2021’s Best Dog Park Cities

dog leaping in grassy field with guy in background

Dog parks can be a real treat for your pup — and for you: While Fido runs around and tussles with pals, you get a chance to rub elbows with fellow dog lovers.

But you won’t find pooch-friendly green spaces in every city, and if you’re lucky to, they won’t all be up to snuff. 

That’s why LawnStarter rounded up 2021’s Best Dog Park Cities, by ranking nearly 100 U.S. cities based on access, quality, and climate factors. 

More specifically, we looked at the number of dog parks in each city, average visitor ratings, and historical weather data so you and your canine companion can enjoy the best time.

Check out our ranking below. You’ll also find highlights, lowlights, and top-dog tips from experts. (July is National Lost Pet Prevention Month, by the way, so keep an eye on your pup at the park.)

Table of Contents

City Rankings 

See how each city fared in our ranking:

OVERALL RANKCityOverall ScoreAccess RankQuality RankClimate Rank
1San Francisco, CA83.975478
2Oakland, CA83.419348
3Portland, OR81.826915
4Boise, ID78.0512145
5Fremont, CA76.4811778
6Henderson, NV76.1137219
7Norfolk, VA75.3445522
8Long Beach, CA74.8318593
9Chula Vista, CA74.0824881
10Tampa, FL70.9455826
11San Diego, CA70.7745871
12Las Vegas, NV70.1778319
13Arlington, VA68.47102331
14Anaheim, CA68.3672244
15Sacramento, CA68.18137413
16San Jose, CA67.3248948
17Riverside, CA66.8972784
18Irvine, CA66.4984634
19Los Angeles, CA66.08915012
20Seattle, WA65.16208614
21Santa Ana, CA65.0994374
22Bakersfield, CA64.49187617
23Albuquerque, NM63.58131333
24Madison, WI62.8379193
25St. Petersburg, FL62.57157226
26Chesapeake, VA62.1204722
27Stockton, CA61.24481716
28Jersey City, NJ61.1123258
29Washington, DC60.1225031
30Lexington, KY59.422955
31Boston, MA59.13243742
32New York, NY58.91272543
33Pittsburgh, PA58.6156475
34Colorado Springs, CO58.13271853
35Chandler, AZ58312836
36Fresno, CA57.3359618
37Denver, CO57.29242871
38Tucson, AZ57.15318035
39Durham, NC57.05312851
40Scottsdale, AZ56.29403736
41El Paso, TX56.01663325
42Glendale, AZ55.93405436
43Corpus Christi, TX55.7572244
44North Las Vegas, NV55.34588319
45Virginia Beach, VA55.25725522
46Minneapolis, MN55.24273587
47Miami, FL55.23528128
48Anchorage, AK55154096
49Nashville, TN54.8440680
50Greensboro, NC54.61485046
51Atlanta, GA54.55587430
52Winston-Salem, NC54.45582146
53St. Paul, MN54.4435787
54Des Moines, IA54.42351086
55Buffalo, NY54.3758179
56Austin, TX54.23356561
57Raleigh, NC54.22456951
58Aurora, CO54.21452071
58Lubbock, TX54.2158559
60Irving, TX54.13404364
60Orlando, FL54.13486550
62Gilbert, AZ53.98585536
63Phoenix, AZ53.66664736
64Charlotte, NC53.44784234
65Reno, NV53.29406576
66Lincoln, NE53.15341195
67Baton Rouge, LA53.0252489
68Chicago, IL52.55521983
69Mesa, AZ52.34844336
70Jacksonville, FL52.32726549
71St. Louis, MO52.25309584
72New Orleans, LA52.23586956
73Kansas City, MO51.99583577
74Columbus, OH51.94661180
75Toledo, OH51.9366785
76San Antonio, TX51.68528262
77Baltimore, MD51.58782560
78Philadelphia, PA51.54845948
79Milwaukee, WI51.42781374
80Detroit, MI51.02529257
81Oklahoma City, OK50.95841573
82Louisville, KY50.87529070
83Houston, TX50.78661691
84Hialeah, FL50.69948528
85Tulsa, OK50.4778392
86Dallas, TX50.38844064
87Memphis, TN50.37724582
88Fort Worth, TX50.3912564
89Arlington, TX49.83787864
90Plano, TX49.67915064
91Cincinnati, OH49.36352897
92Wichita, KS48.94665993
93Newark, NJ48.71945954
94Cleveland, OH48.57788878
95Garland, TX48.31944664
96Omaha, NE46.34849390
97Laredo, TX35.16849762
Infogram showing the Best Dog Park Cities in America, based on number of dog parks, average dog park rating, amount of sunshine, and more

Highlights and Lowlights

San Francisco: Leader of the Pack

The Golden City exerts its dominance over the rest of America’s dog-park hubs as our No. 1 Best Dog Park City. 

