What Does “Dog-Friendly” Mean?
The short answer is any person, place, or thing that is accommodating to dogs and dog owners alike. In the case of a major US city, the term dog-friendly can be applied after consideration of all the factors that influence the dog and dog owner experience. This includes but not limited to: public facilities and awareness programs for dogs, local retail, entertainment, and housing establishments with pet-friendly policies, and access to affordable health care.
Overall, the US is a dog-friendly country. Dogs are the most popular pet, outnumbering cats by a wide margin. Meanwhile, our canine friends perform a variety of functions in society as law enforcement and service animals. Some of the most beloved American icons are dogs—Snoopy, Lassie, and Scooby-Doo at the top of that list. However, some cities are just more dog-centric than others.
We set out to determine which cities have the best of everything for you and your dog.
How We Came Up with Our Rankings
Another short answer is we did the research and compared the cities by a specific and purposeful set of criteria, and then, we started asking questions.
- How many off-leash dog parks does the city have?
- How many people live there?
- What are the leash and licensing laws?
- How many restaurants and cafes allow dogs?
- How many hotels allow dogs? Do they charge a fee?
- Does the city have a dedicated page on their website about dog parks?
- Do rental properties have a bias against pets?
- Is there ample access to health care? Is it expensive?
- What’s the weather like?
…and so on…
Making Good Use of Our Rankings
We also took into consideration the difference between visiting a city with your dog and living in a city with your dog—or dogs, as the case may be. Using search results from housing and hotel keywords, we developed a general metric for determining our Accommodation ratings.
Disclaimer: These numbers are rough estimates and your search experience may vary.
Finding a dog-friendly hotel for a short stay in one of these cities is generally pretty easy; however, long-term residents will need to take extra consideration when looking for a home. So, whether you’re on vacation or thinking about relocation to one of these places, you and your dog will be better off for knowing what to expect in terms of housing and accommodation.
Keep reading for quick summaries of our top 20 picks!
The Top 20 Most Dog-Friendy Cities in 2021:
1. Tucson, AZ
It might not be the first city that comes to mind, but if you’ve got a dog, then Tucson is perhaps the best place to live, or at least to travel to and visit! Here, you’ll find hundreds of miles of winding trails you can hike with your best friend, so long as you keep them on a leash. If you’re looking for a more social experience, you’ll find over 250 places to eat, drink, and mingle that will allow your dog to accompany you.
For travelers, the many hotels that don’t charge pet fees will be attractive; particularly the ones that allow multiple pets and large breed canines. The leash laws here are simple; keep your dog contained on your property and leashed off of it. Licensing fees are affordable, even if pet rent isn’t. The real attraction is the beautiful weather though, which is sunshine more than 350 days of the year!
2. Las Vegas, NV
When it comes to dog-friendly US cities, Las Vegas is right at the top of the list, rated as the second most dog-friendly city in the country. For most, pictures of bright lights and excess come to mind when they think of Sin City. But if you’re a dog lover, you might want to rethink those stereotypes, as this is one city that’s built to accommodate dogs as much as people.
Within Vegas city limits, you’ll find more than 10 off-leash parks where your dog can romp with other four-legged friends. With well over 200 restaurants, pubs, and cafes that your dog can visit with you, you’ll never be left searching for a place where your pup is welcome.
Even the strip allows dogs, though you’ll have to keep them leashed and they’re only welcome from five AM until noon. If you’re traveling, many hotels will allow your dog to stay with you. Many top-of-the-line Caesar’s hotels will even provide dog-specific accommodations in their PetStay rooms with dog bowls, pee pads, and food mats.
3. San Diego, CA
San Diego has no shortage of dogs, and no shortage of dog-centric amenities for you to enjoy with your best friend. Take your dog to the beach for some off-leash fun, or one of the 17 off-leash dog parks. With more than 500 dog-friendly restaurants, pubs, and cafes, you’ll never be short on entertainment or eats that are accessible with your dog in tow.
If you feel stifled by your city’s pet restrictions, you might consider moving to San Diego, where you can keep up to six dogs in a single household. They all have to be licensed, but licensing here is more affordable than in many major cities. However, pet care, pet food, and living accommodations with pets are much pricier than in other places, so expect to pay a substantial amount in pet rent; especially if you have six dogs!
4. Portland, OR
Portland is a city known for its laid-back, outdoorsy feel, so it should come as no surprise that Portland makes the list for most dog-friendly cities. There are 24 off-leash dog parks in Portland, so even if you live in the middle of the city, you’ll be able to take your dog somewhere to run and play. In fact, Portland has the highest number of dog parks per capita in the country! There are almost 150 hotels and short-term rentals that accept dogs across the city and over 400 restaurants and bars that are happy to have dogs visit. The Labradoodle-loving Portlanders have worked to make a dog-friendly city with plenty of things to do.
