With more pets than children, dog services galore and a slew of bars and restaurants that welcome canine friends, Seattle has once again been named top dog in a ranking of the nation’s most dog-friendly cities.
In the study, Rover, a network of dog walkers and pet sitters, partnered with Seattle-based real-estate company Redfin to examine more than 14,000 cities. The rankings were based on the number of dog parks and other amenities in each city; total hours, minutes and distance per walk by each dog walker or sitter on Rover; the city’s walkability score; and the number of times the word “dog” was mentioned in real-estate ads.
Canine companions can bring warmth to a place sometimes derided for being chilly toward newcomers. Subhrajit Debnath said his dog, Echo, a mixed breed, is often a conversation opener.
“I’ve met more people through my dog than any other place,” he said.
Elena Chocano said having a dog forces her to get up, go outside and socialize rather than sitting at her desk all day, which is good for both of them.
“I feel like there’s dogs every place, good parks and a lot of places they’re allowed in,” she said as her year-old labradoodle, Blue, played at a South Lake Union dog park at lunchtime this week.
Chicago, Denver, Manhattan and Washington, D.C., round out the country’s top five pup-loving cities. Portland came in at sixth, San Francisco ninth.
“Our furry family members are part of the fabric of what makes Seattle so great,” said Kristin Sandberg, dog-lifestyle expert at Rover, which is based in Seattle and used by more than 107,000 Seattle pet owners, walkers and sitters.
The city’s ranking got a boost from the ample space it devotes to dog parks. Seattle has 14 off-leash areas on city property.
“Seattleites plan our weekend around our dogs, we spend time at dog-friendly restaurants and bars, host dog meetups and ensure our dogs get a midday walk while we’re at work,” Sandberg said. “It’s been said that our love for dogs is so great that there are more dogs in Seattle than children — yet again proving that dogs are family. While ranking first in the nation for most dog-friendly city doesn’t come as a huge surprise, we’ll gladly wear it as a badge of honor.”
The most popular pooch here is the labrador retriever, a perennial favorite in the Emerald City.
Among the top 20 cities, labrador retrievers and mixed breeds reigned supreme in all but a few locales, with French bulldogs beloved in Manhattan and Chihuahuas in Los Angeles, according to the compilation.
To be sure, not everyone in Seattle is a dog lover, and frustrations can arise for those who fear dogs, dislike them or simply think they ought not be allowed to run wild in off-leash areas, where they can damage native flora.
“It’s a safety issue as well as a cultural phenomenon,” said Ana María Sierra, a clinical psychologist and therapeutic yoga educator who has worked with people to address phobias.
Sierra has said she believes pets should be as well-behaved and polite in public, as children are expected to be.
“Kids shouldn’t be running around rampant and jumping on people, and neither should dogs,” Sierra said. “A healthy fear of animals is perfectly reasonable, and even desirable in some places, and no one should allow their dog to get into other people’s space. It’s unacceptable.”
Dog bites are one of the most common reasons Pacific Northwest homeowners get sued, according to local insurance company PEMCO.
“The good news is that most dog bites are preventable,” PEMCO spokesman Derek Wing said. “The best way to reduce your chances of a homeowner claim resulting from a dog bite is to practice responsible pet ownership. We recommend following tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association, which begin with selecting a dog that’s right for your family, and making sure it receives the right training and regular exercise. “
While Seattle may be as close to doggy heaven as most cities get, local owners have a few requests. It would be nice to have more off-leash dog parks that have real grass, Chocano said, and for restaurants and bars to post clearer signage about how dog-tolerant they are.
Another struggle: Debnath said his dog sometimes seems to expand his social life beyond his memory.
“I meet so many people through my dog,” he said, “but the hard thing is when you remember the dog’s name but not the person’s. And because you’ve already talked to them so much, you can’t ask them again. It’s too embarrassing.”