Who doesn’t love dogs? Our furry partners-in-crime, dogs give us companionship, laughs, and unconditional love. Imagine what life would be like if everyone who liked us jumped hysterically whenever we entered a room – the world would be a much brighter place, that’s for sure. So how can we return the favor? By letting our dogs be dogs.
According to the ASPCA, many behavior problems in dogs are caused by a lack of physical and mental activity. Dogs were born to lead active lives, yet most pet dogs spend the majority of their time alone at home and napping on couches. Many become bored, lonely, and overweight. They have excess energy and no way to expend it, so it’s not surprising that they often come up with activities on their own, like unstuffing couches, raiding trash cans, and gnawing on shoes.
Dog parks are a great place to take your four-legged friend because they give dogs an opportunity to zoom around, investigate new smells, wrestle their dog buddies, and fetch toys until they happily collapse. Dogs, like us, are highly social animals and many enjoy spending time with their own species. At the dog park your dog gets practice reading a variety of other dogs’ body language, using their own communication skills, and getting used to meeting unfamiliar dogs on a frequent basis. These valuable experiences can help guard against the development of fear and aggression problems around other dogs, plus it’ll help keep your dog happy, healthy, and out of trouble. And as an added bonus, YOU GET TO BE AROUND DOGS. It really is a win-win.
Lucky for us there’s lots of options when it comes to places you and your pooch can hang. In addition to the many (and we mean many) public parks, spaces, and even restaurants that are leashed-dog friendly, there’s a bunch of parks solely dedicated to letting dogs run wild and free, just like their ancestors:
1. The Barkyard
D A R Drive / LaSalle Park / West Side, Downtown
The Barkyard officially opened in 2007 and proudly boasts that it is Buffalo’s first official off-leash dog park. Since then, it’s seen thousands of visitors (human and canine alike) and undergone lots of upgrades. These days you can enjoy picturesque views of Buffalo’s waterfront and skyline while your furry companion(s) enjoy the company of their peers in one of two enclosed areas, one for small (>30 lbs)/older/more passive dogs and one for large dogs. There’s also some seating areas and chairs that can be moved around the park, a watering hole for the pooches, and a small shelter with murals painted by local students. While The Barkyard may not be the largest location on this list, it is a good retreat for dogs to let out some excess energy and engage in some much-needed playtime with other dogs. Just make sure you bring your own doggie-bags and clean up your dog’s mess!
Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park / Lewiston, Niagara County
Artpark?! Yes, Artpark. There’s no exact address for the Lewiston Dog Park, but the best way to find it is to turn onto Portage Road off of Center Street and drive straight through the Artpark entrance until you see the dog park on the right (park before the ticket booth). The Lewiston Dog Park is great for all you dog owners in Niagara County/anyone who loves bringing their dog to new places. They’ve got two enclosed areas, one for small dogs and one for larger dogs, to romp around with their furry friends and even a couple obstacles to run through (Westminster Dog Show anyone?). There are also benches for the humans to relax on and in the warmer months the park has water for the doggies’ refreshment. And don’t worry if your dog gets a little muddy – there’s Chase’s Dog Wash at the corner of Seneca and Portage right as you exit the dog park.
3. The Paw Park
500 Smith Road / East Amherst, Northtowns
Another great place for your pooch to play! Officially opened in 2010, the Paw Park is 1 acre in size and yet another dog park with designated areas for smaller/more passive dogs and larger dogs. On any given day you can find lots of friendly dogs and their equally friendly humans hanging out at the Paw Park, whether it’s summer, fall, winter, or spring, which is really all you need in order for you and your pooch to have a good time. This park is BYO poop-bags as well as BYO water so make sure you come prepared!
4. Knox Farm Dog Park
437 Buffalo Road / Knox Farm State Park / East Aurora, Southtowns
Talk about a view. Everything about this place looks like it belongs in a painting. The Knox Farm Dog Park is located within Knox Farm State Park, which is the former country estate of Buffalo’s renowned Knox Family. Super casual. This park also has two separate areas for small and large dogs, and it also has a doggie rinse in case your fur baby has a little too much fun playing in the mud. There’s also a watering hole for the dogs as well as doggie-bag stations located in cute wooden boxes all over the park, so don’t fret if you forget. After your pooch is done running off-leash hook ‘em up and enjoy a walk around the rest of the massive property including the wooded area where you’ll find a tiny library and benches sitting out in the open. Be on the lookout for deer, horse-crossings, and wild butterflies that roam throughout the land and prepare to take about a zillion photos.
1 Ellicott Creek Drive / Ellicott Creek Park / Tonawanda, Northtowns
A regular-sized dog park not big enough for you? How about an island. Ellicott Island Bark Park is nestled within Ellicott Creek Park and serves as a nice sanctuary for dogs and their owners to run free without disturbing other park patrons. This place is a dog -and dog lovers- paradise, complete with bathrooms, shelters for picnics, grills (BYO charcoal), sandy shores, shallow playing water, lots of sticks for fetching, and even the ruins of a mini castle. Ok it probably wasn’t actually a castle but everything about this island is magical so we’re going to call it one, plus it makes for some really good Instagram backdrops for your pooch. #DogIslandCastle
Before you head to the dog park make sure your dog is a good fit. Not all dogs do well in this type of environment, particularly unvaccinated puppies, females in heat, unneutered males, under-socialized/fearful/aggressive/anxious dogs, and dog-bullies. For more information on dog parks and how to know if your furry friend will be a good fit check out the ASPCA’s full article on the subject here.
This article was originally published in June 2015 and has been updated.