For dog lovers, the quality of life of their pets is just as important as their own. Walks aren’t just around the block, but at the nearest state park or along the local beach. Evenings are spent socializing with the community at a local dog-friendly restaurant, while weekend getaways must include the four-legged members of the family, too. And with all of this fun, there absolutely must be top-notch veterinarians nearby.
It was for these lucky pups and the humans who love them that we went on the hunt for the 30 best small towns for dog lovers. We looked at only those towns with populations under 80,000 people, and considered everything from the number of dog-friendly restaurants and businesses, to local places to walk and play, to the number of canine health professionals within easy access.
Asbury Park, New Jersey
There is no doubt that Asbury Park, New Jersey is one of the best small towns for dog lovers. The town can get pretty crowded during the summer months, but in the low season dogs are allowed on the famous oceanfront boardwalk (during the busiest tourism season, dogs are only allowed on the boardwalk in the evenings). There are some dog-friendly beaches, but even more dog-friendly restaurants, including Wonder Bar, which hosts a weekly Yappy Hour during which dogs and humans can socialize and enjoy some tasty drinks (humans) and treats (pups).
Whether summer or winter, Aspen is a dog-friendly paradise, so it should come as no surprise that this Colorado mountain town makes our list of the best places for dog lovers. Much of Aspen’s charming downtown is designed for the enjoyment of people, and by extension, their dogs. Green spaces, benches, outdoor restaurants — they’re all here. There are hiking trails all around, and during the winter, you and your dog can even take a ride up the mountain in a gondola; the first black gondola after a red one is pet-friendly.
Avila Beach, California
Santa Barbara and Big Sur may get all of the credit, but when it comes to the best small towns for dog lovers, we prefer Avila Beach. This charming town located on California’s Pacific Coast offers lots of fun activities for dogs and their people, including the Bob Jones Bike Trail. Leashed dogs are welcome on this easy three-mile paved trail that will guide you through woods and over creeks until you reach the city park (also dog friendly). Walk a little further and you’ll run right into the beach. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed on the beach itself, but a nice boardwalk runs right along the sand line. There are even some dog-friendly restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat.
There are all kinds of things for dogs and their dog-loving owners to do in Auburn, Alabama. Kiesel Park offers a fenced-in, off-leash area for dogs to run and socialize, as well as a garden, pond, and a 2.5-mile trail to enjoy on the leash. And on a hot Alabama day, dogs can accompany their owners to Bruster’s Real Ice for a dog-friendly ice cream cup complete with bone-shaped cookie.
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Bainbridge Island, one of the largest islands in Puget Sound, is an enjoyable and dog-friendly small town located an easy ferry ride from Seattle. Local dogs love the Waterfront Trail, an easy loop that yields stunning views of the island and water. Other pet-friendly trails include the 1.5-mile Eastern Loop and the two-mile Western Loop, both of which meander past historic structures, marinas, parks, and in the case of the former, the beach at Hawley Cove. After a long day of hiking, dogs and their humans love to head to Winslow Way, the picturesque main street where leashed dogs are welcome to join in the restaurant hopping and window shopping.
Dogs (and humans!) who enjoy an active lifestyle will love Butte, Montana! As might be expected for the state nicknamed Big Sky Country, Butte has acre upon acre of open space. In fact, in the surrounding 15-mile radius of downtown, there are a whopping nine square miles of green space. Talk about space to run! The town also enjoys a number of dog-friendly hotels and restaurants, as well as an impressive collection of hiking trails where leashed dogs are welcome.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Located just northwest of Portland, Cannon Beach is a fun beach town that dogs and dog lovers are sure to love! The titular beach is totally dog-friendly and even allows dogs to run free as long as they respond to voice commands. After a long day of playing near the water, dogs and their humans are a common sight in the town’s picturesque downtown.
Carmel is easily one of the best places for dog lovers! Indeed, this charming small town loves its animals! Just steps from the center of town is a mile-long stretch of beach where dogs that respond to voice commands are welcome to be off leash. Carmel’s many historical sites all allow dogs in some capacity, while the picturesque downtown area is lined with pet-friendly restaurants and businesses, including some that are just for dogs!
There’s no doubt that Cody, Wyoming — the “Gateway to Yellowstone” — is one of the best small towns for dog lovers. Downtown Cody has several pet-friendly restaurants, while visitors and local history buffs are welcome to take their dog on the trolley that follows a 22-mile route around the town. Nearby Yellowstone National Park may not be very pet-friendly (leashed dogs are allowed in public areas only), but there are plenty of local parks and trails that are.