5. Austin, TX
Dog lovers enjoy Austin because of its dog friendly amenities and environment. With 12 off-leash dog parks and dozens of dog-friendly, popular parks with leash rules, there’s no shortage of fun to be had outdoors. Lakes, ponds, hiking, biking, and picnicking can all be done with your canine pal by your side. If drinks and snacks are more your thing, there are over 500 bars and restaurants in Austin that accommodate dogs. In fact, one of the off-leash dog parks is also a bar!
Austin offers over 360 dog-friendly hotels and short-term rentals, so you should have no trouble finding a place to stay, even if you have a big dog or multiple dogs. If you’re moving to Austin with your dogs, you’ll be in good company. It’s estimated there are almost 200,000 dogs in Austin with a human population of just over 950,000.
6. Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque is loaded with dog-friendly activities and accommodations that help to make it one of the most dog-friendly US cities. You’ll find a total of 14 off-leash dog parks in the area, where dogs can run free with other four-legged friends. With at least 178 dog-friendly establishments, including restaurants, pubs, and cafes, you’ll never have a hard time finding somewhere you can visit, hang out, or eat with your dog in tow.
Additionally, many dog-friendly hotels are spread across the city, making it easy to stay in town when you’re traveling with your best friend. And if you want a little fresh air, you can visit any of the numerous hiking trails that are also dog-friendly, as long as you keep your canine on a leash that’s shorter than eight feet, in accordance with local pet laws.
7. Tampa, FL
Whether you’re looking for an idyllic travel destination to head to with your dog, or you want to carve out your own slice of paradise and start a new life, Tampa is one of the best places to do it if your dog is a top priority. The city is full of places to take your dog and things to do, including two dog beaches and 236 restaurants, pubs, and cafes that will allow your dog to dine with you.
While living in Tampa with a dog is great, traveling here with one is even better. You get all the great benefits of pet-friendly Tampa, minus the extra fees that are included when you rent with a pet. You won’t find it at every hotel, but Tampa has plenty of hotels where you can find pet-friendly regulations that allow multiple pets and big breeds without charging you any pet fees! If Tampa wasn’t on your list of travel destinations, it should be!
8. Chicago, IL
Chicago is a major urban center in the US, known for things like Chicago-style pizza, Al Capone, the Willis Tower, and Sue the T-rex, but Chicago is also a great place to visit with your dog! Chicago has a population of 2.71 people and around 610,600 dogs, meaning there’s 1 dog for every 4-5 Chicago residents. Chicago offers 31 off-leash dog parks including beaches and 131 hotels and rentals that accept dogs, so you’ll have no trouble finding a place to stay and things to do with your dog. The best part is that Chicago has 558 dog-friendly restaurants and bars, so you and your pup can enjoy a slice of Chicago-style pizza together.
9. Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix is the largest capital city in America by population, and it’s also one of the top ten most dog-friendly cities in the country! Despite the high summer temperatures that can exceed 110 degrees, it’s the perfect place for any dog-loving family to live or visit. Just be aware that some breeds that are built for cold climates won’t do as well in the hot Arizona summers. Luckily, respite can be found a short drive north, where the temperatures are much cooler.
In Phoenix, you’ll find 168 dog-friendly establishments to eat and socialize at. You can also visit the 14 off-leash dog parks where your dog can play with other pooches while getting good exercise. Of course, Phoenix is known for its outdoor activities, and there are many for you to partake in with your pup, including hundreds of miles of hiking trails, many wilderness areas, lakes, and more.
10. San Francisco, CA
San Francisco may be known for its steep, curved roads and hippies, but San Francisco loves dogs! In fact, there are more dogs in San Francisco than there are human children. San Francisco offers 37 off-leash dog parks and tons of on-leash dog-friendly areas. There are almost 200 dog-friendly restaurants and bars and over 100 dog-friendly hotels and short-term rentals, giving you a selection of places to eat and sleep. You and your pup can both enjoy a dog-friendly, off-leash beach, visit a beer garden, or go on an adventure to the Golden Gate Bridge and have some professional pictures taken to commemorate your trip.
11. Minneapolis, MN
Just barely missing the top ten, Minneapolis is ranked the 11th most dog-friendly city in the US. Across the city are scattered 13 off-leash dog parks, though they require a special off-leash permit to use. Still, there are at least 187 establishments that will let your dog eat and socialize with you, making this a great city to visit or live in with your dog.
Adoption in this city is quite simple and accessible, so if you don’t have a dog yet, don’t worry! You’ll certainly be able to find one in Minneapolis. Pet care is also reasonably priced and easy to access here. The average cost of pet sitting and pet care is just $12.75 per hour. And if you need healthcare for your pooch, there are dozens of animal hospitals and vets, so you’ll never have to drive more than a few minutes to find help.
12. Sacramento, CA
Sacramento is packed with enough pet amenities to earn it the title of 12th most dog-friendly city in America. Here, you’ll find plenty of off-leash dog parks, 14 in total. There are also plenty of other parks available in the city to allow your dog to stretch its legs without having to go too far.
Whether visiting or looking for a place to call home, you should have no problem finding dog-friendly accommodations in Sacramento. Many hotels allow multiple dogs, with some even accepting big dogs. With just a little searching, you’ll find such hotels that won’t even charge pet fees.
