2023’s Best Cities to Walk Your Dog

low angle shot of 3 dogwalkers walking multiple dogs on leashes through a city park

Taking walks can give you and your pup a new leash on life — at least until the sidewalks end or where cars pose a hazard. 

Which cities offer the most ideal environment for roving with Spot?

To mark National Walk Your Dog Month, LawnStarter ranked 2023’s Best Cities to Walk Your Dog. 

We compared the 200 biggest U.S. cities based on walkability, safety, pup-friendly trail access, and professional dog walking availability.

See how your city stacks pup below, followed by some highlights and lowlights.


City Rankings

See how each city fared in our ranking:

Overall Rank (1=Best)CityOverall ScoreAccess RankQuality RankProfessional Walking RankSafety Rank
1San Francisco, CA59.802115457
2Colorado Springs, CO56.7217424151
3Glendale, CA54.24101213413
4Portland, OR54.162787169
5Oakland, CA53.98103131118
6Los Angeles, CA52.2712614873
7San Diego, CA51.078257244
8Boise, ID50.674686466
9Fremont, CA50.0544164324
10Naperville, IL50.0413617118
11New York, NY49.92181416726
12Las Vegas, NV49.526513125
13Pasadena, CA49.5011455647
14Seattle, WA49.1834117365
15Yonkers, NY48.1554471015
16Chula Vista, CA48.078524689
17Jersey City, NJ47.5216746388
18Boston, MA46.8566108891
19Alexandria, VA46.7511956720
20San Jose, CA46.5937405354
21Scottsdale, AZ46.53155516103
22Anaheim, CA46.3811098677
23El Paso, TX46.36316012918
24Escondido, CA46.1225239678
25Santa Clarita, CA45.9510889892
26Phoenix, AZ45.93333146181
27Salt Lake City, UT45.6393529157
28Torrance, CA45.45194214519
29Orange, CA45.37132452228
30Plano, TX45.3487733411
31Virginia Beach, VA45.3391692615
32Corona, CA45.2129961337
33Hayward, CA44.9193279233
34McKinney, TX44.6813198184
35Fort Collins, CO44.542379892
36Irving, TX44.35883114235
37Washington, DC44.26401940135
38Long Beach, CA44.1610313109104
39Raleigh, NC44.14171026247
40Santa Rosa, CA43.86107707914
41Minneapolis, MN43.753818102127
42Houston, TX43.41206769106
43Fullerton, CA43.36102506652
44Pittsburgh, PA43.35263098128
45Austin, TX43.1514847696
46Oxnard, CA43.08176369531
47Salinas, CA42.67674211276
48Honolulu, HI42.643038144116
49Pembroke Pines, FL42.601911212283
50Miramar, FL42.541891513564
51Chicago, IL42.201362127140
52Richmond, VA42.131293715119
53Philadelphia, PA42.00738165166
54Santa Ana, CA41.941212613870
55Providence, RI41.941823411843
56Waco, TX41.931415212541
57Tampa, FL41.9194416148
58Albuquerque, NM41.81565128193
59Miami, FL41.5551324180
60Huntington Beach, CA41.51158582171
61Grand Rapids, MI41.31438114060
62Frisco, TX41.11161177103
63Roseville, CA40.921121343217
64Henderson, NV40.87601063367
65Peoria, AZ40.8776715987
66Sunnyvale, CA40.84196531936
67Anchorage, AK40.7879471171
68Reno, NV40.61227881132
69Irvine, CA40.41139146386
70Omaha, NE40.35684499131
71San Antonio, TX40.271690160117
72Moreno Valley, CA40.25138757758
73Madison, WI40.186166133105
74Bellevue, WA40.16641252856
75Palmdale, CA40.15551174763
76Buffalo, NY40.051174619449
77Amarillo, TX40.00148862369
78Rancho Cucamonga, CA39.99831433029
79Carrollton, TX39.981461485010
80Arlington, TX39.97999211653
81Savannah, GA39.9215728103108
82Mesa, AZ39.826339137147
83Durham, NC39.73191388485
84Denver, CO39.26278065156
85Lincoln, NE39.213610493102
86Greensboro, NC39.20571152593
87Newport News, VA38.9412710812440
88Rochester, NY38.91717218755
89Eugene, OR38.89597641142
90Fort Lauderdale, FL38.8892482191
91Corpus Christi, TX38.37281445598
92Garden Grove, CA38.341964313242
93Orlando, FL38.31741161177
94Charlotte, NC38.29321516084
95Sacramento, CA38.234411078114
