I visited New York City for the first time last month. I heard it can be pretty crazy there. Not one to shy away from adventure, I decided to take my small Dachshund, Gretel, with me.
Adventure is what I got too. People warned me before I went that it might not be wise to bring a small dog to such a crowded city. I won’t lie – it DID 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.
A Westerners Tips for Surviving New York City with Your Small Dog
1) Look for trees without the grates over the roots if your dog needs a place to go potty
Dogs that don’t live in the big city have plenty of dirt and grass and dirt to do their business on. When Gretel had to go potty in New York she looked at me like, “Where is my grass?”. Tip: there isn’t any in New York. Or at least not much. 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 the base of trees to be covered 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) To keep them from getting stepped on, walk with your dog between you and the sidewalk grates
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 use to a) get anywhere and b) for Gretel to not get her toes stepped on. There were also some stores that let you in with a dog as long as you carry them. I suggest either making sure you always have a hand free or bringing a sling bag to slip them 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) Small dogs are allowed in cabs as long as they are in a carrier or sit on your lap
I did some research on this before I left on our trip. Everything I read hinted to it being ok to bring small dogs in a cab with you. 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. 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.
5) Dogs are allowed to ride the subway
The information I could find said that any 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. I also didn’t ride the subway during busy commuter times. We only rode it 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.
6) Know where the parks are
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. To make sure the information I have about the dog rules of a restaurant, I always call ahead. I called ALL 8 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 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. I was traveling alone though. Luckily, we were staying in the dog friendly W Hotel which had a dog-friendly lounge that served appetizers. 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 there. I did get a few strange looks from staff when she poked her head out of the bag. 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 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 ahead of time 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.
Read More About Our New York City Adventure: