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Around 70 million US households have a dog, which is roughly more than half of the total households. The ownership of pets has increased even more recently during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number is expected to increase further due to a growing number of people wanting to live away from densely populated areas. Dogs top the list of pet ownership (69 million households) followed by cats (45.3 million), freshwater fish (11.8 million) and birds (9.9 million).
Also known as off-leash parks, dog parks allow owners to socialize and exercise outdoors with their buddy. Dog parks are a special consideration for people who want to enjoy the outdoors without having to leave their pet behind. In addition to the US cities with the most dog parks, this post also ranks cities based on other important factors, including dog-friendly shopping centers, restaurants, concentration of vet offices, pet stores, walkability and so on.
Benefits of Dog Parks
Dog parks are a great way of allowing them to play without infringing on private property, impacting traffic or creating litter on streets. Leash laws tend to become more restrictive as the population grows, limiting spaces where you can walk freely with your dog. Research indicates that dogs encourage their owners to walk more, but they need some space to get to the outdoors without breaking leash laws. Owning a pet is associated with improved mental health, which is why more than 50% of US households own one. Some key benefits of dog parks or designated off-leash spaces include:
- Promotes physical activity
- Promotes outdoors activities and an active, social lifestyle
- Provide opportunities for recreational activities and bring dog lovers together
- Enhanced sense of safety and community living
- A great place to start a conversation with likeminded people
- Help decrease troublesome behavior in dogs
- Underutilized spaces of parks can be put to a better use
- Can be used as a playground to train dogs and familiarize them with different skills
- Help build confidence and muscle strength in dogs
Top 10 US Cities with the Most Dog Parks
According to The Trust for Public Land’s 2019 report, there were 810 operational dog parks in 2019, which is an impressive 42% increase since 2009. This indicates that dog parks are among the fastest-growing amenities across 100 of the largest cities in the US. Many of these dog parks have fenced or marked areas where dogs are free to run and play, while some parks require a license or only allow unleashed dogs at specific times.
New York, NY
With over 50 official dog parks and a total of 145 dog-friendly areas throughout its five boroughs, New York is a great place to enjoy with your buddy. Its parks come in all sizes and shapes, which is a blessing in a concrete jungle. Dog owners are expected to follow the rules and regulations and respect the park and other people.
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco offers 31 designated areas in parks throughout the city for a population of over 880,000. Stats show that there are more dogs in the city than human children. Whether you want to enjoy the beach, visit a beer garden or plan on exploring the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco has got you all covered.
Chicago has 31 dog-friendly areas where dog owners can enjoy the outdoors with their unleashed dog. They need to obtain a permit and a tag before bringing their dog into these areas. Many of these areas offer doggie drinking fountains, trash receptacles and even designated areas for shy dogs.
The city of Portland offers plenty of off-leash programs including 30 off-leash areas, both unfenced and fenced. The city itself has an outdoorsy and laid-back feel, which coupled with its dog parks means you can find one almost in any part of the city. Portland also has the greatest number of dog parks per capita in the whole US. More than 400 dog-friendly restaurants and over 160 shopping malls make the city one of the best cities to live in with a dog.
Boise has 16 dog parks that cater to the needs of its 240K residents. The City of Boise official website lists a number of opportunities for dogs, including 7 off-leash parks and designated trails and 9 off-leash areas that are seasonal/during specific hours. However, dog owners still need to follow some rules and regulations as outlined here. Idaho has the highest number of dog owners in the country with 58% households owning one. That’s why it should not come as a surprise that many believe Boise was built for dogs.
The City of Henderson currently has 19 dog parks, while a few more permanent dog parks throughout the city are under planning. Most of the city’s dog parks are near playgrounds, which is a plus for dog owners who want to bring their kids as well as dogs outdoors at the same time.
San Diego, CA
The city has 16 approved leash-free locations, including parks and beaches. Dog owners are allowed to have up to six dogs per person and pet expenses are more affordable here than most other US cities. Add over 560 dog-friendly restaurants and 8 shopping areas to the equation and you get one of the best dog-friendly cities in the US.
The city has 15 dog parks spread throughout the city as well as over 175 dog-friendly establishments including restaurants and cafes. Many of city’s dog trails are also dog-friendly (leashed), which is perfect for people who want some fresh air without leaving their dogs back home.
City’s 16 dog parks include two beaches and are marked by fencing. It’s also one of the few cities where you don’t have to pay additional pet fees when renting a room. Just make sure your dog does not bark persistently as such dogs can be removed from the premises.
Fidos are free to run and play unleashed inside the boundaries of off-leash areas in Seattle’s 14 dog parks. Its beautiful weather along with over 350 dog-friendly bars and restaurants means you buddy can tag along whenever you feel like getting outside. Outdoors lovers don’t even have to move outside the city to hike, thanks to large parks that also provide hiking opportunities.
Honorable Mention: Pittsburgh, PA
Although Pittsburg only has 8 designated off-leash areas, it offers some rare dog-specific amenities such as a dog water park that has a big swimming pool. The city also allows residents to own twice as many dogs as most other US cities without acquiring any special permits (five per household). The city also allows owners to get multi-year licenses so they don’t have to worry about renewing a license every now and then.
Top 10 Dog-Friendly Cities in the US (Best Overall)
How are Dog-friendly Cities Ranked?
It’s not just about the number of parks where dogs are allowed. To see the bigger picture, we also have to take into account other metrics including:
- The number of dog parks per 100K residents (data source: The Trust for Public Land, 2021 Amenities and Facilities Report)
- Dog-friendly shopping centers where dogs are allowed (data source: BringFido.com, 2021)
- Dog-friendly restaurants (data source: BringFido.com, 2021)
- Vet offices and pet stores: Number of vet offices and pet stores per 10k residents, data source 2019’s County Business Patterns Survey)
- Walk score: Walkability of cities (data source: Walkscore.com, City and Neighborhood Ranking 2020)
- Precipitation: the average number of precipitation days each year, data source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2001-2020 average)
The value for dog parks per 100k residents weighs twice as much as other factors that carry single weighting. The overall score is calculated based on the average ranking of each city, where 100 represents the best score.
- Although Tucson ranks the first, it lags behind other cities when it comes to the number of dog parks per 100k residents
- Tuscan also has an advantage of its beautiful weather with over 350 clear days (on average per year)
- Portland, Oregon has the highest number of dog parks per 100K residents
- San Diego, California (566) and Chicago, IL (570) have the most dog-friendly restaurants in the US
- Austin, Texas has the most dog-friendly shopping centers in the country (28), followed by Aurora, CO (15) and Madison, WI (12)
- Madison, WI (111.06) takes the lead when it comes to the number of vet offices and pet stores per 10K residents followed by Portland, OR (91.32) and Tucson, AZ (86.27)
- Phoenix, AZ (15.5) has the least number of precipitation days per year followed by San Diego, CA (19.2) and Tucson, AZ (22.8)
- Cities with the most precipitation days per year are Pittsburgh, PA (164.2), Portland, OR (163.7) and Cincinnati, OH (141.6)
Dog parks promote a vibrant and active community and spaces that allow pets are sought after for many reasons. Not only do these spaces provide a place for socialization between pet owners and their pets, they also bring like-minded people together and give them a chance to form friendships and bonds based on shared love of animals. Dog parks are a special blessing for people who work long hours. With the number of people owning or wanting to own a dog on the rise, dog parks make a bold statement about commitment of a community to extend the benefits of common spaces.