96Syracuse, NY38.221774919351
97Atlanta, GA38.0947649187
98Spokane, WA38.06331268399
99St. Paul, MN38.058261152126
100Tempe, AZ37.93586382161
101Tacoma, WA37.811251358045
102Norfolk, VA37.801691148546
103Chesapeake, VA37.761281635122
104Tucson, AZ37.321154155197
105Dallas, TX37.214287151139
106Bridgeport, CT37.101962018239
107Elk Grove, CA36.99150188357
108Overland Park, KS36.9915110144100
109Riverside, CA36.88621624972
109Olathe, KS36.881001574661
111Murfreesboro, TN36.811049731130
112Laredo, TX36.6613516713912
113Winston-Salem, NC36.451441901801
114Tulsa, OK36.3512685117122
115Grand Prairie, TX36.1615315911525
116Denton, TX36.07145164589
117Oceanside, CA36.061061474886
118Modesto, CA35.879514036110
119Akron, OH35.857559176153
120Fort Worth, TX35.8580124100101
121Bakersfield, CA35.818412775111
122Chattanooga, TN35.793513297134
123Newark, NJ35.6617522199121
124New Orleans, LA35.591099118890
125Milwaukee, WI35.588157178160
126Aurora, IL35.441871545850
127Tallahassee, FL35.274112914174
128Cincinnati, OH35.2653107107162
129Mesquite, TX35.2116614516434
130McAllen, TX34.7819617515616
131North Las Vegas, NV34.6611612117181
132Warren, MI34.6418913617532
133Huntsville, AL34.572413970178
134St. Petersburg, FL34.39134103105144
135Hampton, VA34.2217418110323
136Springfield, MA34.1114283191107
137Paterson, NJ33.801927718597
138Baltimore, MD33.729693157167
139Hollywood, FL33.6818513117136
140Oklahoma City, OK33.5777161106115
141Garland, TX33.5511316811168
142Worcester, MA33.1614712317394
143Des Moines, IA33.0411582184158
144Lexington, KY33.03155118120133
145Fontana, CA33.0017118211938
146St. Louis, MO32.886529179198
147Charleston, SC32.831378812192
148Pomona, CA32.77170113153124
149Chandler, AZ32.771841744274
150Lakewood, CO32.4648153136155
151Vancouver, WA32.4511116974109
152Killeen, TX32.311531959421
153Sioux Falls, SD32.27123137114145
154Stockton, CA32.2412416516380
155Ontario, CA32.1619613314775
156Lubbock, TX32.141631912762
157Jacksonville, FL31.9789100123183
158Joliet, IL31.957217815495
159Salem, OR31.9413315561141
160Aurora, CO31.7970150130159
161Cleveland, OH31.725295197168
162Fort Wayne, IN31.4215917614379
163Knoxville, TN31.354616691165
164San Bernardino, CA31.2469130183154
165Indianapolis, IN30.9439141145184
166Glendale, AZ30.688699150190
167Birmingham, AL30.5456105181186
168Dayton, OH30.5249112170189
169Kansas City, MO30.4350156159175
170Hialeah, FL30.41156120195120
171Toledo, OH30.07143111196152
172Pasadena, TX29.9619318510882
173Mobile, AL29.82180122177149
174Louisville, KY29.7479119158188
175Fayetteville, NC29.6710517167163
176Thornton, CO29.55165186110112
177Fresno, CA29.38162158162146
178Brownsville, TX29.3019519416930
179Nashville, TN29.1597109166194
180Rockford, IL28.73121152161172
181Lancaster, CA28.6718818990113
182Clarksville, TN28.6514919337138
183Columbus, OH28.35120173172143
184Shreveport, LA28.23164160189129
185Cape Coral, FL28.061721985759
186Port St. Lucie, FL27.8417919717427
187Wichita, KS27.7798192141137
188Columbus, GA27.21118180113173
189West Valley City, UT26.92183187126150
190Baton Rouge, LA26.4914017220195
191Springfield, MO26.1518118439179
192Macon, GA25.34152170149185
193Kansas City, KS25.07130179190164
194Detroit, MI24.33173149200170
195Augusta, GA23.66168183168182
196Surprise, AZ23.1316019952123
197Little Rock, AR22.5890142121200
198Memphis, TN21.5678128192199
199Montgomery, AL20.02178196186176
200Jackson, MS10.12186200198196
Infographic showing the Best Cities to Walk Your Dog, a ranking based on access to and quality of dog-friendly trails, professional dog walking availability, and safety