Located near the “Four Corners” of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico is Durango, a great small town for dog lovers. This quaint little town has a very inviting downtown, though local dogs likely prefer the many surrounding hiking trails. Starting near Durango’s main drag is the Animas River Trail, a seven-mile paved pathway with great views. Nearby, the San Juan National Forest offers dozens more trails, including the trailhead for the 483-mile Colorado Trail which runs between Durango and Denver. If hiking isn’t your thing, check out Durango Dog Park, five acres of land that includes an off-leash area.
Flower Mound, Texas
Located not far from Dallas and Fort Worth — both of which are fun dog-friendly cities — is Flower Mound, Texas. The town puts a major emphasis on the proper care and health of its canine residents, and offers an impressive selection of vets, trainers, groomers, rescue groups, and doggy daycare providers. And since healthy dogs need plenty of exercise, the town boasts dog-friendly public parks, fenced-in dog parks, and lots of walking trails.
Galveston, Texas is an historic Victorian town that’s well-known for its dog friendliness. The small town’s downtown area is lined with dog-friendly restaurants and businesses, while the downtown’s seawall makes for a great walk on the leash. But any local dog lover will tell you that the place to be is the beach. Galveston has a whopping 32 miles of dog-friendly beach and unlike so many other beach towns, dogs are welcome near the water year round.
There’s a ton of fun to be had in Glasgow, Kentucky! Located in the southern part of the Bluegrass State, Glasgow boasts 80 square miles of green space for dogs to play. The neighboring town of Bowling Green offers Glasgow residents a welcoming dog park, while nearby Mammoth Cave National Park has repeatedly been called one of the most dog-friendly destinations in the country, offering dogs and their humans campsites, lakes, hiking trails, and more.
Nearly 3/4 of the county where Grayling, Michigan is located is owned by the government — a major selling point when it comes to choosing the best small towns for dog lovers. In Grayling alone, there are acres upon acres of fields and other open-spaces that dogs can enjoy. In summer, many Grayling residents bring their dogs with them to hunt or hike, while winter time means cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just playing in the snow.
This adorable small town frequently makes “best of” lists, and now it can add “best small town for dog lovers” to its impressive resume. Leashed dogs are welcome to walk with their humans through Holland‘s downtown, where they can stop at a number of pet-friendly restaurants and other businesses. When it’s time for some exercise, dog owners can choose between a walk on the gorgeous campus of Hope College or a slightly longer drive out to the shores of Lake Michigan, where dogs can climb the sand dunes or laze on the beach.
Kennebunkport, Maine is a yet another great small town for dog lovers. The fact that this charming town loves its dogs is evidenced by the sheer number of dog-friendly restaurants and amenities. Speaking of food, Kennebunkport is home to Maine Foodie Tours’s Doggy and Me Tour, during which humans and their dogs grab tasty treats from five local dog-friendly restaurants. Additionally, there are a few dog-friendly beaches closer to the water.
There are more than 20 dog-friendly public parks in Lewiston, Idaho — need we say more? We will anyway. Within 15 miles of town, there are seven square miles of open green space perfect for a dog to kick up his heels and run. For some more structured outdoor activities, dog owners can take their leashed pets to the Kirkwood Historic Ranch to partake in hiking and picnicking.
We’d bet that some of the happiest dogs and dog lovers call Marblehead, Massachusetts home. The charming and historic small town has miles and miles of stunning coastline that make for the perfect backdrop for a morning walk or even some play time on the beach. Just outside of town is Chandler Hovey Park, which one local dog lover calls “a little piece of heaven on earth.” The park welcomes well-behaved leashed dogs and their humans, and is a great place to walk, picnic, or just relax with some water views.
McCall is a great place for dogs and their owners who love the great outdoors! The town is surrounded by national forests, though trips to the lake are undoubtedly the most popular getaways for local dog lovers. North Beach, the lake’s largest sand beach, welcomes dogs in the water or in canoes, as well as on the many nearby hiking trails. Back in town, the waterfront is a perfect locale for an evening walk, while lots of pet-friendly restaurants and businesses can be found downtown.
Nantucket, Massachusetts is incredibly dog friendly and a great small town for dog lovers. Whether you’re fortunate enough to live here or are just visiting, chances are your dog need not leave your side very much. There are quite a few dog-friendly restaurants and businesses in town. When it’s time for some exercise, Nantucket boasts tons of pet-friendly beaches, many of which are large and semi-secluded, as well as interesting places to walk such as Milestone Cranberry Bogs.
