Pups wanna get out and about. Take our four-month-old Golden Retriever puppy, for example. She will tear up and down stairs. She will run circles after her tail. She would do Parkour in our living room if we let her. When we take her off her leash outside she goes crazy. Good crazy. But we live in the city of Pittsburgh and unlike my parents’ Golden Retriever who has nearly 40 acres to romp in, Mae Belle has a tightly controlled reign of the sidewalks.
So we went in search of off-leash places to play and we happily discovered that Pittsburgh is a pooch-friendly place. From green spaces to PNC Park, there are lots of things for dogs to do on or off-leash.
Although dogs are welcome in most city parks and green spaces on a leash, there are several designated dog areas in city parks where you can take your pup for some fun off-leash playtime:
Frick Park was the first park in the city to have an off-leash exercise area (OLEA). Dogs run free in two fenced-in areas near Blue Slide Playground and pup and owner can meander the trails for a nature experience. Take Tranquil Trail, which winds through the valley and along the creek, crossing at a place where your dog can splash around. If a cool down in the shallow water isn’t enough, go for a dip at Hot Dog Damn — the swimming hole just for dogs — located near Lower Tranquil Trail.
Riverview Park has a fenced-in OLEA that sits on the hill just below the Allegheny Observatory. Not only can your canine friend run free here, but there are hills for running up and down and trees for circling. It’s a great workout for both of you. You can also head off down one of the trails and follow it deep into the woods where the many birds, deer and squirrels will provide entertainment for your four-legged friend. You might even run into a horse and rider.
Located on 25 rolling acres of Franklin Park is Misty Pines Dog Park, and it’s well worth the $6 per dog to play for an hour or two. Playground areas abound—specific for big dogs, small dogs and even one for puppies. And for those canines itching to get wet, let them run off the dock and jump into the dog pond. Along with dog training, pet boarding, doggie daycare and grooming services, Misty Pines will rent out spaces if you want to throw your dog a party.
Venture up to Olympia Park on Mount Washington for some higher elevation exercise. Following a controversial decision on where to relocate the dog park, there is a newly re-opened and fenced-in dog run. If your dog has excess energy to burn, choose one of the trails nearby.
The Carnegie Dog Park recently underwent improvements thanks to an Eagle Scout project. This long, grassy fenced-in area is ideal for throwing and retrieving and you’ll find plenty of balls left behind for that purpose. Trees provide shade for owners who often congregate as they watch their dogs run around and the park beyond is good for walking your dog. Check out the very cool Pitcher Park, one of the best skateboarding parks around.
Downtown Pittsburgh added a dog park after this original article was published. It’s a small, grassy, fenced-in space with river views located at 901 Ft. Duquesne Blvd.
Highland Park’s off-leash area is perfect if you have smaller dogs and you worry about them getting trampled by the big ones. The dog area is separated into two parts—big and small dogs. It’s typically pretty bustling with dogs, so if yours is social, it’s a great place to spend some time. Note: depending on the weather and the last time the maintenance crew has come through, the ground may be mostly dirt or mulch. Your pup leave a little messier than usual, so it’s a good idea to bring some clean up supplies.
Readers weighed in to offer more suggestions: Bellevue DogsWoods Park in Bellevue Memorial Park is much loved by residents and others and they offer Small Dog Social on Sunday afternoons. According to their Facebook page, the park features open areas for dogs to run and play, as well as natural wooded areas, a separate area for small dogs (under 25 lbs.), a small pond and a small agility course.
There’s an off-leash, unfenced area in Allegheny Commons near the Aviary. In Monroeville, there’s Heritage Dog Park , a “very large fully fenced area with shaded areas” located at 2364 Saunders Station Road, Monroeville. The park offers water, benches, chairs and picnic tables. In Bridgeville, check out Fairview Park for off-leash frolicking.
It should be noted that you cannot let your pup run free at Point State Park but for any creature who likes to people watch, there’s plenty to see such as boats, runners, boot-campers, Segway tours, and, of course, other dogs. On a hot day, sit near the fabulous fountain and catch a misty breeze to cool off. Dogs love it!
Ponds and hikes aside, if your pup needs some grass and all you need is a bench, there are plenty of places to go. Hartwood Acres is another county dog park, like South Park, that has a large area, pick-up bags, and in the warmer months, a water pump.
The Bernard Dog Run in Lawrenceville, the result of a four-year community effort to open an off-leash area, has separate large and small dog spaces and can be accessed off the riverfront trail under the 40th Street Bridge.
South Park Dog Park is a popular spot with drinking water, pick up bags and benches. And you’ve got 200 acres throughout the park to roam with your dog on leash. If—ok, when—your dog gets dirty, stop in at nearby Woody’s Dog Wash & Boutique for a self-service dog bath.
In addition to plenty of other things to do, beautiful scenery and Farmer x Baker, the riverfront park in Aspinwall also has a fenced-in dog park called Boo Boo and Tiger’s playground. Relax on the giant blue lounge chairs built by Blawnox resident and professional carpenter Niko Gomez while your dog runs circles around you.
Dog Things To Do:
The dog stop in the East End Dog Stop is a 17,000- square-foot facility has a dog day care, a kennel, grooming services, a retail store and an outdoor space with a pond, water wall and special anti-microbial turf, or what we call grass. There are now eight Dog Stops in the Pittsburgh area. “We also pride ourselves on the sizes of our inside doggie daycare play yards,” says Jennifer Ferris-Glick, owner of one Pittsburgh location. “They are like a supervised, indoor, off-leash park.”
Stay at a swanky hotel. Yep, the new Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh is pet friendly. You and your four-legged companion can enjoy the luxury of this cool and chic hotel, from the funky furnishings in the upper lounge to the rooms with dog bowls (we want one!) and dog beds. There’s no restriction on pet size so your Bernese Mountain Dog is just as welcome as that tiny Yorkie. Fill out the required pet registration when you check in to help the hotel staff provide the proper accommodations for you and your dog. (Note: NEXTpittsburgh has tested it and they’re great with dogs. Ours can’t wait to return.)
Stretch it out. South Hills yoga studio Sterling Yoga offers plenty of ways for humans to breathe deeply, but they wanted to give dogs a chance too. Sterling offers rooftop “doga”— yoga for dogs—throughout the summer. Check their Facebook page for the schedule.
Cool Off. Summer gets hot around here, so it’s no wonder that kids and dogs alike seek out ways to get wet. The verdict is out on whether kids and dogs are allowed to play in the Water Steps on the North Shore; so go do some splashing around.
Another hot cool down spot is the South Shore Riverfront Park at SouthSide Works where you’ll find lots of smiling folks watching their dogs enjoy the misters embedded in the trails on the river side of Hofbrauhaus.
Head about six miles southwest of Pittsburgh to the expansive Panhandle Trail, which spans 29 miles from the Walkers Mill trailhead in Collier Township through northern Washington County to Colliers, West Virginia. At the Rennerdale trailhead, where there is a parking lot and picnic tables, Robinson Run is a great, refreshing swimming hole for pups. It’s a shallow creek with a scenic footbridge, a bench and artwork designed by Girl Scouts.
Need to cool down without letting your pup get soaked? Head to Salty Paws, “the first doggie ice cream bar in Pennsylvania.” The Lawrenceville canine dessert palace offers lactose-free, dog-friendly ice cream, cookies and treats. You can even host your dog’s birthday party at Salty Paws!
This story was originally published on June 8, 2015 and updated on August 1, 2022.