Highlights and Lowlights

Raising the Woof

A big round of a-paws goes to the West. Eight of our top 10 cities — such as San Francisco (No. 1), Portland, Oregon (No. 4), and Boise, Idaho (No. 8) — are in this region. Six are in California, perhaps why Snoop Dogg chose to build his dogghouse in the state.

The West performed paw-rticularly well in our Access and Quality metrics, thanks to numerous high-quality dog-friendly trails.

Naperville, Illinois (No. 10), is the lone exception. Although the Chicago suburb lacks in Access compared with Western cities, it boasts the highest Professional Walking and Safety scores among our top 10 performers.

Ruff Road Ahead

At the tail end of our ranking are mostly Southern cities. Jackson, Mississippi, finished last again this year, while Montgomery, Alabama (No. 199), and Memphis, Tennessee (No. 198), trailed just ahead.

The region is neither the most walkable nor the most accessible to dogs. We didn’t factor in climate, but the sweltering heat of the South can be uncomfortable to a pup’s two-legged companion, too.

As with our top 10, there’s one exception among our bottom 10 cities: Detroit. Motor City, the only city representing the North, appears to still be designed for cars, not people and pups.

Leave It to the Paw-fessionals

If you run out of time or energy to walk Bella, a professional dog walker can yelp you out.

Florida, in paw-rticular, makes it easy to unleash pet parents from dog walking duties. Four Sunshine State cities landed in the top 10 of our Professional Walking category (three of them in the top five). 

Orlando leads the pack in this category, boasting an incredible 1,153 dog walkers per 100,000 two-legged residents. Miami came in second in dog walker access. Fort Lauderdale and Tampa both have slightly fewer dog walkers but fur more affordable rates.

Safest vs. Most Dane-gerous

Some cities stood out in our Safety category. 

Cities like Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Frisco, Texas, scored poorly in Access and Quality but outshined the competition in Safety metrics. These cities boast some of the fewest pedestrian fatalities and lowest crime rates, and they have paw-licies against dognappings.

On the other foot, cities like St. Louis and Tucson, Arizona, offer many highly-rated dog-friendly trails but earned re-pug-nant scores in Safety.

Ask The Experts

Unless you’re celebrity dog whisperer Cesar Millan or a very experienced dog owner, you might not be aware of the right and wrong ways to walk your furry friend. 

To help you avoid ending up on the backfoot and maximize fun time, we turned to a pack of canine experts for tips and insights. See what they had to say below.

  1. What are the three biggest benefits of walking one’s dog for pet parent and pup?
  2. What are the top three most common mistakes pet parents make when walking their dogs, and how can those mistakes be avoided?
  3. What are the three best ways to ensure safety during a walk with one’s dog?
  4. What is your No. 1 tip for making dog walking the best possible experience for both pup and owner?
Dr. Allison Willoughby, DVM
Radiology, Clinical Communication Skills
Angela Taibo, RVT
Gillian Angliss, DVM
Clinical Assistant Professor
Vincent Centonze, DVM
Director of Veterinary Technology
Marc Bekoff
Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary
Wendy K. Kuceyeski, DVM
Program Director and Assistant Professor of Veterinary Science Technology
Stacey Wanous
Veterinary Instructor
Dr. Allison Willoughby, DVM
Radiology, Clinical Communication Skills
Utah State University, College of Veterinary Medicine

What are the biggest benefits of walking one’s dog for both pets and people?

People and pets need mental and physical exercise. For dogs, walking is an important part of a daily routine and helps to keep them fit and provides them with opportunities to explore their environment, use their senses, and get the mental and physical stimulation they need. Walking can also help to prevent boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviors in dogs.

Surveys have shown that over 50% of pet dogs are overweight and anywhere from 45-85% (depending on the study) have a reported behavior problem. Not all behavior problems are going to be cured by exercise, but part of behavior modification includes adequate exercise which will make a behavior problem easier to manage. Walking is one way to allow a dog to use their senses and body to become physically and mentally tired.

