*This article has been updated as of January 22, 2021.
Devoted pet parents across the U.S. often ponder the question: in which communities can our canine pals thrive and prosper most? So much of a dog’s overall happiness rests upon factors like dog-friendly establishments, abundant outdoor spaces, healthy interaction with other dogs, and ample access to veterinary care. Some cities allow Fido to live the American dream, while other cities leave much to be desired.
With overall dog ownership and pandemic pet adoptions on the rise, finding communities that foster our dogs’ physical and mental health couldn’t be more timely. For this reason, the team at Honest Paws ranked 50 major cities around the U.S. against a set of dog-friendly criteria to uncover the best (and worst) cities to be a dog.
Read on to see where your city lands!
To determine the best and worst cities to be a dog, we looked at the nine ranking factors below for each city. We assigned weights to each factor based on their level of contribution towards a dog’s quality of life. Lastly, we calculated the sum of the nine weighted factors, which gave us an overall city score for each city. The highest possible city score was 50.
The factors are listed below with their respective weights and source data:
1. Number of Pet-Friendly Restaurants (Per 100K People)
2. Number of Pet-Friendly Breweries (Per 100K People)
3. Number of Pet-Friendly Hotels (Per 100K People)
4. Number of Pet-Friendly Beaches (Per 100K People)
5. Number of Pet-Friendly Rentals (Per 100K People)
6. Number of Dog Parks (Per 100K People)
Source: City Government Websites & Yelp
7. Number of Employed Veterinarians in the Metropolitan Statistical Area (Per 100K People)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
8. Number of Hiking Trails (Per 100K People)
9. Stance on Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) by State*
Source: ASPCA *When a state is against breed-specific legislation (BSL), this can mean less discrimination against certain breeds like Pitbulls, Rottweilers, and Mastiffs. Therefore, we gave a higher score to cities located in states that prohibit BSL at the state level (meaning the state is against BSL and breed discrimination). Cities located in states that do not prohibit BSL at the state level earned a lower factor score.
The Best U.S. Cities to Be a Dog
One city, famous for its fido-friendly shopping villages and off-leash beaches, emerged as the number one best city to be a dog: Tampa, FL. The waterfront city has 16 dog parks, 52 pet-friendly breweries, and six dog-friendly beaches nearby, with a few allowing dogs to frolic in the water and roam off-leash. Not too shabby for a population size of just over 385,000.
Another Florida city, Orlando, lands the third highest spot on our list, boasting 376 pet-friendly restaurants, 128 pet-friendly hotels, and 530 employed veterinarians within its metropolitan statistical area. What’s more, Hillsborough County (Tampa) and Orange County (Orlando) have not enacted breed-specific legislation, meaning breeds like Pitbulls and Rottweilers are not discriminated against.
With 16 dog-friendly beaches nearby and plenty of vitamin D, San Diego, CA ranks number six on our list. San Diego’s Imperial Beach is home to an annual surf dog competition, where talented pups catch waves either solo or with their owners and proceeds are donated to the San Diego Humane Society.
Widely-known as the outdoorsy dog’s “heaven on earth,” Denver, CO ranks number seven on our list, with 130 hiking trails, 744 pet-friendly apartment/townhouse rentals, and 12 dog parks. Also, Denver’s Crawford Hotel and Hotel Monaco treat their canine guests to a five-star experience, offering luxury amenities like dog beds, “pawdicures”, and even Furbo dog cameras.
Cities like Austin, TX (#15) and Atlanta, GA (#19) make the top 20 due to their high concentration of pet-friendly apartments, townhouses, and homes for rent. In fact, Austin has 2,303 pet-friendly rental property listings – the highest of any other city in our ranking.
The Worst U.S. Cities to Be a Dog
Indianapolis, IN, with a relatively low number of dog parks, pet-friendly restaurants, and pet-friendly hotels in respect to its population size, is the least ideal city to be a dog in the U.S. according to our ranking.
Other cities that landed in the bottom ten include Louisville, KY (#2) where dog-friendly establishments like hotels, breweries, and restaurants are fewer and far between and Milwaukee, WI (#3), which restricts both Pitbulls and Rottweilers due to breed-specific legislation. New York City lands the number four spot on our list of worst cities to be a dog, largely because of poor access to veterinary care and a smaller number of expansive outdoor spaces compared to the city’s overall size.
Cities With the Most Dog-Friendly Rentals, Veterinarians, & Dog Parks
For good measure, we zoomed in on individual ranking factors like the number of pet-friendly rental properties by city, the number of employed veterinarians by metropolitan statistical area (MSA), and the number of dog parks by city (all per 100,000 people).
Atlanta, Orlando, and Austin hold the top three spots for the most dog-friendly rentals per 100,000 people while Raleigh, Denver, and Portland hold the top three spots for the most employed veterinarians per 100,000 people.
Portland, Tampa, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City have the highest number of dog parks per 100,000 people for our four-legged friends. As the second-best U.S. city to be a dog overall, Portland, in particular, is celebrated for its off-leash green spaces and lush nature parks. The Northwestern city has 94 hiking trails nearby, as well as 152 miles of trail, according to Hikingproject.com.
That wraps up our city ranking of the best (and worst) U.S. cities to be a dog. Interested in diving deeper into the numbers for the top 20 cities, or wanting to see how your city stacks up if it’s not listed within the above maps?
We’ve compiled our full data study for all 50 U.S. cities analyzed into this interactive data table. Search for the city you call home or click on the heading of each column to sort by that category!