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Finding The Great Outdoors in The Big Apple

Much of New York City is dog friendly, in part out of necessity since an estimated 600,000 dogs live with their owners in the city, according to a 2012 report by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. That’s slightly lower than the national average of about 60 percent of households that own a pet, which, as the NYCEDC notes, “you might expect given the city’s tighter living quarters and (that) some apartment buildings still do not allow pets.”

Perhaps the most difficult thing about a trip to a dog show in the nation’s largest city is finding a place to exercise your buddy outdoors where there’s something other than concrete and asphalt. Every dog needs a little fresh air and some turf under his feet during Westminster week, when he’ll spend anywhere from two days to more than a week in the city.

Madison Square Park is within walking distance of the Garden and nearby hotels, and offers fenced “dog runs” where pooches can play off lead, as well as plenty of space where you can walk your dog on a leash.

Madison Square Park is within walking distance of the Garden and nearby hotels, and offers fenced “dog runs” where pooches can play off lead, as well as plenty of space where you can walk your dog on a leash.

The good news is that, along with all those pets in residence, the Big Apple is also home to almost 29,000 acres of parkland, much of it dog friendly. Naturally there are rules to be followed if you’d like to take advantage of the city’s parks during your Westminster visit.

The first is that you’re required to have proof that your dog’s had a rabies vaccination. The second is that, except in designated areas during specified hours, dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet. Third, you must prevent your dog from jumping up on anyone you don’t know, and from chasing birds, squirrels and other animals in the park. Perhaps most important of all, you must pick up after your dog and dispose of the waste in one of the containers provided for this use. Literally thousands of people use New York City parks each day, and everyone has to do their part to keep them clean, pet owners in particular. The city’s parks and recreation department provides a very useful pet owners guide with other tips for getting the most out of a visit to one of its green spaces.

When reading about the city’s parks online, you’ll note references to “dog runs” as spaces where dogs can exercise. That term is somewhat misleading, as you might envision a restricted fenced area, but these are in fact very spacious fenced dog parks. They include a nice pea gravel surface for dogs to run on, attractive landscaping, benches for owners to sit on and a source for giving your dog a drink of water. They’re also lighted, just in case you want to give your dog some outdoor time early in the morning or after sundown.

Getting There

Before I tell you which parks are local to where most fanciers will be, let’s give some thought to how you’ll get there. Several of the parks I’ll tell you about are within walking distance either of the Garden and the hotels nearby, or of Piers 92/94. I know many people will just want to find a natural setting outdoors where they can spend some time with their dogs, instead of walking them on the streets all week, and walking them to and from the parks would be great exercise in many cases.

But you might not always have the time or the inclination to walk to the parks, so it’s good to know that many taxi drivers in the city will carry a person with a well-behaved dog that’s either on a leash or in their arms. According to the City of New York “Taxicab Drivers Rules” Section 2-50 e-7, New York City taxis may refuse to transport a passenger that is “escorting or accompanied by an animal which is not properly or adequately secured in a kennel case or other suitable container.” In spite of this, several websites devoted to New York City note that many taxi cab drivers will transport patrons with pets.

While dogs can be carried on New York City subways, according to Section 1050.9 of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority website, only pets that are “enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers” are allowed, which lets out lots of the dogs that will be going to the Garden. You’ll be better off walking or going by taxi in most cases. None of the above, of course, applies to service animals, which are always allowed on the city’s public transportation.

Parks Near Garden

Parks Closer to the Garden

There are two parks fairly near Madison Square Garden and the hotels where fanciers usually stay. The closest is appropriately named Madison Square Park, located between Broadway and Madison Avenue from East 23rd Street to East 26th. It’s just under three-quarters of a mile, according to Mapquest, from the Hotel Pennsylvania to 26th Street and Fifth Avenue, which will put you on the west side of the park. If you left the Hotel Penn going left out the front doors on Seventh Avenue, walked seven blocks and turned left on 26th Street, you would cross Sixth Avenue; when you reached Fifth Avenue you’d be at the northwest corner of the park. The entire park is dog friendly and also has one of those “dog runs,” a large fenced, gravel area where dogs can run off leash. It’s on the west side of the park at 24th Street, so when you reach Fifth Avenue just turn right and walk down to 24th to find it.

I’d guess that walk, about three-fourths of a mile, would take the average person and dog about 10 minutes, perhaps a bit longer if you’re strolling along and people watching while you walk.

Union Square park is just 1.19 miles from the Hotel Penn. You’d actually pass the southwest corner of Madison Square Park on your way to Union Square if you go left when leaving the hotel, but instead of turning left on 24th go up to 23rd Street and “hang a louie.”(That’s go left.) Go right on Fifth Avenue, take the next left onto 22nd and then the next right on Broadway, and in less than a quarter mile, at 17th Street, you’ll find the northwest corner of this park. To reach the fenced dog area, keep walking down the west side of the park, which is a street called Union Square West, and you’ll find the fenced doggie area at about 15th Street.