Consciously allowing portions of the walk to be “sniffing” will provide mental stimulation while spending the rest of the walk walking briskly allows the human and pet to work their muscles.

For people, walking a dog is a great form of exercise that can improve cardiovascular health, strengthen bones, decrease blood sugar levels, and improve mental well-being. It can also be a social activity, as it provides an opportunity to meet and interact with other people and dogs.

What are the top three most common mistakes people make when walking their dogs, and how can those be avoided?

  1. Not paying attention to their dog: It is important to pay attention to your dog while you are out for a walk, as this will help you to notice any changes in their behavior or body language that may indicate that they are distressed or uncomfortable. If you are not paying attention to your dog, you may miss these cues, which can lead to problems.

    If you have an older dog, it is important to watch for these cues. Older dogs may have joint disease. While we want them to stay active to maintain good muscle tone and receive that mental stimulation, we must watch their body language to gauge their fitness and increase duration incrementally.

  2. Not training your dog to walk on a leash and not using a leash: It is important to use a leash, especially if you are in a public place or an area where there are other people or animals present. Not using a leash can lead to your dog getting loose and possibly getting injured or causing harm to others.

    A dog that constantly pulls on a leash can be frustrating and unsafe for the human. It is important to teach your dog how to walk on a leash properly. This includes teaching them to stay by your side and not pull on the leash. This is easier said than done with some dogs and you shouldn’t be ashamed to seek help from a trainer.

  3. Not building your dog’s fitness gradually: If your dog isn’t accustomed to exercise, you may need to build fitness over time, especially if they are overweight or older. Walking is a safe activity for dogs as it is low impact without sudden stops or turns at speed. Taking easy or moderate walks regularly is better than a “big adventure” that becomes too strenuous for pets and people and can cause injuries.

What are the three best ways to ensure safety during a walk with one’s dog?

  1. Use a leash: As mentioned earlier, using a leash is important for keeping your dog safe and preventing them from getting loose and potentially getting injured or causing harm to others. Make sure to use a leash that is appropriate for your dog’s size and strength.
  2. Stay aware of your surroundings: It is important to be aware of your surroundings while walking your dog, as this will help you notice any potential hazards or dangers, such as traffic, other animals, or items your dog may pick up off the ground.Make sure to keep your dog away from any potentially dangerous situations and stay alert for any changes in your environment. Being aware of your surroundings allows you to create some distance between your dog and the potential hazard before it becomes too exciting. Choose a route that minimizes hazards and annoyances.
  3. Keep your dog up to date on vaccinations and preventive care: Ensuring that your dog is up to date on their vaccinations and preventive care is important for their overall health and well-being, as well as for the safety of others. This includes keeping your dog on a monthly flea, tick, and heartworm prevention regimen, as well as getting them vaccinated against diseases such as rabies, distemper, and parvovirus.

What is your top tip for making walks with your dog the best possible experience?

Focus on building a strong bond with your dog. This can be achieved through consistent training and positive reinforcement, as well as by spending quality time with your dog and providing them with plenty of love and attention.

Dress appropriately –– dogs and humans alike! Not all dogs love cold or wet weather. Some dogs enjoy protective clothing like raincoats or warm sweaters. On the other hand, your long-haired fluffy dog will be unfazed and likely will not enjoy or need clothing.

Finally, be sure to bring along plenty of water and any other necessary supplies, such as waste bags and treats, to make your walk as enjoyable and comfortable as possible for you and your dog.

Angela Taibo, RVT
Bel-Rea Institute of Animal Technology

What are the three biggest benefits of walking one’s dog for pet parents and pups?

  1. The benefit to both pets and parents is the exercise. Stay active. Just like their owners, pets can begin to struggle with weight and arthritis as they age. Walking these “kids” helps keep the owner and the pet in shape.
  2. Socialization is also healthy for both pets and owners. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve made in my neighborhood or at parks while walking my boys. It’s a wonderful way to meet new people. Dogs need socialization to help avoid unwanted behaviors, such as fear and aggression.
  3. Certain breeds have copious amounts of energy and need something to do with that energy. If they are kept indoors for too long, they can begin to exhibit destructive behaviors or anxiety.
  4. I’m adding a fourth benefit because it must be included, and that’s the bond that forms between the animal and human. This helps build trust and strengthens bonds between owners and their pets.