Port St. Joe, Florida
This small town on Florida’s Forgotten Coast was named the Best City for Pet Travelers a couple years ago, and it’s easy to see why. Port St. Joe has tons to enjoy with the four-legged members of the family. Start at the BayWalk, a gravel trail that will guide you past stunning bays of the view to the marina, where pet-friendly restaurants make for a tasty lunch spot. After exploring the cute downtown, head to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, located just a little more than a half hour away. Here, you can enjoy dog-friendly campgrounds, picnic spots, and nature trails.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is one of those dream addresses, especially if you’re a dog lover. This small town is extremely dog friendly, and offers quite a few restaurants, shops, parks, and even campsites that welcome dogs. Any of Rehoboth Beach’s unguarded beaches are dog-friendly, as are the many pathways and trails around town. There are even dog-friendly events like Rehoboth Beach Bandstand’s “Cinema by the Surf,” a family-and-dog-friendly outdoor movie experience held during the summer months.
Rocky Mount, North Carolina
Rocky Mount, North Carolina is the type of place where anyone with a dog is going to receive a warm greeting. There are tons of dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, and businesses in town, plus a wide selection of local pet supply stores, veterinarians, doggy day cares, and dog rescues. To have some fun with your dog, check out Rocky Mount’s many parks, trails, and waterways that both you and your dog are sure to have a blast visiting.
Rocky Point, New York
This hamlet town located on Long Island’s North Shore is a great place for dog lovers. According to Bring Fido, there are seven dog parks within just a few miles of downtown — not bad for a town of only 14,000 people. For active dogs with active owners, there are six separate places to hike nearby. After a long hike, or for those who are just more interested in relaxing, Rocky Point and the surrounding areas have an impressive number of dog-friendly restaurants, including the Long Island Beer Company Tasting Room.
Stow, Ohio is chock-full of great dog-friendly amenities, but local dog lovers will likely agree that Bow Wow Beach takes the cake. The beach is 7.5 acres of fenced-in area that dogs of all sizes can enjoy. Dogs can choose to climb the grassy knolls, run along the sand beach, or even go for a swim in the three-acre dogs-only lake.
Dog lovers will love living in Stowe, Vermont all year round! The town offers an impressive number of dog-friendly restaurants and businesses, including a resort where dogs and their humans come from all over to be pampered. For some exercise, local dog owners head to Stowe Recreational Path, a 5.2-mile paved walking path that yields stunning views. Not into hiking? That’s okay. Closer to Stowe’s downtown is Stowe’s Quiet Path, a lovely green space where dogs are allowed to run off leash.
Telluride is a stunningly beautiful Victorian mountain town nestled in the Rocky Mountains somewhere at about 8,800 feet above sea level. Not surprisingly, it’s incredibly dog friendly and has tons to offer local dog lovers, including lots of hiking spots. Located a hop, skip, and jump away from downtown is the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls, and from here it is easy to catch the River Trail, which leads to the Idarado Trail. Don’t worry, the trails end eventually, but you’ll see plenty of beautiful mountainscapes and aspen trees in the meantime.
Tombstone, Arizona is a fun and historic Wild West town that is mighty proud of its dogs! The small town has dozens of attractions and local businesses that welcome dogs, including the Bird Cage Theatre, stage coach tours, tours of the old mines, trolleys, and restaurants like Brenda’s Chuckwagon. And that’s not even the half of it! After a long day of exploring and having fun, dogs can stop into T. Miller’s Tombstone Mercantile for a doggy ice cream cone topped with a biscuit.
Wolf Trap, Virginia
This stunning small town located just outside of Washington D.C. is well known for its strong arts community — and it’s dog friendliness! The town’s main park area is a great place to walk a dog, with plenty to see and sniff. Wolf Trap, plus the nearby towns of Arlington and Reston, have dog community groups where dogs and their humans get together regularly to socialize at a nearby park or other dog-friendly amenity.
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
This small town which is part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks is incredibly pet friendly, and a great place for dog lovers. Ask any local dog owner to describe a perfect day in Wrightsville Beach, and he’d likely tell you about the local beach, where leashed dogs are allowed on the sand from October through March. Though dogs aren’t allowed near the water during the busy summer months, the local 2.5-mile paved trail known as “The Loop” makes for a pretty great alternative. And the perfect end to that perfect day? That would likely be a stop at The Trolley Stop, a famous local restaurant famous for its hot dogs.
Interested in more dog-friendly destinations? Check out 30 Best Dog-Friendly Destinations in the Northeast.