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Urban dog runs allow dogs and owners to let loose

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Dog parks of varying size and description abound in many large cities. If you thought city dogs are perpetually deprived of grass, trees and all the other natural wonders, then think again. New York City probably tops the list with 49 designated runs, but San Francisco is a close second with 26 designated play areas. And Chicago is also chock-full of places where an urban pooch can run free.

Major urban parks

New York City’s Central Park does not have an official dog run. Dog runs have historically been opposed by both the Parks Department and the Central Park Conservancy, groups that claim that dog runs are not in keeping with the park’s original 1858 design. Still, dogs are allowed off-leash before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m. in certain clearly marked areas.

There is no fenced-in dog run in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. But it is also arguably one of the most dog-friendly parks around. Off-leash rules are liberal. Dog fountains are equal in number to human fountains. Between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month, a "Coffee Bark" is held in the Long Meadow; coffee, muffins and dog biscuits are served.

Smaller urban runs

Smaller parks also have dog runs, and each has its own culture. Tompkins Square Park, in New York City’s East Village, is known to be one of the roughest. Union Square has a dog run with a tamer reputation. Washington Square Park’s dog run is also reputed to be tame, but even so, owners must take heed. Jill Jarnow, owner of a Wheaton terrier in New York City, said, “I used to take Sally to Washington Square every day where she'd run happily after dogs that were racing around. But one day the two dogs she was following turned on each other and fought in earnest. Somehow Sally got caught in the middle. The noise was horrific and I was terrified for her. The big dog owners ran in and pulled the threesome apart and no physical damage was done. But Sally has hated going into dog runs ever since.”

Ken Silver, who used to bring his mixed-breed, Alex, to Washington Square as well, said that certain aggressive and/or large dogs always put him on the alert. “If I saw a pit bull, I’d snap on the leash and we’d leave,” he said. “It just wasn’t worth taking a chance.”

The dog park vibe 

The vibe at most urban dog runs tends to be one of cooperation. People are expected to  understand dog park etiquette and be responsible for their dog's behavior and lean up promptly after their animals. Owners have been known to chastise other owners who are not attentive to what their pets are doing. Dog owners are very concerned that everyone respects the double-gate rule (only one gate open at a time) because an escaped dog could easily end up lost or killed.

Dog runs can be very social places. Friendships forged at the dog run are extremely common, and there have even been instances in which two dog owners fell in love and married. So it’s worth checking out the local dog run scene, where both dogs and their humans get to meet, mingle and on some happy occasions, form a new, two-dog family of their very own.

To find dog parks in all 50 states, click here.  If you can't find one in your neighborhood you might want to consider starting your own dog park. 

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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