What are the top three most common mistakes pet parents make when walking their dogs, and how can those mistakes be avoided?

  1. Letting dogs off-leash. With the exception of dog parks, dogs should be kept on leash to avoid running out into the streets and potentially getting hit by a car. This also avoids potential scraps with other dogs. Not all dogs want to meet your pet. They’re more comfortable observing from a distance. No matter how well-trained your dog may be, being off-leash can make others uncomfortable.
  2. Allowing puppies to socialize when they aren’t fully vaccinated. I see this all the time. Puppies are fun and are ready to play with any other animal or human they see. However, without proper vaccines, they are at risk of catching various diseases from other dogs. Puppies should not be taken to dog parks until fully vaccinated.
  3. When hiking with pets, it’s not uncommon for owners to allow their dogs to take off and run around –– let them be free. While some hiking areas allow this, keep in mind that the wildlife in the area carries various parasites, or they may be lurking in the brush nearby. Areas with high occurrence of rattlesnakes should have dogs kept on leash to avoid encounters.

What are the three best ways to ensure safety during a walk with one’s dog?

  1. As stated earlier, keep the dogs on a leash. If considering taking your dog to a dog park, make sure your dog isn’t aggressive and will not be likely to attack others.
  2. I find that harnesses and gentle leaders tend to work best for dogs. The old school of thought of using a choke collar or pinch collar has been deemed archaic by some. Larger, more muscular breeds will still drag their owners around even while wearing a choker or pinch collar. The owner becomes more frustrated with the dog who won’t calm down and then are more likely to cause the dog physical harm in their frustration.Gentle leaders which have the collar around the dog’s neck and muzzle allow the owner more control, and the dog is much less likely to cause frustration. Harnesses have been a popular choice with your brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds as they won’t collapse the throat if they pull. They already struggle to breathe; let’s not make it worse.

    Side notes about shock collars –– these collars have been known to activate because of the frequency of a plane or garage door. This leads to severe burns on occasion. Personally, I’m not a fan of those collars for that reason. I believe positive reinforcement is best and can be done correctly using a gentle leader and treats.

  3. Do not walk your dogs if the pavement is too hot. We see constant pad injuries due to burns from hot pavement. Likewise, if after a snowstorm, don’t walk your pet on the icy roads. These roads are obviously cold, but also usually have chemical treatment on them. These can cause chemical burns to the pads. Snow boots for pets can help to avoid this and make for a much safer walk.

What is your No. 1 tip for making dog walking the best possible experience for both pup and owner?

I always carry a small baggie of bite-sized treats. I can reward my boys when they behave well in certain social settings. I can also give them to other dogs who we encounter to promote positive reinforcement. This, of course, is assuming the other owner is okay with their dog receiving the treat, as some dogs have allergies.

If the walks are long, I carry a small container for water since these kids can work up a sweat. In hotter conditions, heat stroke is always a concern so be mindful of weather conditions and choose a time of day that would be safer for both you and your pet.

Gillian Angliss, DVM
Clinical Assistant Professor
Western University of Health Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine

What are the three biggest benefits of walking one’s dog for pet parents and pups?

  1. Pet parents are more likely to engage in physical activity, such as walking, than non-pet owners. This is associated with a lower risk of obesity and improved cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association has even provided a Scientific Statement that describes how pet ownership is associated with the prevention of cardiovascular disease. The physical activity of walking a dog is a key component of this lowered cardiovascular risk.
  2. Walking is also important for your dog’s health. We know that pet obesity is increasing within the United States and that dogs with a healthy body condition (e.g. not overweight) live longer than overweight dogs. Aside from managing a dog’s nutrition, walking provides important physical activity to keep them healthy.
  3. The human-animal bond, something that supports the physical and mental health of people and their pets, is strengthened and supported by our interaction with our pets. Spending this active time with our dogs is mutually beneficial for dogs and their families. People and animals are found to have fewer stress hormones and more positive, connection-related hormones when they engage in these activities together (as compared to people or animals that do not).

What are the top three most common mistakes pet parents make when walking their dogs, and how can those mistakes be avoided?

