A healthy dog is a happy dog, hence the importance of dog fitness, and as a pet parent, you are your dog’s main motivation to be active. Research suggests that pet parents who exercise with their dogs are more likely to stick to a fitness program— so apparently, our pets motivate us too!
Similar to the health benefits humans experience, consistent exercise with your pet can lower their blood pressure, decrease stress, and improve cardiovascular fitness, but perhaps one of the best reasons to exercise with your dog is to help them burn off all of that excess energy!
Discovering new parks and trails with your best friend is a fantastic way to be active, breathe in fresh air, and surround yourself with nature, and with the growing accessibility to dog trainers and walkers, it has never been easier to to keep your pet active— even when you’re working, out of town, or otherwise busy! But which cities are the most tailored to pet parents that want to keep both themselves and their dog(s) healthy?
To find out, the Special Reports Team at Veterinarians.org developed our own way to rank the 50 most populous U.S. cities by their dog fitness-friendliness. We judged several factors, including:
- Number of Dog Parks (Source: City Websites & Yelp.com)
- Number and Miles of Hiking Trails (Source: HikingProject.com)
- Walk Scores (these measure how good a location is for walking a pet) (Source: Walkscore.com)
- Number of Dog Trainers (Source: Yelp.com)
- Average Dog Walker’s Fee (Source: Rover.com)
- Average Temperature (Source: USClimateData.com)
We then subjectively weighted these factors based on how much we felt they affected the life of a fitness parent and their fitness pup, for better or worse:
- Number of Dog Parks (Per 100K people)
- Weight: 2.00
- Number of Hiking Trails (Per 100K people)
- Weight: 1.50
- Miles of Hiking Trail
- Weight: 1.50
- Average Walk Score
- Weight: 1.50
- Number of Dog Trainers
- Weight: 1.50
- Average Dog Walker’s Fee
- Weight: 1.00
- Average Temperature (in Fahrenheit) Across Season
- Weight: 1.00
So without further ado, here are…
The Top 20 U.S. Cities for Fitness Pups
And in first place, it’s none other than St. Louis, Missouri! St. Louis’ claim to fame is its plethora of hiking trails: It has just over 60 for every 100K residents, which is a better ratio than any other city! The total amount of trails isn’t the only highlight either. St. Louis was fourth in combined hiking trail miles, competing with cities like second place Phoenix and first place Los Angeles, which are much larger in both size and population. St. Louis also came in sixth place for number of dog parks per 100K residents. As for average temperature, walkability, number of dog trainers, and average dog walking price, St. Louis finishes somewhere in the middle of the pack, but its standout hiking and park options earn Missouri’s Gateway to the West the number one spot on our list.
After St. Louis, the west begins to take over, as a major western city sits in every place from second to ninth. Three of these cities are in California alone, and the Golden State actually has two more cities that fall in the top 11 to 20. Los Angeles has a commanding hold on first place in combined hiking trail miles (the city has 2,565 total!), San Diego is tied with both LA and New York City for second place in number of dog trainers, despite having nowhere near as many residents, and basically every top 20 California city lands right around the ideal average temperature of 70 degrees.
Fifth place Portland has the most dog parks per 100k residents by a lot. For perspective, the third-best city in this category is San Francisco, which has 3.43 parks per 100k residents, and the second-best city is Tampa, which has 4.16; Portland has 5.21. Also, only two cities besides these three even pass the three-parks-per-100K-residents mark.
In the top 11 to 20 cities for dog fitness we find heavyweights like San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago. Along with the previously mentioned third place in dog parks per 100k residents, San Fran also boasts the second-highest walkability score (87.4/100), losing only to NYC (88.3/100), which you might remember is also in a three-way tie for second in number of dog trainers. Raleigh, North Carolina is the South’s only representation in the top 20 outside of Florida, and stands out in the average dog walker’s fee category with the fourth cheapest average price.
The 10 Worst U.S. Cities for Fitness Pups
At the top of the bottom, we have Memphis, Tennessee. With the lowest number of dog trainers out of any city on our list and the fourth-lowest number of hiking trails per 100K residents (2.05), Memphis just isn’t where you want to live if running with your dog makes up a large part of your fitness regime. The second-worst city, Jacksonville, Florida, has even less hiking trails per 100K residents (1.16). In fact, this is the absolute lowest number of hiking trails per 100k residents out of any city on our list. Jacksonville also has the lowest walkability score (25.7) out of all 50 cities, and the sixth-lowest number of dog parks per 100K residents. It’s likely only ranked one spot better than Memphis due to it having double the combined hiking trail miles and between five and six times as many dog trainers. Unfortunately for the Volunteer State, Nashville is our third-worst city for dog fitness, meaning that, out of our top three worst cities, two of them are in Tennessee.
One common theme among the bottom ten cities is the lack of dog parks. Every single one, except for Nashville, has less than one park for every 100K residents. The seventh-worst city for dog fitness, Buffalo, is tied with Miami for the lowest combined hiking trail miles (eight) out of any of the 50 cities. Surprisingly, Indianapolis actually has more dog trainers than any other city on our list (332) but likely ended up in the bottom 10 thanks to having the fourth-least dog parks per 100K residents and tying the otherwise dog fitness-friendly Raleigh for the fourth-worst walkability score (30.5).
While dog parents are constantly trying to do what’s best for their animals, like making sure they get plenty of exercise, good choices can never ensure perpetually good health. Pets grow older, or sometimes freak accidents occur. That’s why every dog should have a veterinary practice like One Vet in their corner. With features like our soon-to-launch 24/7 care hotline or completely virtual webcam appointments, One Vet offers a flexible, modern approach to veterinary care that’s guaranteed to cover any and all pet needs. Check out their website for more information.