Dogs are clearly man/woman’s best friends here: Pups (purportedly) outnumber childrenhuman children, that is — in San Francisco. So it’s only natural that the city would devote so much green space to one of its largest populations. In fact, the Golden City outranks 92 other cities in number of dog parks per 100,000 (two-legged) residents. 

Couple that stellar performance in Access (No. 5) with its balmy climate (No. 8), and San Francisco easily earns its half-point edge over Oakland to snag first place overall. This city takes puppy love to a whole new level.

West in Show

San Francisco isn’t the only western city to steal the spotlight in our ranking. Four other California cities, along with Portland, Oregon, at No. 3, Boise, Idaho, at No. 4, and Henderson, Nevada, at No. 6 claim the other spots in the top 10. 

How did the West win the race? California’s biggest cities ride high on their Mediterranean-type climate — ideal for comfortable, year-round visits to the dog park. Boise, Portland, and Henderson, on the other hand, boast the three highest numbers of dog parks in the country when adjusted for population size. 

Live with your canine companion in one of these cities, and you’ll raise one spoiled pup. 

Texas Cities in the Doghouse

The Lone Star State’s biggest cities finish in our ranking with their tails between their legs. At No. 41, El Paso is tops among Texas cities. 

Austin lands at No. 56 but compensates with pup-friendly outdoor spaces like restaurant patios and off-leash trails and creeks. Meanwhile, Dallas slips into 86th place, but it features Mutts, a dog park with a restaurant serving treats for dogs (and adult beverages for owners) — for a cover charge.

Unfortunately, five land in the bottom 10, including Fort Worth, Arlington, and Plano in 88th to 90th places, respectively, and Garland in 95th. Laredo comes in dead last.

What accounts for their poor showing? Lack of access to dog parks is largely to blame. For Laredo, it’s also poor average park quality — the poorest, in fact, among the cities we measured. Bad, Texas!

Quality: A Mixed Doggy Bag

When it comes to quality, no single region dominates either extreme of our ranking — though you could argue that that region is the eastern half of the U.S., but even that’s debatable.

Making up the top 10 of this category are Buffalo, New York, at No. 1; Tulsa, Oklahoma, at No. 3; and Nashville in sixth place, to name a few. St. Paul, Minnesota, and Toledo, Ohio, tie for seventh position.

At the low end are Louisville, Kentucky, at No. 90; Detroit at No. 92; and St. Louis narrowly escaping the bottom of the barrel by two places at No. 95. Only a couple California cities — San Jose (No. 94) and Fresno (No. 96) — rep the West on this side of our ranking.

In these cities, climate and quantity aren’t important — it’s all about a pawsome experience.

Ask The Experts

Not well versed on dog-park etiquette? We fetched some do’s and don’ts — and other helpful advice — from a pack of animal and leisure experts. See what they had to share below.

  1. On-leash, off-leash, or no dog park: What’s the best way to find the right playground for your pup?
  2. What are the pros and cons of mixing dogs of all sizes in an off-leash dog park or play area?
  3. What are the three golden rules of dog parks that one must never break?
  4. What benefits, if any, do dog parks provide to dog owners themselves?
  5. Some people are opposed to dog parks, arguing that dog parks gentrify neighborhoods and take space away from traditional green spaces that all residents can use. What’s your take?
  6. What are three fresh ways that dog parks can be improved?
Sherry Colb, C.S.
Wong Professor of Law
Courtney Lynd Daigle, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Animal Behavior and Welfare Laboratory, Department of Animal Science
Kimberly Ange-van Heugten
Associate Professor of Teaching, Animal Science
Sherry Colb, C.S.
Wong Professor of Law
Cornell University

On-leash, off-leash, or no dog park: What’s the best way to find the right playground for your pup?

Different dogs have different needs.

Some prefer the company of people and feel nervous around other dogs. For them, a leashed walk around town may be the best option.

Other dogs love to run around and wrestle and socialize with other dogs. For them, a dog park is crucial, unless they live in a multi-dog household.

It is always important to attend to your dog’s signals when you decide whether to go to a dog park.

What are the pros and cons of mixing dogs of all sizes in an off-leash dog park or play area?

I don’t think the dogs’ sizes matter all that much. Large dogs will deliberately handicap themselves to play with a much smaller dog. The process is very sweet actually because they don’t use their superior strength and size against their friends.