  1. Not having an adequate leash or ability to manage your dog while meeting other people or dogs. Not all dogs will get along with other dogs and people. Avoid retractable leashes, train your dog to leash walk and respond to your verbal instructions, and always ask other people if it is ok for your dog to meet other dogs and people before allowing the dog to approach. Consider looking into Canine Good Citizen training as described through the AKC.
  2. Not appropriately socializing a puppy. Socialize your puppy appropriately and early to ensure a lifetime of comfortable interactions with other people, animals, and experiences. Puppy socialization needs to occur during a narrow critical period early in life, specifically between 3-14 weeks of age. Socializing your dog appropriately will make walking less stressful and more enjoyable for the pups and their families. Lack of socialization can lead to stress for your pup and perceived behavioral problems (e.g. aggression, submissiveness, fear).https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/socialization-dogs-and-cats
  3. Not cleaning up after your pup. It’s not the most glamorous part of being a pet family, but picking up your pet’s waste is important for animal and human health. Parasites can be spread to other dogs and people through the waste.

What are the three best ways to ensure safety during a walk with one’s dog?

  1. Outfit your pup with an appropriate leash and collar. Avoid retractable leashes that give a false sense of security and keep your dog within 6 feet of you. Certain metal collars can pinch and cause skin problems, so if your dog is pulling, look into other harnesses or leads that help prevent pulling, and train your dog appropriately to use them while walking.
  2. Always communicate with other people before assuming it is okay for your dogs to interact. Ask how their dog is with other dogs and make sure both dogs are on a leash. There is a power disparity if one dog is on a leash and the other is not.
  3. Carefully watch the ground where your dog is walking for food or other trash that your dog may wish to eat. Dogs can ingest food, toxins, or physical objects that will make them sick. I have known more than one dog that had to walk wearing a basket muzzle to prevent them from constantly eating things outside and becoming sick.

What is your No. 1 tip for making dog walking the best possible experience for both pup and owner?

Be present and enjoy the time you have together. It’s easy for us to be busy and feel like these activities are a chore. When you get your pup out for a walk, try practicing some mindfulness to slow the world down and savor the moment. Observe the colors and objects around you, consider the temperature of the air and how it feels, and relish your pup’s enjoyment of the walk.

Vincent Centonze, DVM
Director of Veterinary Technology
Hillsborough Community College, Plant City Campus

What are the three biggest benefits of walking one’s dog for pet parents and pups?

  1. For pet parents, it gives them a chance to exercise and relax.
  2. For dogs, it also gives them a chance to exercise.
  3. It also gives pets the opportunity for enrichment by exploring the environment and possibly interacting with other dogs. Make sure your dogs are fully vaccinated if that occurs, but more on that later.

What are the top three most common mistakes pet parents make when walking their dogs, and how can those mistakes be avoided?

  1. Be careful that your dog does not get overheated. If it’s a hot day, and especially if the dog is overweight or has a heavy coat, the dog may not be able to shed heat the way people can and may get heat exhaustion.
  2. Be careful not to go too fast for your dog. I see many pet parents who are “walking” their dogs while the pet parents are on a bicycle. The dog may not be able to comfortably keep up. Even if you run with your dog, make sure you know the dog’s abilities.

    For example, a Chihuahua has much shorter legs than the person, so while the pet parent thinks that they’re just out for an easy jog, the dog may be running at full speed. Also, the dog needs to sniff and explore its environment, so be sensitive to the dog’s needs and give it time to explore. Remember that the dog’s walk is part of its environmental enrichment.

  3. Use a harness instead of a collar. Tugging on the dog’s neck can cause problems, especially if it’s a dog that’s prone to respiratory issues, such as many brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds. Those breeds already have morphological anomalies regarding their upper respiratory airways, so tugging on a collar is not good –– a body harness is much better.

What are the three best ways to ensure safety during a walk with one’s dog?

  1. Stay on the sidewalk and off streets or busy bike paths.
  2. If you are using a retractable leash, limit the length so that the dog cannot run into the street into the path of a car.
  3. Have your dog vaccinated for the following: rabies, canine distemper, canine parvovirus, canine adenovirus, bordetella, and parainfluenza (two components of “kennel cough”). This is especially important if your dog encounters other dogs –– even “friendly” encounters.It’s also important if you take your dog to a dog park. Remember that not all interactions between dogs end well. If your dog bites a person or another dog, you definitely want to ensure your dog is vaccinated for rabies. You may think that your dog is not aggressive and won’t bite –– and that may be true; however, if the other dog starts a fight and a human tries to break it up and ends up getting in the way of your dog’s defensive snaps, it is still considered a bite.

