I visited New York City for the first time last month.
I heard it could be pretty crazy there but I’ not one to shy away from adventure, so I decided to take my small dog, Gretel, with me.
Adventure is what I got too.
People warned me before I went that it might not be wise to travel with a small dog to such a crowded city.
I won’t lie – bringing my small dog with me make the trip a bit more tricky – but I had a blast doing New York the dog friendly way.
Big-city life with a dog was sure different than around where I live.
Yes, I live in Seattle but I live in the north part of the city where there are plenty of green spaces and streets with little traffic.
I can also throw the dogs in the car and get to wherever I need to go.
The atmosphere in New York was “foreign” to us and required a lot of adjustment.
I had fun learning a lot of lessons about navigating the Big Apple with a small dog though.
Tips for Surviving New York City with Your Small Dog
1) Places to pee are scarce
Dogs that don’t live in the big city have plenty of dirt and grass to do their business on.
When Gretel had to go potty in New York she looked at me like, “Where is my grass?”.
Grass is hard to come by in many areas of New York City.
I had to assume that big city dogs are used to peeing on the concrete but that was not good manners in Gretel’s world.
The more readily available places for her to pee were patches of dirt surrounding sidewalk trees.
I found that the base of trees were by grates about 75% of the time but I usually discovered one with dirt within a few blocks.
I will admit that Gretel did also pee in the grassy median along Park Avenue once or twice.
That is a bit tricky to navigate, and there are signs here and there saying dog’s aren’t allowed to be on the grass, but what is a girl to do in an emergency?
2) Your small dog could get stepped on
Sidewalks in New York City are crowded. Really crowded.
I was pleasantly surprised that most people saw Gretel and avoided stepping on her.
Still , there were a few people who weren’t watching where they were going.
I wanted to keep Gretel walking really close to me.
I found that she didn’t like to walk on the sidewalk grates so I put her between me and the grates on the sidewalk.
I walked close to the grates and she kept on the patch of concrete right beside me. It corralled her in a sense.
3) Be prepared to carry your dog
There will be times when you will want to carry your dog.
Sometimes the sidewalks got too crowded and it would have been near impossible for us to:
- Actually get anywhere in a timely manner
- Not get toes stepped on (Gretel)
Also, there are some stores that let you inside with a dog but only if you carry them.
I suggest either making sure you always have a hand free or bringing a sling bag to slip your small dog into.
Times Square was one of the most crowded places we visited and I did carry Gretel so I didn’t have to worry about her.
4) Bring a carrier for a better chance your small dog can ride in a taxi with you
All of my research before our trip indicated that it’s ok to bring small dogs in a cab or taxi with you as long as they are in a carrier or sit on your lap.
However, the information was not from any official source and did suggest that each cab driver can make a decision to allow your dog to ride with you or not.
To err on the conservative side, I started out putting Gretel in her carrier during our cab rides.
None of the taxi drivers we rode with batted an eye.
She preferred to be on my lap though so I eventually started letting her out of the crate.
By the end of our stay I was jumping into cabs with her in my arms and no one batted an eye.
Whether your small dog can ride with you or not is up to each taxi driver though so putting them in a small crate will give you the best chance of them saying yes.
5) It may be more crucial to have your dog in a carrier when riding the subway
The information I could find said that dogs were allowed to ride the subway with their owners as long as they are “enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers”.
Honestly, I took the liberty of interpreting that to mean “carried in a container OR in a manner that would not bother other passengers”.
My previous experience with the cabs made me brave enough to try riding the subway with Gretel in our Snuggles ‘n Stride™ sling bag (container!) or on my lap.
We didn’t ride the subway during busy commuter times so there were few people in the train car with us.
Gretel was calm and didn’t bark.
We only rode the subway twice but walked passed one attendant that didn’t say anything and the people in the subway car didn’t say anything.
It seems like as long as they are not on the seat or in people’s way it’s not a problem.
However, since the subway is public transportation, I suspect that the “container” rule for your dog may be more strictly enforced than when riding in a cab.
6) Give your dog plenty of breaks away from people
Even if you don’t get stressed out navigating the crowds with your dog, your dog will. Visit City parks when you can.
Some City parks have off-leash areas and most have a place that isn’t very crowded.
You probably won’t find a piece of the park where there aren’t any people at all but there are many places where those people are sitting quietly on benches instead of zooming past your dog.
I suggest pulling up a bench and people watching for a while to take a break from the chaos.
7) Most dog-friendly restaurants are only dog friendly in spring a summer
There are quite a few dog-friendly restaurants in New York City. I made a list of 8 of them where we were staying in Manhattan.
I’ve shown up at a few restaurants with my dogs over the years and was turned away, despite what I read online.
To make sure the information I have about the dog rules of a restaurant is accurate, I always call ahead.
I called all 8 restaurants on my list and was told that dogs were not allowed.
For some, the information was just wrong.
For the majority, it’s their patio that is dog friendly and they bring the chairs and tables inside during the colder months.
My friend and I did manage to find one restaurant that had a heated patio in the fall and allowed dogs.
As a side note though, I did see some some people sitting outside with their dog at restaurants that weren’t on my list.
It never hurts to ask. You never know what you might discover.
8) Have a plan for where you will get your meals
For the reason listed in #7, don’t expect to eat all of your meals at a dog-friendly restaurant.
If you are traveling with someone else, this one is not as much of an issue because you can work as a team to get food.
I was traveling alone though.
Luckily, we were staying in the dog friendly W Hotel which had a dog-friendly lounge that served appetizers so that’s where I ended up eating most of the time.
I ordered room service once too. Going that route was NOT cheap… not that everything in New York isn’t expensive.
What I usually do when I travel is pick up snacks from the local drug store (CVS Pharmacy has a great little deli-like section) but the first three I visited had “no dogs allowed” signs on the window.
I found one that didn’t so I put Gretel in her sling bag, covered her with a blanket, and headed in like she was allowed.
That one visit was my saving grace but I am pretty sure Gretel wasn’t supposed to be in the store.
I did get a few strange looks from staff when she poked her head out of the bag, but I just pretended they were looking because she was cute and left as soon as I could.
9) Arrange for a dog sitter or walker ahead of time if you want to see sights that don’t allow dogs
There are some landmarks and sights in New York City you can see with a small dog like Grand Central Station.
There are others, like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, you can “see” by holding your small dog and peeking through the open doors.
There are some you won’t even be able to get close to with a dog though like the 911 memorial.
Dogs aren’t even allowed on the grounds outside of the museum.
I researched dog walkers before our trip and arranged for the folks at Good Dog Walking to walk Gretel around the City for a couple of hours while I visited the 911 memorial.
The moral of the story is have a plan or just know you will have to skip seeing many landmarks if you bring your dog to New York City.
By the way, Marla and Costa from Good Dog Walking were awesome.
They chose a central place for us to meet since I wasn’t familiar with the city, gave me a quick 5-minute “how to ride the subway” crash course, and took great care of Gretel.
I would highly recommend them if you need a dog walker in the Manhattan area.
They also specialize in being flexible and said they have quite a few visitors set up walks while they are in town.
Gretel and I traveled to New York for the Purina Better with Pets Summit so I did run into one or two people I know there.
One of my friends asked me, “If you knew then what you know now, would you have brought Gretel?”
I definitely would. I really enjoyed having her there with me.
It gave me a unique experience of the City and she helped my anxiety (I am not a crowded-big-scary-city kind of person).
If you really want to bring your dog with you to the Big Apple, I suggest following these 9 tips for a more enjoyable visit.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.