Some dogs are aggressive and have a difficult time interacting with other dogs. Being on a leash can exacerbate this problem, so it is worth finding out in a safe environment how your dog reacts to different situations.

Having a leash on your dog at a dog park is generally a bad idea because dogs will naturally become more aggressive when they see that everyone else is free to run around and they are stuck.

What are the three golden rules of dog parks that one must never break?

Three golden rules of dog parks:

  1. Pay attention to when your dog does his or her business, and pick up after him or her immediately. Otherwise, because of the density of traffic at the park, someone will inevitably end up stepping in your dog’s business or another dog might end up eating it, both of which are disgusting and your fault if you did not pick up.
  2. Pay attention to whether your dog is becoming aggressive with another dog so you can intervene before a fight begins.
  3. Pay attention to everything happening at the dog park so you can help out if other dogs get into trouble. The dog park is not a place for you to sit back, relax, and read the newspaper.

What benefits, if any, do dog parks provide to dog owners themselves?

Dog parks give dog moms and dads an opportunity to socialize with people who share something in common with them — a love of dogs and a knowledge of the agonies and ecstacies of having a dog in the family.

Some people are opposed to dog parks, arguing that dog parks gentrify neighborhoods and take space away from traditional green spaces that all residents can use. What’s your take?

I disagree with that view. I have seen dog parks in different kinds of neighborhoods. Because so many people have dogs, it is a space that gets used a lot more than most spaces. Also, even people who don’t have a dog often enjoy watching the dogs have a wonderful time with one another.

What are three fresh ways that dog parks can be improved?

Three fresh ways to improve dog parks:

  1. The park should have bags supplied by the city so no one has an excuse for failing to pick up after their dog.
  2. There should be a composting program so the dog waste can be used to fertilize area soil instead of just going into landfill.
  3. The ground of the dog parks can be covered in pebbles rather than grass or soil so the park continues looking good even after lots of dogs have used it.
Courtney Lynd Daigle, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Animal Behavior and Welfare Laboratory, Department of Animal Science
Texas A&M University

On-leash, off-leash, or no dog park: What’s the best way to find the right playground for your pup?

Visit the park first without your dog. Take some time to observe the dogs, their owners, and the facilities and infrastructure of the park itself. A park that has aggressive dogs, poop, or inattentive owners are red flags.

You want to make sure that the park has adequate fencing, separate play areas for large and small breeds, and that the environment is clean and safe.

The size and capacity of the dog park may influence whether this park is good for your dog. Larger parks will inherently have more dogs, so if large groups of dogs are intimidating, then you may want to go elsewhere or go at off-peak hours.

What are the pros and cons of mixing dogs of all sizes in an off-leash dog park or play area?

Exposing dogs to a diverse group of playmates increases their sociability (aka “their ability to get along with others”).

Smaller dogs may be at increased risk of injury when playing with larger breeds, simply because one is so much larger than the other. Further, large breeds may perceive smaller breeds as prey, rather than playmates.

Therefore, it is important to understand your dog, their level of socialization, and their breed’s disposition toward small, fast-moving animals.

What are the three golden rules of dog parks that one must never break?

  1. Dogs that are unvaccinated, under 4 months of age, aggressive, injured, ill, or in heat should stay home.
  2. You are responsible for your dog — from poop to behavior. Pick up after your dog, and ensure they are playing well with others.
  3. Make friends, but don’t share your water. Dogs are more likely to get sick if they drink from the communal water bowl.

What benefits, if any, do dog parks provide to dog owners themselves?

Dog parks provide an opportunity to socialize for dogs and humans. Dog parks provide us an opportunity to spend time outside with animals. Whether you have a dog or not, spending time in a dog park can be fun and rewarding.

Some people are opposed to dog parks, arguing that dog parks gentrify neighborhoods and take space away from traditional green spaces that all residents can use. What’s your take?

In most scenarios, balance is key. Humans have a long relationship with dogs, and dog ownership is typically associated with increased physical and mental health.

Developing infrastructure that benefits both dogs and humans can be viewed as a win-win. However, these societal advancements shouldn’t be accompanied with a complete elimination of traditional green spaces.

What are three fresh ways that dog parks can be improved?

  1. Dog-friendly furniture and agility play for all sizes of dogs
  2. Shade and seating for the owners and the dogs
  3. Handwashing stations
Kimberly Ange-van Heugten
Associate Professor of Teaching, Animal Science
North Carolina State University

On-leash, off-leash, or no dog park: What’s the best way to find the right playground for your pup?

