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.

Dog Parks

Thanks to Gabriel Wilcox!

Thanks to Gabriel Wilcox!

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. Photo by Tracy Certo.

The Carnegie Dog Park. Photo by Tracy Certo.

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.

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 naturally 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!

Oops! Mae jumped in the fountain in Point State Park. That's author and owner Janna Leyde with her.

Oops! Mae jumped in the fountain in Point State Park. That’s author and owner Janna Leyde with her.

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.

Chillin' at the Frick Park Dog Park. Sometimes it's just fun to watch. Brian Cohen photo

Chillin’ at the Frick Park Dog Park. Sometimes it’s just fun to watch. Brian Cohen photo

Dog Things To Do:

Get to the doggie amusement park. The dog stop in the East End Dog Stop is the one with the water park. The 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 six Dog Stops in the city. “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.)

Stephan Bontrager of Riverlife with Ginger at the Hotel Monaco. Tracy Certo photo.

Stephan Bontrager of Riverlife with Ginger at the Hotel Monaco. Tracy Certo photo.


Carnegie Dog Park. Photo by Jennifer Baron.

Root for the home team. Every Tuesday night the Pirates play at home is Pup Night at PNC Park when dog lovers and Buccos fans take over a portion of the upper deck. A $30 Pup Night ticket (a portion of the proceeds go toward local animal shelters) gets you a seat and one for your pup, too, plus endless treats, bottomless water bowls, a clean-up crew and a paw-friendly kiddie pool. Dogs are actually permitted to sit next to their owner in the seats. Hey, some dogs really get into Pirate baseball.

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; however, pass by on a hot day and you’ll 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.

Dining out.

There are quite a few restaurants with outdoor seating that happily welcome dogs, sometimes with treats. So sit down and have a meal or a drink or with your BFF (Best Furry Friend).

Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle — The Strip District
Grist House Brewing — Millvale
Redfin Blues — Washington’s Landing
Legends of the North Shore — North Side
Double Wide Grill — South Side
Diamond Market Bar & Grill — Downtown
Cappy’s Cafe — Shadyside