Parks Near Piers 92/94

De Witt Clinton Park is literally a hop, skip and a jump from the piers. Located between West 52nd Street and West 54th from 11th Avenue to 12th, it is directly across the West Side Highway from where dogs will be shown Monday and Tuesday during the day.

According to the satellite map I found on Mapquest, at the north end of the piers there is a walkway that crosses over the West Side Highway, which is also 12th Avenue. That walkway will take you to the northern corner of De Witt Clinton Park. I’m told that locally the park is called simply “the Clinton,” and its six acres include two huge fenced dog areas for letting pets run free, as well as lots of paths where you can walk your dog on a leash.

About a half-mile farther north on the West Side Highway is Riverside Park, which has three fenced dog spaces. One blogger at www.dogwalker.com noted that this park’s dog runs are among his favorites in the city. At the 72nd Street entrance to the park there are two runs, one for small dogs and one for large dogs. But aside from these areas where dogs can play off leash, this 330-acre park has lots of beautiful space where you can walk with your dog on leash for an enjoyable outing. The fenced areas are located on Riverside Drive at West 72nd, West 87th and West 105th Streets.

Much of Riverside Park overlooks the Hudson River, and, in addition to three fenced dog runs, includes miles of beautiful paths and trails for walking with your dog.

Much of Riverside Park overlooks the Hudson River, and, in addition to three fenced dog runs, includes miles of beautiful paths and trails for walking with your dog.

Central Park

Central Park comprises 843 acres, or six percent of the total acreage of Manhattan. Bodies of water take up 150 acres, woodlands, 136, and lawns about 250. The park opens at 6 a.m. every morning and closes at 1 a.m., 365 days a year. Lots and lots of dogs and their humans traverse the city’s most recognized park each day.

There are 23 dog-friendly areas throughout Central Park, and you can find them on a map at the Central Park Conservancy website. In many of these areas dogs are allowed to run off leash from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. This might seem odd to people who don’t typically allow their dogs off lead outside their own yards, but in many communities where yards are typically small or absent, residents teach their dogs to come when called and find places where they can be exercised off lead. In Manhattan many owners and their dogs routinely gather in the mornings and evenings to share exercise time for their dogs and social time for themselves. Dogs are, of course, allowed on a leash in these areas 24 hours a day.

There are several dog-friendly areas where dogs must be on a leash at all times, including the Arthur Ross Pinetum, Bridle Path, Cedar Hill, Conservatory Garden, Kerbs Boathouse Plaza, Shakespeare Garden, Strawberry Fields, Turtle Pond Lawn and the Woodlands. The CPC website says that signs are posted throughout the park about what is and is not allowed in specified areas as far as dogs are concerned.

Places in Central Park where dogs are not allowed, at any time, on or off leash, include playgrounds, ornamental fountains, bodies of water and ball fields, which includes the Great Lawn, North Meadow and Heckscher areas. Canines are also prohibited on the Reservoir Running Track, at Sheep Meadow, Lilac Walk, East Green, Elm Islands at the Mall and the Great Hill Glade, and on the sand volleyball court.

Parks Near 92 94

Good Things to Know

Should your dog get away from you in any of these parks, or if you find a dog that’s lost, call 311 to report it. Never allow your dog to drink from park fountains; use only fountains designated specifically for dogs, where available, or carry along a container you can fill from a human fountain.

It’s important that everyone “be good to the grass” by not spending too much time in one area, and by staying off grass when it’s wet. According to the parks department, the lawn is more susceptible to compaction after a rainfall, which can cause the grass to die.

I have to stress again how important it is to pick up after your dog wherever you go in New York City. Be sure you pack poop bags, and dispose of them in the receptacles that the park service has provided. We want to leave the city as clean as we found it when we arrived for Westminster.

It’s great to know that in the city that never sleeps there are outdoor spaces where dogs are welcome, and where man and beast alike can take a walk, enjoy the scenery and get a big dose of fresh air. That’s good for everyone. Enjoy!

Best In Show Daily is your guide to New York for Westminster week. Just in case you have time for a play, we have some suggestions for you. If you’re looking for a restaurant near Piers 92/94, you’ll also find a list of 50 right here.

Written by

Christi McDonald is a second-generation dog person, raised with a kennel full of Cairn Terriers. After more than a decade as a professional handler’s apprentice and handling professionally on her own, primarily Poodles and Cairns, she landed a fortuitous position in advertising sales with the monthly all-breed magazine ShowSight. This led to an 11-year run at Dogs in Review, where she wore several hats, including advertising sales rep, ad sales manager and, finally, editor for five years. Christi is proud to be part of the editorial team for the cutting-edge Best In Show Daily. She lives in Apex, N.C., with two homebred black Toy Poodles, the last of her Foxfire line, and a Norwich Terrier.