Helen Keller wrote that the first thing she were to do if she would suddenly regain her vision would be to “look into the loyal, trusting eyes of my dogs… whose warm, tender, and playful friendships are so comforting to me.” We can all sympathize with how she felt. Today, our bonds with our own canine companions are just as strong as that of Keller and Phiz — the Boston Terrier she received from her college classmates at the turn of the 20th century.
So, with how much they can brighten our day, it’s natural that we want our dogs to be happy as can be — and the city you live in can play a big part in that: Being able to walk to a different dog park each week, having a trustworthy vet nearby or being able to afford a larger house for your pet’s zoomies all depends on location.
With that in mind, we set out to rank the best U.S. cities for dog owners and their furry friends based on several metrics, including number of dog parks and veterinarians per capita; park amenities; quality of life index; and average home and apartment size. Check out the ranking below or read more about our indicators in the Methodology section.
Cities in Wisconsin, Idaho & Alaska Home to 3 Best Cities for Dog Owners
Based on our metrics, the best city in which to be a dog parent is Madison, Wis., which earned a total of 65.6 points. Specifically, Madison earned 10 points out of 10 for its large number of vets, with more than 32 veterinarian establishments per 100,000 residents. The city also had the second-highest score for park amenities, while also scoring highly for number of dog parks, apartment size and quality of life. Notably, Wisconsin is one of only 13 states to have an officially designated dog breed — the fairly rare American Water Spaniel — although any breed is sure to enjoy Madison’s strong points.
Up next was Boise, Idaho, with 54.7 points. Boise earned top marks for its number of dog parks, while also faring well in veterinary establishments; life-quality index; and home and apartment size. Nicknamed “the city of trees” thanks to its natural surroundings, Boise is sure to offer plenty of opportunities to give your dog exercise. Plus, the entire state is dog-friendly: In 2019, 58% of Idaho households owned at least one dog.
The home of the Alaskan Malamute also made the list at #3: Anchorage, Alaska, scored well in the park amenities category — thanks to its large number of natural parks. The city also has more than 500 miles of nature and hiking trails, making it a top destination for outdoor pooches. Here, dogs (and owners) who can handle the cold will certainly enjoy exploring the nature around the city.
Great Cities for Dog Owners in Temperate Climates
Not to be outdone, canines and humans looking for milder climates could look toward Arlington, Va., which reached the fourth spot with 53.5 points in total. Arlington scored well due to its high life-quality index, which compensated for its lower scores in other categories.
Another city in Virginia also ranked among the best for dog owners: At #10, Virginia Beach received great scores for apartment size and average number of rooms per house. Similarly, Chesapeake, Va., reached #17 with a total of 44.9 points to tie with Washington, D.C. and Tampa, Fla. Clearly, if you’re looking to get an American Foxhound (Virginia’s official state dog) or any other furry friend, the state offers several quality options for dog-friendly locations.
Meanwhile, Portland, Ore., scored above average for veterinary establishments and average apartment size, while receiving near-maximum points for its dog parks. This brought its total to 52.6 points to earn fifth place. Likewise, Seattle earned 49.8 points, reaching #9 after also scoring well for its number of vets and life-quality index. Surely, if you want to explore the Pacific Northwest with your four-legged best friend, there are several options to choose from!
Alternatively, if you’re looking for an urban location with plenty of parks, Atlanta was among the best-scoring cities in that category, thanks to its average of 11.2 parks per 10,000 residents (the highest on the list).
Best Dog-Friendly Sun Belt Cities
Several cities in the Sun Belt also proved to be destinations with great potential for dog owners. At #6, the highest-ranked among these was Fremont, Calif. The city earned 23.9 out of 30 points for its quality-of-life index, with a high median income and low unemployment. However, Fremont also had other things going for it, such as an above-average score for apartment size and good marks for park amenities.
