December 6, 2023

Pets, especially dogs, are beloved members of many families across the U.S. From emotional support to daily exercise, dogs provide companionship and can take their owners on adventures wherever they may live.

In its 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) reported that 70% of U.S. households – some 90.5 million homes – own a pet. Of that total, some 69 million own a dog.

Several factors can impact the decision to own a dog, including expenses. Many pet owners mitigate veterinary bills by purchasing pet insurance. Though a fairly new product, the pet insurance industry more than doubled between 2018 and 2021, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association’s (NAPHIA) 2022 State of the Industry Report. Almost 4 million pets were insured in the U.S. by the end of 2021, and 81.7% of them were dogs.

Location also matters, especially when it comes to affordable pet care and services, as well as other factors such as walkability and weather.

With all this in mind, we conducted a study to determine the top 50 cities in the U.S. to be a dog owner in. Our study considered two main factors, environment and services, for each city. Each factor was then broken into four subcategories with individual scores. All scores were weighted accordingly, which are disclosed in the methodology section at the bottom of this page.

The factors we researched are:

  • Environment

    • Number of dog parks per capita
    • Walkability score
    • Average number of days with a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, with fewer days being more favorable, based on the full historical temperature data available for each city
    • Average number of days with a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter, with fewer days being more favorable, based on the full historical temperature data available for each city
  • Services

    • Veterinarian employment based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Location Quotient, which compares the concentration of veterinarians in each city to the average concentration across the country
    • Estimated cost of veterinary visits by ZIP code
    • 30-minute rates for dog walking services by ZIP code
    • Hourly rates for pet sitting services by ZIP code

The data for each factor was gathered from vetted public sources, with one source per factor to ensure state-by-state numbers are consistent. We also accounted for differences in population size by calculating per-capita data points when necessary.

Here are the top 10 cities in the U.S. to be a dog owner

List of top ten cities to be a dog owner.

(USN&WR)

Key findings

Through our research to identify the top 50 cities to be a dog owner in, we discovered that some cities performed well in some categories but not in others. Among our findings:

  • 10 different states are represented in the top 10 cities of our study.
  • Of the top 10 cities, Portland is also rated in the top five in three factors: No. 1 in access to dog parks, No. 4 in the least number of days with 90-degree temperatures or above (tied with New York City and Detroit), and No. 2 in the amount of veterinarians employed.
  • In terms of its weaknesses, Portland is ranked No. 13 for walkability, No. 18 for days at 32 degrees or below, and No. 16 for dog walking rates.
  • Although Tampa is rated No. 2 overall, its score was lowered by its walkability and large number of days at or above 90 degrees.
  • New York City’s overall score is impacted by high veterinarian costs and pet sitting rates.

  • Of the top 10 cities, all except Honolulu and Memphis are also in the top 20 for dog parks per capita.
  • Portland, San Francisco, and Tampa are the top three cities in this category.
  • The bottom three cities are Fort Worth, Texas; Oklahoma City; and Dallas. 

  • The most walkable cities in our rating are San Francisco, New York City, and Boston, with Walk Scores of 89, 88, and 83, respectively, out of 100. This means that residents can complete most errands by walking rather than driving. 
  • Washington, Miami, and Seattle also placed in the top 10 walkable cities.  
  • Jacksonville, Fla.; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; and Nashville-Davidson County, Tenn., have the lowest walkability scores of the top 50 cities for dog owners. Jacksonville and Charlotte-Mecklenburg have a score of 26, and Nashville has a score of 29. These scores indicate that a car is required for the majority of errands. 

Days at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Most of the California cities included in our study received a significant boost in this category because their climates are mild. San Francisco, Long Beach, Oakland, San Diego, and Los Angeles are tied for No. 1, along with two other cities, while San Jose is ranked No. 3.
  • Two cities in Colorado have the highest number of days with temperatures of 32 degrees or below in our data: Colorado Springs and Denver. 

Days at or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Oakland and San Francisco tie for No. 1 in this category. They are closely followed by San Diego and Seattle. 
  • Phoenix and Mesa in Arizona have the most days at 90 degrees or above.

  • New York City is the top location for its proportion of veterinarians compared to the national average. This is followed by Portland; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Denver, respectively. 
  • Colorado has one of the highest concentrations of veterinarians across the U.S.
  • Several California cities, including Long Beach, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, and San Jose, have the lowest proportion of veterinarians when compared to the national average.

Cost of veterinarian office visit

  • Three cities in California – Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose – have the costliest estimates for veterinarian office visits. The estimated cost of a vet visit, which includes a physical exam of your pet and a consultation with a veterinarian, in these cities is $78.95. 
  • Besides San Francisco, three of the other top-10 cities have expensive veterinarian costs when compared nationwide: New York City, Honolulu, and Washington, D.C. 