What is your No. 1 tip for making dog walking the best possible experience for both pup and owner?

Put yourself in the dog’s place and try to be conscious of what the dog may experience during the walk. Also, think about what you’d like the dog to experience. This essentially encapsulates all the above pointers in a nutshell since it involves the consideration of the enrichment and potential health and safety hazards.

Marc Bekoff
Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary
University of Colorado, Boulder

What are the three biggest benefits of walking one’s dog for pet parents and pups?

  1. Building and maintaining a positive social relationship
  2. Physical exercise
  3. Allowing a dog to exercise their senses –– their ever-working nose, ears, and eyes, and having fun. The walks should be for the dogs and shouldn’t be rushed or cut short. You wouldn’t want to be yanked, scolded, or told “there’s nothing there” if you are sniffing, searching for a sound, or trying to see what’s happening around you.

What are the top three most common mistakes pet parents make when walking their dogs, and how can those mistakes be avoided?

  1. They hurry the dog along and don’t allow them to exercise their noses, ears, and eyes.
  2. They yank the dog by a lead and scold the dog for being too slow or disobedient.
  3. They force the dog to walk faster than the dog wants to, as the dog takes what’s happening in their surroundings, familiar or not. Just because a dog has been somewhere countless times, there are still always new things for them to explore and process.

What are the three best ways to ensure safety during a walk with one’s dog?

  1. Don’t yank a dog here and there because it can injure them.
  2. If they’re lagging make sure they’re feeling okay. Just because they’re out on a walk that should be fun doesn’t always mean they’re enjoying themselves –– they may be ill, injured, or simply having a bad day.
  3. Be sure that when they meet another dog, they really want to say ‘hello’ and sniff them. Pay attention to the dog’s personality –– sometimes they want to say ‘hello’ and sometimes they just want to be left alone.

What is your No. 1 tip for making dog walking the best possible experience for both pup and owner?

Be sure you and your dog are on the same page regarding what is happening and yield to what they want –– their walk is for them, not you, so honor what they want, and if it’s not what you want, that’s too bad.

Wendy K. Kuceyeski, DVM
Program Director and Assistant Professor of Veterinary Science Technology
SUNY Canton

What are the three biggest benefits of walking one’s dog for pet parents and pups?

  1. The benefits of physical activity for both the dog and its parents are huge. We know that walking outside daily helps physical and mental health for people, and the same goes for dogs. Imagine if you were cooped up in the house all day, every day, for most of your life. That would get boring pretty quickly. At SUNY Canton, all our dogs housed at the Newell Veterinary Technology Center are walked four times daily. We see benefits for the animals and students alike.
  2. Walking is mentally and physically stimulating for dogs. Dogs that are exercised regularly have less chance of developing anxiety-related behaviors. It’s not just about the physical stimulation, but also the mental stimulation. Mentally stimulation reduces anxiety and can prevent unwanted behaviors. Even just walking a short distance at a slow enough speed to allow for a good sniff can be beneficial for a dog.
  3. Exercise keeps dogs at a healthy weight, and scientifically that is the most important thing we can do to improve longevity and health. Weight-related diseases and injuries are very common in veterinary medicine, and the chances of these issues occurring can be decreased by maintaining your dog’s healthy weight.

What are the top three most common mistakes pet parents make when walking their dogs, and how can those mistakes be avoided?

  1. Dogs need to be in shape, just like we do. You can’t expect an overweight, elderly, out-of-shape dog to get up and walk 5 miles immediately. This can lead to injury. Dogs need an exercise regimen to build up to longer walks gradually.Dogs will often go until they can’t anymore, so it’s imperative that they be exercised at the correct level to start. Speak with your vet about how long or far your dog can walk before you start training.

    Thinking that walking is “all or nothing.” Even short strolls several times a day can be helpful, especially with elderly or unhealthy dogs. You don’t need to be out pounding the pavement for miles to get the benefits of the walk.

