One major consideration when building or refurbishing a dog park is the type of turf that will be used. Grass has been the standard at many parks but some have taken different approaches.
Grass is probably the most highly used type of turf for a dog park. This requires watering and irrigation in many areas of the country, also mowing and general upkeep. Grass will needed to be reseeded in areas that die due to weather, heavy use, or dog urine. Some dog parks have opted to split the dog run into several areas, allowing one area to rest or be reseeded while the other areas are still open. Bermuda or other tough grasses are used at some dog parks to help with the amount of water needed, as well as, the heavy foot traffic. Alum Creek Dog Park is supported by a group of volunteers that help upkeep the grass at this location and have taken care of drainage and reseeding issues at their dog park. Fontana Dog Park was at one time all grass and was reseeded eventually the local community and city parks department gave up and it is now an all dirt dog park.
Mulch is probably the second most popular ground cover. This is used primarily in areas that have heavy rain with wetness and mud problems. The mulch can be inches thick and easily takes care of most mud issues. Some dog parks have areas in the same park that are mulch and areas that are grass or other types of turf. There are dog parks that get their mulch donated by local tree trimmers. This requires a little work by the dog park community to rake the piles that are typically dumped near the entrance but it cuts the down on the cost. Some dogs and owners do not like the mulch as much as grass because it is bit harder on the feet but the dogs tend to get use to it rather quickly. Scotts Valley Dog Park is a good example of donated mulch that is about a foot thick throughout the dog park; local tree trimmers have access to a gate to dump their mulch and some dog park regulars help rake the mulch around.
Crushed granite or other types of gravel or pea stones are sometimes used to cover an entire park. While some parks use the crushed granite like a track or path around the edges of the park to make walking paths. The crushed gravel does a good job of withstanding heavy foot traffic but can accumulate mud puddles in any dips. Some people comment that an entire dog park of gravel just does not look too appealing. In areas with little rain this is a cheaper solution than trying to keep grass alive. This type of gravel can be seen at Miyuki Dog Park or Joe Wex Dog Park at Peters Park (Friend of Peters Park). However, South Boston Dog Park has gotten a number of complaints about using larger stones with sharp edges at their dog park. Pea gravel gets some of the same complaints as it is much harder to walk and run on than a crushed gravel.
Artificial Turf is another alternative to grass. Usually Astroturf works well on smaller dog parks or sections of the dog park. Jackass Canine Corral has gotten rave reviews as being an ecofriendly alternative by getting recycled artificial turf from a local stadium. It is recommended to still have a sprinkler system and water the Astroturf at least once a week to ensure the urine smell does not build up when it is not raining. There are several vendors that sell and install Astroturf. San Jose City Parks department has many small dog parks throughout the city and several of them now have sections of astroturf. One of the first dog park in the area to get Astroturf was Saratoga Creek Dog Park; this is a shorter blade Astroturf. Miyuki Dog Park and Roy Butcher Dog Park have a longer blade Astroturf.
Sand is sometimes the turf at a dog park. This tends to be a beach location where sand is free or part of the native habitat. There may be other locations that use sand as their turf but I have heard of very few examples. Stapleton Dog Park and Quarry Dog Park are some of the few dog parks that we have encountered that is covered in sand and not on the coast or lake side. We have heard of some dog parks that include a pile of sand just to let the dogs dig in as an amenity of the park.
Other surfaces include concrete, which is usually limited to just making walkways and borders at dog parks. I have yet to hear of an entire dog park of concrete. Snow covers some dog parks for part or all of the year but this is highly dependent on the local weather. And we know of a few dog parks that just also just leave their dog parks to the natural environment like Hamden Dog Park, which is a forest like setting or some prairie like dog parks in Colorado with long grasses.
Overall, the main consideration is what type of climate you have and what the initial and ongoing cost will be in your area for the turf. Heavy rain usually means some type of mulch. Moderate rain means you can probably keep grass alive with little irrigation but without constant maintenance will revert to dirt or mud. Gravel is good for more arid locations but can accumulate puddles if in a very wet climate. Astroturf can be expensive and may only cover smaller dog parks or can be mixed with other sections of turf like gravel or mulch. If you are seaside with sand or in a place covered in snow then your turf is chosen for you.