Two other California cities also made the top 20: San Francisco — the city with the largest population in the top 20 — reached #11 thanks to its high quality of life, while Irvine, Calif., scored well in that category, as well as apartment size, reaching #13 with 46.9 points in total. Irvine also benefits from a large number of nature trails, especially in the nearby Santa Ana Mountains.
On the opposite coast but with similar sunny weather, St. Petersburg, Fla., reached #7 due to strong marks in most categories, with its number of veterinarian establishments per capita standing out. Tampa, Fla., also made the list at #16, with good scores in apartment size and number of dog parks.
Best Cities for You & Your Pet Based on What You’re Looking For
Many cities among the upper echelons of our ranking earned their high scores by doing well in several categories. However, some lower-ranked cities could also be a good option for dog owners and their pets if they’re looking for something in particular.
For example, Henderson, Nev., reached #23 in our ranking with a total of 43.4 points. However, the city earned a maximum of 5 points for its average apartment size of 973 square feet, which is plenty of room for even some of the larger dog breeds. Similarly, while Gilbert, Ariz., and Orlando, Fla., also missed the upper sections of our ranking, they scored near-maximum points for their high average apartment size, as well.
Or, if you’d rather have a backyard to play fetch in, Chesapeake, Va., scored full points for median number of rooms. The average freestanding house here has 6.5 rooms, followed by the 6.3 median in Gilbert, Ariz., and 6.1 in Plano, Texas.
Boise, Idaho, had the most dog parks on the list relative to its population, with 6.3 per 100,000 residents. Not far behind, Portland, Ore., had an average of 5.8 dog parks per 100,000 residents, while Henderson, Nev., had 5.1.
Depending on your dog’s personality and your own preferences, different places might seem more attractive. You could be looking for a location with mild weather and plenty of outdoor opportunities, or a city where your dog has access to the best vets. In any case, what matters most is that we give our best friends the love and attention they deserve.
Check out the full list of 100 best cities for dog owners in the U.S. below:
We ranked the best U.S. cities for dog owners based on our selection of relevant metrics. Only cities with more than 200,000 residents and with complete data available were included. Cities received points for each indicator proportional to how they fared in that metric, with the best-faring city receiving maximum points and the worst-faring city receiving zero.
The number of dog parks (up to 10 points) per 100,000 residents was provided by the Trust for Public Land.
The numbers of veterinary and pet care establishments per 100,000 residents (up to 10 points) were provided by the U.S. Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns program. Data for this indicator was only available at a county level, so the counties that best represented each respective city were selected.
Cities could also receive up to 40 points for their park amenities based on:
- Number of parks per 10,000 residents (up to 10 points). Data provided by the Trust for Public Land.
- Parks as a percentage of a city’s total area (up to 10 points). Data provided by the Trust for Public Land.
- Acres of designed parks per 10,000 residents, excluding natural parks and landscapes (up to 10 points). Data provided by the Trust for Public Land.
- Median air quality (up to 5 points). Data provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Public and private park spending (up to 5 points). Data provided by the Trust for Public Land.
Cities could receive up to 30 points for their life quality index, which included the following:
- Median income for population age 25 and older (up to 10 points). Data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Unemployment rate (inversely proportional, up to 5 points). Data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Median housing value (up to 5 points). Data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Average monthly housing cost (inversely proportional, up to 5 points). Data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Crime rate (inversely proportional, up to 5 points). Data provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and by NeighborhoodScout where unavailable.
Data on average apartment size (up to 5 points) in a city was provided by Yardi Matrix.
The median number of rooms (up to 5 points) per detached single-family house was provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Coworking Spaces in the Nation’s Most Dog-Friendly Cities and More
Coworking is a trend that has taken over the U.S., with entrepreneurs and office workers enjoying the benefits of renting a hotdesk for a short term in an innovative and welcoming space that encourages networking and creativity. If you’re looking to become a digital nomad and sign up with a nearby coworking space yourself, you’ll be glad to find out that many coworking spaces are pet-friendly! Check out CommercialCafe’s selection of coworking spaces in top cities across the U.S., or search for spaces in your hometown on our homepage.