If you're a dog owner considering a move, don’t forget to keep the needs of your four-legged family member in mind. Without researching the pet-friendliness of a new city or state, you may arrive to find unexpectedly high prices for pet care, limited access to veterinary services, or few opportunities for outdoor adventures, just to name a few drawbacks.
Pawlicy Advisor is all about helping pet parents make the right decision for their pets, their finances, and their families. So, we rounded up some of the best cities to live with a dog in the United States to simplify your search.
Our analysis of over 100 metropolitan areas is broken down by category, so that you can quickly spot the features that matter most to your lifestyle and its priorities.
Click on a link to see the best cities for dogs by each criteria:
- The overall best cities for dogs
- Top 5 cities with lowest vet costs
- Top 5 metros with the most veterinarians
- Top 5 locations with cheapest dog insurance rates
- Top 5 cities with the most off-leash dog parks
- Top 5 areas with the best weather for outdoor activities
- Top 5 places with the most dog-friendly establishments
- Top 5 cities with the highest pet population
- Final Thoughts
The overall best cities for dogs
There are many different aspects that can make a place more or less “pet-friendly”. Five of the most important factors to consider when searching for the best cities for dogs include: affordable pet care, low dog insurance rates, pet-to-people ratio, pet-friendly establishments, and good weather.
Below, we’ve chosen five of the overall best cities for dogs with representation in each of these categories. a winner in each of these categories and summarized the overall best cities for dogs. Click on a link to see other top contenders by that criteria, or read end-to-end for our full analysis.
- Lowest average veterinary costs - Lincoln, Nebraska
- Cheapest dog insurance rates - Evansville, Indiana
- Most dog-friendly establishments - Charleston, South Carolina
- Best weather for outdoor activities - Long Beach, California
- Highest pet-to-people ratio - Temecula, California
Top 5 cities with lowest veterinary costs
Taking care of pets’ health can be very expensive. In fact, a recent study conducted by MetLife Pet Insurance found that one-third of people exceed their budget by $500 whenever they take their pet to the vet.1 This can add up quickly, especially for pets with chronic conditions.
However, vet visit costs can vary drastically depending on a variety of factors, including location. Services are normally priced competitively based on employment rates (how many vets are available in an area), operating costs (such as labor, rent, and equipment), as well as the type of treatment provided.
The five U.S. cities with the lowest vet costs are:2
Services are normally priced competitively based on employment rates (how many vets are available in an area), operating costs (such as labor, rent, and equipment), as well as the type of treatment provided. Typically, vets in rural areas tend to charge less than metropolitan cities because the general cost of living is lower, which impacts the price of most all consumer goods and services.
On a state-wide level, Petplan Pet Insurance found that vets in California, vets in Washington, DC and vets in Hawaii to be the most expensive, where pet parents spend more than $1,500 at the vet on average each year. This is in contrast to states with the lowest average veterinary costs, which are as little as $769 annually for vets in Arkansas and vets in North Dakota.3
Keep in mind that the above averages are based on the cost of standard veterinary care, but unexpected visits to the pet emergency center usually cost substantially more. Without pet insurance, an emergency vet visit costs up to $5,000 in some cases. Fortunately, emergency vets in Mississippi, Kansas, and North Dakota have exceptionally low rates compared to the rest of the country.
Top 5 metros with the most veterinarians
Vet availability can impact the cost of service due to the basic principle of supply and demand: the fewer vets there are available, the greater demand there is, and the more people are willing to pay.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as of May 2020, the five U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest employment level in veterinarians are:4
- New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA
- Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE
- Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD
In addition to cost considerations, an abundance of vet offices in an area means you’ll have plenty of options when searching for local veterinarians and determining which one to choose. If necessary, you’ll have an easy time finding a second opinion or getting a referral to a veterinary specialist.
With a high employment level in veterinarians, you can also narrow your search criteria by distance and see which office is closest to your new house or job, making it more convenient (and therefore more likely) for you to take your pet in for routine checkups. If there’s ever a medical pet emergency and that vet office is slammed, you can have peace of mind knowing there is no shortage of alternative locations where your dog can receive critical care.
Top 5 locations with lowest dog insurance costs
If you’re comparing the best places for dogs, the cost of pet insurance is another important factor to consider. Location has a significant impact on the pet insurance quote you receive, and premium rates can vary by zip code. For example, based on a policy for an 18-month-old dog, the city with the cheapest dog insurance rates is Evansville, IN at an average of $29.71 per month; however, this jumps up to $36.19 for state residents living in the nearby towns of Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.
To account for these discrepancies and present more accurate information, we analyzed average pet insurance costs on a state-by-state level and found the following locations to have the lowest monthly rates* on health insurance for dogs:
In regards to cities with the cheapest pet insurance, note that premiums are typically higher in metropolitan areas than rural ones. This might be explained by the fact that vet visits are usually more expensive in metropolitan cities where the cost of living is higher, in addition to higher population densities increasing the possible risk of pet-related accidents.