30-minute dog walking rates

  • Memphis, Honolulu, and Kansas City, Mo., have the lowest dog walking rates according to our study. Their average rates for a 30-minute service are $15.00, $16.74, and $18.28, respectively. 
  • The highest dog walking rates are found in Detroit ($33.89), Oakland ($39.13), and Nashville-Davidson County ($42.88). All rates are for a 30-minute time period. 

  • While the dog walking rates in Nashville-Davidson County are amongst the highest, the city’s pet sitting costs are the cheapest. Its average pet sitting rate is $27.33 per hour. This is followed by Kansas City, with an hourly average of $31.59, and Columbus, Ohio, with an average of $31.61.
  • San Jose, Jacksonville, and Boston have the most expensive pet sitting rates per hour across the U.S. San Jose’s and Jacksonville’s average rate is $68.18, and Boston’s is $64.53.  

Here are the top 50 U.S. cities to be a dog owner

Map of the United States indicating top 50 cities to be a dog owner.

(USN&WR)

Ranking City
1 Portland, Ore.
2 Tampa, Fla.
3 New York City
4 San Francisco
5 Seattle
6 Miami
7 Washington, D.C.
8 Raleigh, N.C.
9 Honolulu
10 Memphis, Tenn.
11 Denver
12 Baltimore
13 Long Beach, Calif.
14 Columbus, Ohio
15 Albuquerque, N.M.
16 Kansas City, Mo.
17 Tucson, Ariz.
18 Louisville, Ken.
19 Omaha, Neb.
20 Chicago
21 Atlanta
22 Austin, Texas
23 Colorado Springs, Colo.
24 Oakland, Calif.
25 Virginia Beach, Va.
26 Minneapolis
27 Wichita, Kan.
28 Milwaukee
29 San Antonio
30 Sacramento, Calif.
31 Houston
32 San Diego
33 Los Angeles
34 Philadelphia
35 Boston
36 Tulsa, Okla.
37 Oklahoma City
38 Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.
39 Mesa, Ariz.
40 Dallas
41 Arlington, Texas
42 Nashville-Davidson County, Tenn.
43 El Paso, Texas
44 Fresno, Calif.
45 Phoenix
46 Jacksonville, Fla.
47 Bakersfield, Calif.
48 Detroit
49 San Jose, Calif.
50 Fort Worth, Texas

For this study, U.S. News & World Report scored each city in a handful of factors to determine overall ratings. Two key categories, environment and services, were considered, along with four subcategories under each. All factors were assigned a weighted percentage, with environment and services each receiving 50% for a total of 100%.

We then collected data from the best public data sources, choosing one data source per factor to maintain consistency of state-by-state figures. In the cases where data was not available for a particular location, alternatives were used. This includes ZIP-code based data and weather data.

For cities with multiple ZIP codes, we used the ZIP code with the highest population. If data was still unavailable through this method, we then looked at regional or state averages.

When weather data was not available in the public data source, we looked at the nearest possible city. Please note that all weather data is pulled from the Local Climatological Data as compiled by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), so the published records can date back 150 years. The data for the majority of the cities represent 70- to 100-years worth of information.

We also accounted for differences in population size by first converting all applicable data to per-capita metrics. This was achieved by dividing quantity-based metrics by the city’s population.

To calculate the actual ratings, the values of all factors for each city were indexed on a 100-point scale. An index of 100 represented the top-rated city and zero represented the lowest for the dog park, walkability, and veterinarian employment categories. For the five temperature and cost factors, the indexes were opposite – with zero indicating the top-rated city and 100 indicating the lowest. Each inverted index was then subtracted from 100 for the next step in the process.

Once all the indexed values were computed, we multiplied each by the weight assigned to the associated factor. By adding together the weighted averages of all factors for each city, we calculated the final score and obtained the ratings.

The breakdown of factors, their weights, and their data sources are listed below:

Environment – Total Weight of 50%

  • Number of dog parks per capita 

    • Weight: 15%
    • Data source: Trust for Public Land’s 2021 City Park Facts
  • Walkability score 

    • Weight: 15%
    • Data source: Walk Score
  • Average number of days with a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, with less days being more favorable

    • Weight: 10%
    • Data source: National Centers for Environmental Information’s (NCEI) Local Climatological Data
  • Average number of days with a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter, with less days being more favorable

    • Weight: 10%
    • Data source: National Centers for Environmental Information’s (NCEI) Local Climatological Data

Services – Total Weight of 50%

  • Veterinarian employment based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Location Quotient, which compares the concentration of veterinarians in each city to the average concentration across the country

    • Weight: 10%
    • Data source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Location Quotient of Veterinarians from May 2021
  • Estimated cost of veterinary visits by ZIP code 

    • Weight: 15%
    • Data source: Banfield Pet Hospital’s Price Estimator
  • 30-minute rates for dog walking services by ZIP code

    • Weight: 15%
    • Data source: Time To Pet’s Dog Walking Rate Calculator
  • Hourly rates for pet sitting services by ZIP code

    • Weight: 10%
    • Data source: Time To Pet’s Pet Sitting Rate Calculator