A Guide to Off-Leash Hours and Parks in NYC

by Jennifer Wheeler

Let Your Urban Dog Run Free!


t’s the city-dweller’s answer to a romp in the Rockies (sans litter and highway noise)! This is as good as it gets in the urban environment, and we cannot stress enough that if you can’t get your dog out of the city, give her a chance to run free in a big urban park. In New York we are lucky to not only have a lot of parks, but to live in a city anchored by enormous natural areas designed by the landscape architect duo Olmstead and Vaux. Prospect Park in Brooklyn and Central Park in Manhattan are urban oases with something for everyone: wooded rambles, lakes, rolling meadows, and – best of all – off-leash hours for dogs. From 9pm until the parks close and in the early morning until 9am many of New York City’s public parks permit dogs to run, play, and socialize off-leash 

It’s not the same as a dog run experience, not even close. In fact, you may be surprised to see your pup transform from seemingly timid or calm into a playful social butterfly during off-leash hours at the park. Why? Your pup is aware of the fence at the dog run and it may change the way she feels about the space, sort of like how being on a leash might make her display signs of anxiety. It is very common for a dog who is known for hiding under mom or dad’s feet at the dog run to blitz around an open park at full speed as soon as her little paws hit the grass. Of course, it goes without saying, that she must have a dependable response to “come.”

In addition to a sense of space and freedom, off-leash hours in urban parks will offer your pup a much more holistic sensory experience, the kind that is fun and natural. Let her chew on a stick, roll in the grass, or dip her toes in a pond. This kind of exercise and activity – even if it requires a bath upon returning home – will pay off many times over in helping to keep your pup happy, healthy and balanced.

If you don’t live near one of the big parks, there are plenty of wonderful smaller parks all over the city. Some of our best city moments have taken place in the early hours of the morning at Fort Green Park in Brooklyn, sipping coffee, watching the pups play, and chatting with like-minded New Yorkers.  

Our Favorite Spots

Off-Leash Etiquette

Off-leash hours for dogs only work as long as everyone is respectful of the rules, the spaces, and other park users.

  • Follow the 9pm-9am timeframe.
  • Your dog must have a dependable “come” response.
  • Your dog must be friendly.
  • Be respectful of other people. If a passerby is afraid of dogs, bring your dog to you.
  • Pick up poop. Always.

Off-Leash Benefits

  • The sense of freedom facilitates Positive Socialization.

  • Grassy Fields, Trees, and Lakes cannot be found in the dog run.

  • Lots of space = More Room to Run, and dogs need to run!

  • Natural sights, smells, and sounds provide a holistic sensory experience.

Ollie & Azzy Enjoying the Nethermead at Prospect Park

About the author

Writer, Owner at NYC Doggies

Jennifer is a writer and graduate of NYU School of Law. Jennifer researches and writes original, science-based articles for the NYC Doggies blog, and her writing on other topics can be found in the Huffington Post. Jennifer and Ovidiu have co-authored the upcoming book, WHOLE DOG PARENTING: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO RAISE AND TRAIN AN URBAN PUP