On the other hand, pet rents and deposits at apartments and rental homes are pricier here than in other cities. Licensing fees are cheaper though. And for big families, this city allows up to three dogs and seven cats per household; perfect for pet-fanatics.
13. Seattle, WA
Seattle is a beautiful city with something for every dog and dog lover. The city has 354 bars and restaurants that allow dogs, and some restaurants even allow dogs indoors, which means that your dog can tag along, even on the rainiest of days. There are 14 off-leash dog parks, including one with beach access on a lake. Seattle has large parks with hiking in the city, so you don’t even have to leave the city for some exercise with your dog. The public buses in Seattle allow well-behaved dogs, so even if you don’t have a car, your dog will be able to join you!
14. Boise, ID
Idaho leads the country in dog ownership, with 58% of households in the state owning a dog. Boise, the state’s capital, is considered to be one of the most dog-friendly cities in the nation, with some people even saying that it feels like it was built for the dogs.
For certain, dogs have no shortage of entertainment here. There are at least 15 off-leash dog parks in this small city, so you’ll never have to walk far to find one. And from November to February, all the parks are off-leash parks.
You will need to keep your dog licensed in this city though. This requires a small annual fee, and your dog will need to display its license at all times. Should your dog get separated while you’re out visiting the more than 80 eating establishments that allow canine companions, the license will also ensure that your dog gets returned to you.
15. Denver, CO
Denver is a city famous for its mountain views and laid-back way of life, but Denver is also one of the top dog-friendly cities in the US. The most popular dog breed in Denver is Australian Cattle Dogs, which just goes to show how much the people of Denver love high-energy dogs that will hike and play outdoors. With 12 off-leash dog parks and no shortage of outdoor activities, Denver is the dog-loving outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Denver offers 248 restaurants and bars that allow dogs, many of which offer clean water for dogs and sometimes even dog-friendly snacks. There are 117 hotels and short-term rental properties that allow dogs, so finding a place to stay won’t be an issue.
16. Madison, WI
Wisconsin may be known for beer and cheese curds, but there’s so much more to it than that. Madison is one of the top dog-friendly cities in the country! Dogs are welcome in businesses all across Madison, including bars, restaurants, shops, liquor stores, and even TJ Maxx. There are 9 off-leash dog parks in Madison and plenty of on-leash parks and hiking trails. There are more than 40 hotels and short-term rentals that accept dogs, so you shouldn’t have any problems when it comes to visiting the area. There’s even a short-term rental in Madison that allows dogs and offers a pottery class that your dog can attend with you.
17. Cincinnati, OH
For a city with a population of just over 301,000 people, Cincinnati is a city gone to the dogs. With 40 dog-friendly hotels and short-term rentals, you’ll have plenty of places to choose from to rest your and your dog’s heads at night. There are 9 off-leash dog parks and 123 dog-friendly restaurants and bars in Cincinnati, ensuring your pup will be able to burn off some energy after you enjoy a big meal together on a patio. The Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, has four dog days annually that start off with a pup parade around the field before everyone grabs a drink and a hot dog and enjoys an MLB game. It only seems appropriate for a city with their own MLB team that the most popular dog in Cincinnati is the Labrador Retriever.
18. Long Beach, CA
Long Beach is the quintessential beach town, with rollerbladers, surfers, beach babes, and plenty of dogs. It’s just enough small town to feel welcoming while maintaining the air of drama and fame that comes with the Los Angeles area. There are only 46 dog-friendly hotels and short-term rentals in Long Beach, which doesn’t sound like very many places until you realize that Long Beach is only around 80 square miles. Even more impressive is that there are 11 off-leash dog parks in Long Beach. The top dog in Long Beach is the Maltese, which exemplifies the showy playfulness that exists across the city.
19. Petersburg, FL
St. Petersburg is also known as the Sunshine City, and for good reason. It’s sunny and warm, with year-round temperature highs in the 70-90°F range, but this spot may not be the first that comes to mind when you think of dog-friendly cities. However, St. Petersburg has rapidly become more and more dog-friendly, increasing their dog parks and dog-friendly businesses over the last few years. There are 5 off-leash dog parks in St. Petersburg and 118 bars and restaurants that allow dogs to visit. Don’t forget the beaches all across the area! Finding a place to stay is no trouble with 78 dog-friendly hotels and short-term rentals in the area.
20. Pittsburgh, PA
On the surface, Pittsburgh doesn’t appear quite as dog-friendly as some other major cities, but it is one of the top 20 dog-friendly cities in America for some good reasons. There are some dog amenities here that you might not find elsewhere, including a dog water park with a big swimming pool for your best friend.
Though the city has just seven off-leash dog parks, dogs are welcome in the numerous other parks throughout the city, so long as they stay on leash. But Pittsburgh is a great place for dog fanatics, as this city allows you to own more than twice as many dogs as most cities in the US. Without any special permits, you can keep up to five dogs in one household. Each dog must be licensed, but thankfully, multi-year licenses can be purchased, so you can get one and not think about it again for another 12 years.