Dogs parks are only as successful as the demand from the people who visit them. In my opinion, the more enforcement of the rules, the better. Accidents are somewhat common at dog parks for both dogs and people, and thus we need to focus on community safety.

I believe an off-leash park is possible but not for dogs new to a park. Perhaps the best idea is to have an off-leash park for visitors who have accessed the park for 20 visits or more without an incident and on-leash for those who are newer (while they better learn their animals and their own ability to control their animals). This requires enforcement and someone controlling the guidelines, and not all communities are willing to support their parks to this level.

Parks should require local standard vaccinations and parasite preventatives, as well. Large parks should pay for attendants to ensure rules are followed, and while I know this is unpopular, it keeps the animals safe.

What are the pros and cons of mixing dogs of all sizes in an off-leash dog park or play area?

I do not think it is only the size of the dog that matters. Yes, smaller dogs can get more hurt with boisterous play or “fights,” but some small dogs can be very dominant and aggressive and “start” fights.

As I noted in the prior comment, I believe it is familiarity that helps. If dog parks could be divided into a few different sections more easily with paid monitors (for large parks), it helps.

Large and small dogs can be owned by the same people and get along very well and enjoy the parks together. People need to know their animal and know their reactions to keep everyone safe.

What are the three golden rules of dog parks that one must never break?

  1. Leave your phone or social media device in your car. Your animals deserve your time, and unattended animals are the ones that either get hurt or cause problems.
  2. Know your animal. If they do not enjoy crowds, people, or other dogs, do not take them to a dog park. It is kind of silly that I have to say this, but it happens. The owners want to socialize so they take their animal when it is not in the animal’s best interest or a positive experience for the pet. Just like people, some dogs want socialization and some do not.
  3. Do not spread disease. Do not go to a dog park that does not require local recommended vaccinations and parasite control. Also, if you know that people are sharing dog-park keys or passcodes, report them or stop going to those parks. Safety for everyone requires people to follow rules. This, of course, means people should not go to parks if they themselves are sick.

What benefits, if any, do dog parks provide to dog owners themselves?

Animals definitely help people socialize. While people may not acquire a dog for this reason, dogs can definitely provide a social network for their owner. Dog parks allow people with similar interests to mingle when they may not normally interact. Thus, dog parks can decrease loneliness and encourage exercise.

While I believe this is all true, I just caution that animals and people can get hurt in dog parks if they are not alert and that people need to remember that the dog’s needs should come first when it comes to visiting dog parks.

Some people are opposed to dog parks, arguing that dog parks gentrify neighborhoods and take space away from traditional green spaces that all residents can use. What’s your take?

I don’t think this is an easy question to answer because dog parks and their value definitely differ by where the park is built and what their rules are. On-leash dog parks, for example, do not limit anyone from attending and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Also, over 50% of American households own a dog, and thus taking space for people to interact with their animals makes natural sense. Also, the more people can go outside with their animal, the more they will get exercise — a “win win” for everyone.

I believe that making dog parks more about community will help this question, though — that just because you go to a park with your dog doesn’t mean you cannot jog there or fish or do other activities (depending on the size and area of the park). The more welcoming, the better.

What are three fresh ways that dog parks can be improved?

  1. Make rules that make sense for the community the park is in (not all parks need the same rules), and do not be afraid to enforce the rules. Having funds that allow for someone to monitor and enforce the rules makes sense. If this enforcement is a volunteer or nonprofit position, then often the rules do not get followed.
  2. Ask the community what they want before the dog park is opened. Find the funding source, and make sure the rules make sense — all before the park opens. Is it just a gathering place, or will other activities be allowed? Make sure that animal scientists, behavioral specialists, and veterinarians are consulted. Remember: Dog parks should focus on the dog.
  3. Make it fun and educational, and allow families. While the park is more about the dog, it should be something the family can do together.

Methodology

We ranked 97 U.S. cities from best (No. 1) to worst (No. 97) based on their overall scores (out of 100 possible points), averaged across the weighted metrics below.

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. ValueBest
Access
Dog Parks per 100,000 Residents305.7Max. Value
Quality
Average Rating for Dog Parks204.58Max. Value
Climate
Average Monthly Rain (in Inches)10.455.2Min. Value
Average Monthly Percentage of Sunshine1085Max. Value
Average Number of Very Cold Days20192Min. Value
Average Number of Very Hot Days22169Min. Value

Sources: BringFido, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and The Trust for Public Land

Main Photo Credit: elbud / www.shutterstock.com

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