  3. Work with your dog on leash-walking or recall for off-leashed adventures before you decide to go for a walk. Join a basic obedience course or look online at videos for ways to be safe in public before you try it out.Also, not all dogs are suited to walking in busy areas with lots of people and other dogs, and that’s okay. Know your dog’s limits and stick to them. Not every person is a social extrovert, and dogs are the same. Some need to be walked in quiet, less-traveled areas to feel safe.

What are the three best ways to ensure safety during a walk with one’s dog?

  1. Walk to your dog’s level of fitness. Don’t overdo it.
  2. Know your dog’s limits and needs. If they get anxious, aggressive, or overstimulated when around other people and pets, walk when it’s quiet or away from crowds.
  3. Have the right gear for a walk. For example, Flexi leashes make it difficult to control your dog and could lead to injury to you or your pet. Some dogs need a body harness to prevent damage to their airways from pulling.Speak with a trainer or your vet to decide what is best for you and your dog. And always carry something to pick up dog feces — it ruins others’ experiences of outdoor spaces when there’s dog poop on the sidewalk or trail.

What is your No. 1 tip for making dog walking the best possible experience for both pup and owner?

Don’t make walking a chore. It’s a time for you and your dog to bond, and a time for you to unwind from a long day and just enjoy the outdoors. Let your dog meander sometimes and let them stop to smell all the good smells the world has to offer.

Stacey Wanous
Veterinary Instructor
Carrington College

What are the three biggest benefits of walking one’s dog for pet parents and pups?

  1. The bond and trust they build with each other
  2. A healthy pet parent
  3. A healthy pet

What are the top three most common mistakes pet parents make when walking their dogs, and how can those mistakes be avoided?

They do not train their pet to properly walk on a leash. Most mistakes can be avoided with proper training.

What are the three best ways to ensure safety during a walk with one’s dog?

Training for both the owner and pet, including behavior training. Also, make certain the pet is properly vaccinated.

What is your No. 1 tip for making dog walking the best possible experience for both pup and owner?

Follow the above recommendations.

Behind the Ranking

For each of the 200 biggest U.S. cities, we gathered publicly available data on the factors listed in the table below. 

We then grouped those factors into four categories: Access, Quality, Professional Walking, and Safety.

Next, we calculated weighted scores for each city in each category. 

Finally, we averaged the scores for each city across all categories. 

The city that earned the highest average score was ranked “Best” (No. 1), while the city with the lowest was ranked “Worst” (No. 200). (Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be No. 200 due to ties.)

MetricWeightingLowest ValueHighest ValueBest
Number of Dog-Friendly Trails20160Highest
Total Miles of Dog-Friendly Trails301,668Highest
Average Length of Dog-Friendly Trails (in Miles)1013Highest
Walk Score41389Highest
Share of Highly Rated Dog-Friendly Trails301Highest
Average Consumer Rating (Out of 5 Stars) for All Dog-Friendly Trails22.74.6Highest
Average Number of Reviews per Dog-Friendly Trail101,457Highest
Dog Parks Quality1193Lowest
Professional Walking
Dog Walkers per 100,000 Residents2341,153Highest
Average Hourly Dog Walker Rate (as % of Average Income)20.01%0.03%Lowest
Pedestrian Fatalities per 100,000 Residents3010Lowest
Crime Index2086Highest
Dognappings Criminalized in State (1 = Yes, 0 = No)101Highest

Sources: AllTrails, Canine Journal, Other LawnStarter Studies, NeighborhoodScout, PetSitter.com, U.S. Department of Transportation, and Walk Score

Pup Quiz

Curious why LawnStarter is writing about the Best Cities to Walk Your Dog? Well, pets are family, and we care for our BFFs (best furry friends). 

To that end, when you’re tiptoe-ing through the tulips, leave Petunia inside. Tulips are one of 28 plants poisonous to dogs. What are the others? Check out the article. 

Do you know why your dog eats grass while on a walk? And is it OK for your dog to eat grass? We’ve got that ground (er, grass) covered, too.

We’re LawnStarter. Our pros will mow your lawn, handle all your outdoor services, and our articles will help keep your pup safe and help you repair any dog urine patches in your own backyard.

Main photo credit: Shutterstock

Richie Bernardo

Richie Bernardo

Richie Bernardo is a managing editor who previously wrote about personal finance and immigration. Philippine-born, Kansas City-bred, and barbecue-fed, Richie enjoys baking, deal hunting, and binging “Ancient Aliens.”