If you’re thinking about setting up a secure dog walking field you have a lot of things to think about, one of which is just how big an area you should make your facility.
There are dog fields all over the UK varying in size from ½ acre to the largest secure field in the UK which is 26 acres but most commonly dog fields are between 2 and 4 acres in size.
There are a lot of factors that will influence the decision as to how big your dog field will be and we’ll cover these here.
What Land Have You Got?
The most obvious thing that will dictate how much land you dedicate to a dog field is how much land you have!
If you are a farmer or land owner thinking of setting aside an area for secure dog walking, you have the luxury of choosing how big to make your facility. You may have heard from land agents or advisors that 2 acres is the ‘right’ size for a dog field. Whilst the most common size of dog field is around the 2 acre mark, there are lots of reasons to consider bigger or smaller areas and doing a little more research before you commit will give you the opportunity to maximise the appeal, and therefore profit you can expect from your dog park.
If you’re looking to rent or buy land specifically for this purpose, deciding what size is best will not just be down to budget. There is little point chasing after a 2 acre paddock if every dog field in the area is a 2 acre paddock. In this situation, all that you are likely to achieve is to dilute the market, leaving every dog field owner in the area operating under capacity whilst dog field users choose to travel a little further to experience a different environment with their dog.
What is Your Budget?
The likelihood is that by far the most influential factor dictating what size your dog field will be is budget. Whilst a bigger area does not always mean a larger profit, it definitely means greater costs. For this reason, you might argue that you should make your field as small as you think you can get away with, keeping costs as low as possible, and maximise revenue. This is not the right way to go about things to create the best, most robust dog field business.
What you do need to understand are the set-up and ongoing costs of a dog field and consider those against the budget you have available. These are the most basic costs that are linked directly with the size of field you create:
Whether you’re buying or renting land, you pay per acre. If you’ve been looking into sourcing land, you’ll already know that land is pricey! Not only this, the more you buy, the lower the per acre cost, with prices being at their highest for 2-5 acres plots.
Renting land, whilst more affordable for most, comes with a large number of challenges – from gaining support from the land owner to make an official change of use via the planning process (read about that here) to negotiating water tight, long-term contracts for your tenancy. Failure to sort these things out properly in the first place can cause huge problems.
Whether you’re installing your fencing yourself (we don’t recommend this unless you have the right equipment and are very experienced – especially where 6ft fencing is concerned) or you are paying a contractor, your quote will be based on a per metre cost. That includes, installation, wire, strainers and standard posts. The larger the field, the higher this figure will be and with the rising costs across all construction materials and more recently fuel prices, you may have your dog field size dictated by the budget you have to spend in this area.
Maintenance costs of larger fields are usually higher in both time and money.
Daily checks are essential for every dog field and the bigger the area, the more fencing you will have to check and the more ground you will have to cover each day.
Dependent upon your land and vegetation, you may also need to undertake regular mowing and strimming, hedge trimming, tree maintenance, and bush taming.
What is the Local Competition Like?
If you’re going to be a successful dog field owner, you need to assess the competition. That doesn’t mean driving past and having a look. It means booking a session and going along to see what you’re up against. Dog field owners won’t thank me for encouraging this but every sensible person looking to set up a business would cover competitor research when doing their business plan, why not when setting up a dog field?
We visited around 30 dog fields before we even started looking for land and it meant that by the time we came to designing our field, not only did we know what we wanted for our dogs, we also knew what was missing from the market in our area.
Not all fields appeal to all dog owners. Users with highly reactive dogs have to be very selective with the fields they chose, ensuring there are no distractions or triggers around the fields they visit. There are also dogs that don’t chase balls so the interest in a 2 acre flat paddock can quickly wear thin.
There are also fields that are simply too big for some dogs and their owners – elderly dogs that can’t walk far; young dogs that shouldn’t; and people that are less mobile, can all favour smaller, well-manicured fields where access is easy.
Creating a field that is significantly different from those in the area is better for everyone, so if the predominant field type near you is 2 acre mown grass paddock land, you might consider stretching your area to 4+ acres creating more of a natural dog walking environment, or alternatively, a smaller garden turf training field which are always in high demand.
Type of Land
Many farmers and landowners will choose to locate their dog fields on marginal or redundant areas of their property. Hills make fabulous dog fields for many users that have high energy dogs – you can utilise a smaller parcel of land whilst still providing a good area to wear a dog out!
Users will tell you that some interesting 2 acre fields can feel bigger in size than a 4 acre flat paddock so what you intend to create in the paddock by way of interest can have a significant impact on the feeling of space.
More recently some land owners have been using margins to create more natural country walks around large fields with only a small amount of acreage but a much bigger investment in fencing.
There are types of land to avoid, some for practical reasons and some because of appeal, seasonal functionality, or due to protected status or wildlife dependency.
Who Is Your Audience?
Who are you expecting as your customers? This should inform the decisions you make about your field – both dogs and their people. For example, if you are looking to create an exercise and training facility that caters specifically for gun dogs, then the type of land and environment is very important. However, if you are located near an urban area where people have chosen smaller and /or less energetic dogs, then the size of the field is often less important than the access, price and enrichment in the field. You may have been motivated to set up a field through caring for a reactive dog – the size and type of land here is perhaps the most challenging to locate – less than 20% of the fields in the UK are considered truly ‘reactive dog friendly’ by our assessment measures.
This is not a science but you should get an idea of your most abundant audience and gear your facility to suit them.
What Planning and Environmental Constraints Might I Face?
You may well have planning restrictions imposed on you when you are developing a dog field which might influence the size of your field. Here are a few of the things that influence the size of a dog field from a planning and environmental standpoint:
- Proximity to residential property
- Proximity to a watercourse
- Environmental significance of the site and surrounding area
- Historic boundaries or monuments
- Footpaths, bridleways and other rights of way
So How Big Should A Dog Field Be?
A dog field really needs to be of a size that is going to set it up for success. That will be dictated by all the factors mentioned above and many more depending on your location, budget and market. For those financing their dog field business the returns might be more critical than those with access to land and the capital to set up so personal circumstances are very important when deciding how big your dog field should be.
If you’re looking to set up a dog field and you don’t know where to start, or you have questions that you simply can’t seem to find the answers to, please consider booking an ‘Initial Consultation’ via our booking site – you can also find out more about our consultation services here.