The 6 Most Dog-Friendly Cities in the U.S., According to a Dog Expert
Pets, and dogs in particular, are important parts of families. For many, factoring pets into the equation when deciding where to live is imperative. According to a 2018 Realtor.com survey, 79 percent of pet-owning homebuyers said they’d pass on an otherwise perfect home if it didn’t meet their pets’ needs. Additionally, a 2017 survey by SunTrust found that 33 percent of millennial Americans decided to buy their first home so their dog could have a yard. So, unsurprisingly for many dog guardians, even where in the country we choose to call home is influenced by how dog-friendly it is.
I should know, since I’m the first to admit I’m dog-obsessed. I’m a Certified Trick Dog Instructor as well as a dog training book author—and I shopped around for a house that was suitable for my two dogs. In my research, I’ve been able to identify some of the best cities in the U.S. for dogs.
To determine the most dog-friendly places to live in the country, I looked at concentrations of dog-related businesses: pet supply shops, trainers, groomers, vets in various areas, as well as public parks that are dog-friendly. I also looked at numbers of dog-friendly restaurants and tried to prioritize cities with a generally mild climate to allow for the most opportunity for being outside with your dog.
I attempted to consider the ease of renting with dogs. Although there aren’t any national studies that examine dog-friendly rentals specifically, Homes.com did a study looking at pet-friendly locales. (As dog guardians know, “pet-friendly” does not always mean welcoming to dogs). Major cities like San Francisco and New York do tend to score well when you consider the number of parks and dog-oriented retailers. But after over a decade of living with dogs and working with dogs in NYC, I couldn’t in good conscience include large cities on the list. Though many dogs do thrive in these urban environments, they are also stressful for our canine companions and challenging places to navigate with dogs.
Before moving to any city, be sure to look into any local pet laws that could impact your family. For example, Seattle has a strict three-pet limit, so if you have a large furry family, it’s not going to be a good fit for you. Similarly, I didn’t include any city that has breed-specific legislation (or BSL) that bans the ownership of any particular breed. This removed cities like Denver and Miami—they’re great cities for most dogs and otherwise would have made this list, but unfortunately at the time of publication, they have discriminatory laws that ban Pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, or any breed or mixed breed that looks like one of these breeds.
Ahead, find the six most dog-friendly cities in the United States.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Perks: Parks, price
This Southwestern city has 33,000 acres of public parks and 400 miles of hiking trails—most of which are welcome to leashed dogs. Albuquerque has an affordable cost of living, which is certainly a perk, as well as a high desert climate that’s perfect for dog lovers who want to explore the great outdoors. Albuquerque also has 181 dog-friendly restaurants for dining out with your dogs, and is home to a large number of dog-oriented businesses from vet clinics to pet supply retailers.
Perks: Dog-friendly shopping, parks
Austin boasts the highest number of dog-friendly city shopping centers in the country, like The Domain, with over 28 places you and your dog can check out for a bit of retail therapy. It also has nearly 500 dog-friendly restaurants, making it the fifth highest in the country. In a SmartAsset study of the 100 largest U.S. cities, Austin came in at number 31 for its concentration of vets and pet stores. Not surprisingly, Austin has fantastic parks and nature preserves that are dog friendly, so if you and your dog make Austin your next home, you’ll have plenty to do.
Perks: Renter-friendly, dog-friendly dining
Looking for a dog-friendly Midwestern city to call home? Sixty-one percent of rentals in Indianapolis are pet-friendly according to that Homes.com study (which, again, unfortunately doesn’t break down differences between rentals that explicitly accept dogs vs. only cats), making it one of the most pet-friendly places in the country to rent. In addition, Indianapolis boasts a wide array of dog-friendly outdoor dining options that are welcoming to dogs, and the city even has a dog visitor’s guide.
Perks: Renter-friendly, Dog-oriented businesses
Considered the most pet-friendly place in the country to rent according to Homes.com, 62 percent of all rental properties in Louisville are pet friendly. The city also prides itself on being welcoming to dogs with a plethora of dog-friendly businesses like and dog-focused businesses including spas, boutique pet retailers, and daycare centers like Dogtopia. Louisville offers a riverwalk park, plus plenty of patio seating at dog-friendly restaurants and wineries. (Here’s a good list of them.)
Perks: Parks, Pet supply retailers, Pet-friendly restaurants
Portland has the second highest number of dog parks in the country, according to SmartAsset. It also clocks as having the sixth highest concentration of pet stores and veterinary clinics in the country. Known for its food cart and dining culture, unsurprisingly Portland restaurants are also very dog friendly, and there are scores of dog-friendly bars. Portland comes in with the seventh highest number of dog-friendly restaurants in the country per SmartAsset, but beware, as the cost of living in Portland can be high.
San Diego, California
Perks: Dog-friendly restaurants, parks
If you and your dog are dreaming of a life on the beach, San Diego might be the city for you. Known for its dog surf contests (yes, really!) the dog beaches in San Diego are unparalleled. In addition to fun in the sun, San Diego is a great place to live if you and your dog enjoy a night on the town. SmartAsset found that San Diego had the second highest number of dog friendly restaurants in the country, and has many dog-friendly shopping centers.