-based park
Part II - Hillcrest Park - a public dog park
Part III - Kruse Park - a public beach that allows dogs
Part IV - Lowell State Game Area - forested state land
Each has its benefits and drawbacks, and I discuss those as well as my experiences taking dogs to each type of park.

Shaggy Pines is a private dog park outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan that was rated the #3 dog park in the country by PETA. “Private” means that membership is required to use the park facilities, and a membership costs some considerable dough. “Gold” membership runs $288 per year, giving your dog access to the park seven days a week during the hours of operation (7am - 9pm). “Silver” is still $228 annually but limits access to weekends only. Neither of these dues include a $39 initiation fee. For those that don’t have a membership (including my dogs), it costs $8 for a day-long guest pass.

So what does all this money buy for your dog? Shaggy Pines features 14 acres of fenced-in land for their customers divided into four sections. The main section has a lighted trail that winds around a central swimming pond. Another section is for small dogs only in case the wee ones are intimidated by larger playmates. Another section is for big dogs only, and a fourth area has a one-mile jogging trail and a large open area for playing fetch, frisbee, etc.

Despite the nice facilities, perhaps the most appealing benefit to Shaggy Pines is that access is controlled. What I mean is that member dogs have to be up to date on their vaccinations, male dogs must be neutered, and all dogs must pass a brief temperament test. While this may seem restrictive to some, what it does is ensure that all dogs at the park are healthy and reduces the risk of playtime escalating into actual fights.

During my two visits on a guest pass to Shaggy Pines I was certainly impressed — the park is well maintained and owners do a good job of picking up after their dogs. The swimming hole serves as the focal point and most dogs can be found chasing each other around the pond. The pond isn’t very large or deep; in fact I saw a St. Bernard wade across the entire thing. Most dogs use the pond to splash and cool off rather than swim anyway.

Shaggy Pines 2

If my dogs became overwhelmed by the commotion or got a little winded, there were plenty of less busy sections of the park to go for a refreshing walk. We never had any problems with overly aggressive dogs or inconsiderate owners, reflecting the benefit of selective admission.

However, one oddity about my experiences at Shaggy Pines was that the human members were rather aloof. It’s not that they weren’t friendly, but nobody seemed interested in chatting or getting to know one another. Normally when I meet folks with their dogs, we usually exchange all the basic dog info: name, age, breed, personality, favorite game, etc. At Shaggy Pines, however, most people I talked to just continued on their way after the basic courtesy of “hello”.

Overall it’s a very nice park and all of the record-checking and park maintenance results in very little worry for dog owners. However, the cost of this security is quite steep given that there are several free options out there such as public dog parks, dog beaches, and undeveloped public lands.

Photos: Amanda Schrauben

6 Responses to “A “Tail” Of Four Dog Parks, Part I: Shaggy Pines”

  1. Rufus and Rufus says:

    WOW. The dog park in Michigan sounds GREAT!!!!!! Too bad at least half of the year is too cold to enjoy it!

  2. EmilyS says:

    Shaggy Pines.. you mean the dog owners are actually more interested in watching their dogs than interacting with people? What a concept! I’d love to go to a dogpark where people actually paid attention to what their dogs were doing (in order to forestall problems). In my opinion, that’s the biggest source of problems, well other than people being absolutely clueless about dogs in general and their dogs in particular… like the guy who let his 12 week Lab puppy be bullied by some big adult dogs because “she has to learn to stand up for herself”. He sneered at my suggestion that what a baby dog needs is to play with nice adult dogs. (not to mention she was too young to be in a public park anyway)

  3. kaefamily says:

    here in Pasadena, CA there is a small public park that also offers two sections separating big dogs and small ones. Of course, we have our shares of dog owners who are too busy finding a date than interacting with their dogs AND owners who think the place is a training camp for their bullying/fighting dogs! Good thing we have cell phone with camera so we can report inconsiderate owners to appropriate park authorities.

  4. Jean says:

    I go to Volunteer Park here in Seattle and the people are snooty but I just want to play with my poodles because they are great fun and we have a good time. When you got toys you must stay allert. I have suffered attacks on my small pets. If my poodles meet some friends I watch their play and not the owners. I am not snooty just responsible small pet owner. I will grab dogs that are being abused by other dogs and do not care with the owners think!

  5. Jean says:

    I see all sorts of pet foods sold. I boil boneless skinless chicken legs, carrots, peas in chicken stock (gluten free from Trader Joe’s) and add 2 tbs. SOLID GOLD BUFFALO DOG FOOD. My picky toy poodles scarf it down.

  6. Samantha says:

    I live in Grand Rapids, MI and know that Shaggy Pines does even more than reported in this article! They have a service where they will travel to local vet offices where dogs are being boarded and pick the dogs up for a romp in the park (for a fee, of course). There are self-serve bathing stations that can be used at the park after a day of play (for another fee, of course). There’s also a sand hill for digging (no extra fee). And in the winter, the snow is plowed off the trails (plus some dogs live for snow!) so year round membership can really be year round. The one catch? You have to be a millionaire to afford a membership!!!

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