*These averages are intended to give you a general idea of the cheapest pet insurance rates; the figures are much more accurate when you look at breakdowns that consider age, breed, and location.
Top 5 cities with the most off-leash dog parks
Many dog moms and dog dads love taking their furry friend to the park, especially large dogs who need plenty of space to run and play. Finding designated areas where dogs can roam off-leash is challenging in some places, but the best cities for dogs will have tons of pet-friendly parks within close reach.
With that criteria in mind, here are the five cities with the most dog parks per capita (per 100,000 residents):6
- Boise, Idaho - 6.3 parks
- Portland, Oregon - 5.8 parks
- Henderson, Nevada - 5.1 parks
- Madison, Wisconsin tied with San Francisco, California - 4.2 parks
- Tampa, Florida - 4.1 parks
Top 5 areas with the best weather for outdoor activities
What good is a dog park that you can rarely enjoy due to persistent bad weather? If you love getting outside and safely enjoying the sun with your four-legged friend, you’ll probably want to know which cities have an ideal climate.
Home to several of the sunniest cities across the United States, California is a clear winner for the location with the best weather. According to the Washington Post, Long Beach, CA takes first place with 210 nice days per year, followed closely by Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco.7 All of these coastal cities are great for dog owners because the persistent maritime influence provides mostly dry days with moderately warm temperatures throughout the entire year (and the scenery isn’t half bad, either!).
Other places where you can find great weather to enjoy with your pup include:
- Seattle, WA - 78 nice days/year
- Portland, OR - 74 nice days/year
- Charlotte, NC - 74 nice days/year
- Atlanta, GA - 73 nice days/year
- Jacksonville, FL - 71 nice days/year
- Las Vegas, NV - 68 nice days/year
Pro Tip: If you and your dog struggle to stay warm and happy during the winter, Southern Arizona — including the cities of Tucson and Phoenix — also scored high on this index for its ideal weather during cooler months.
Top 5 places with the most dog-friendly establishments
Some pet parents like to take their canine companions everywhere they go. If you’re one of them, be sure to research locations that offer the best quality of life for dogs by means of pet-friendly establishments you can frequent.
From beaches dogs can swim at, to pup-approved patio pints, these five cities have the most venues to explore with your dog:5
- Charleston, SC
- Miami, FL
- Portland, OR
- Oxnard, CA
- Honolulu, HI
Charleston, SC is the best place for urban dogs. Charleston tops the list for cities with the most dog-friendly restaurants at 161 restaurants per capita, followed by Miami (119) and Honolulu (75).
Charleston boasts the most dog-friendly breweries at 14 per capita. Close runner-ups are Tampa with 13 and Denver with 12. The city also has the most dog-friendly public beaches (3), followed by Oxnard, CA, and Honolulu, HI.
The only category where Charleston didn’t come out on top is for the city with the most dog-friendly campgrounds. The winner here is Spokane, WA with three dog-friendly campgrounds per capita, followed by Oxnard, Savannah, Honolulu, and Salt Lake City.
Top 5 cities with the highest pet population
What city has the highest population of pets and pet owners? According to 2020 data, the results are as follows:8
- Seattle, WA - 246.67 dogs per 1,000 residents
- Miami, FL - 187.66 dogs per 1,000 residents
- San Francisco, CA - 139.87 dogs per 1,000 residents
- Los Angeles, CA - 91.92 dogs per 1,000 residents
- New York, NY - 71.97 dogs per 1,000 residents
The American Kennel Club of AKC Pet Insurance published statistics on the percentage of households that own dogs and found these cities home to the most dog-lovers:9
- Temecula, CA - 85%
- Scottsdale, AZ - 69%
- Charleston, SC - 68%
- Fort Collins, CO - 67%
- San Diego, CA - 63%
There are many places that earned a well-deserved spot on our list of best cities for dogs. Use these categories to identify the locations with features that matter most to you and your pet. At the end of the day, as long as you show your dog love and care, it won't matter where you live.
- People, “Pet Owners Believe Pets Are As Expensive As Kids” Accessed Dec. 28, 2021.
- WalletHub, “Most Pet-Friendly Cities” Accessed Dec. 28, 2021.
- CBS News, “Sick Pet? Highest and Lowest Veterinary Costs for Cats and Dogs by State” Accessed Dec. 28, 2021.
- BLS, “Occupational Employment & Wage Statistics”
- Vet Naturals, “Top US Cities with the Most Dog-Friendly Establishments: Outdoor Sites”
- Statista, “Off-Leash Dog Parks Per 100,000 residents by City in the US” Accessed Dec. 28, 2021.
- Washington Post, “The United States of Nice Days” Accessed Dec. 28, 2021.
- Coya, "Best Cities For Dogs In 2020" Accessed Dec. 28, 2021.
- AKC, "Top American Cities For People Who Love Dogs" Accessed Dec. 28, 2021.