America’s Most Dog Friendly Cities That Need A Splash and Dash

Finding the Most Dog Friendly Cities to Open a Small Business

A few years ago, most pet owners had to withstand only having access to big-box pet stores. Now, pet businesses are blossoming. With 85 million households owning a pet, most major dog friendly cities are welcoming the luxuries of designful business models helping to meet the demand.

So, what cities make a good location?

Finding the best city to open a Splash and Dash Groomerie & Boutique depends on pet friendliness. Of course, with more dogs, comes more business. With the help of WalletHub, we’ve narrowed the most dog friendly cities in America down to ten. These are great places to own a dog, or open a pet franchise. Variables like veterinary costs, pet businesses per capita, and dog parks per capita are taken into consideration to rank each city. You could be living in a pet gold mine right now and not even know it!

Here are the top ten dog friendly cities in the United States of America.

10. Las Vegas, Nevada

Pet Budget Rank: 63

Pet Health & Wellness Rank: 15

Outdoor Pet Friendliness Rank: 9

Total Score: 56.73

Believe it or not, the Entertainment Capital of the World comes in 10th place in the ranking of the most dog friendly cities.

Vegas has 20 dog parks and its position in the Mojave Desert makes for warm weather year-round. The city also has two hiking trails for your dogs to explore, where you can escape the allure of gambling, for awhile at least. 45 restaurants have identified themselves as dog friendly, like the Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar where you can get an awesome brunch without feeling the guilt of leaving your dog at home.

9. Atlanta, Georgia

Pet Budget Rank: 24

Pet Health and Wellness Rank: 5

Outdoor Friendliness Rank 75

Total Score: 56.73

Atlanta has a draw for tourists which makes the city a fun place to visit or live as a pet owner. There are 343 parks, nature preserves, and gardens that cover 3, 622 acres of the city. Of this, there are 8 huge off-leash dog parks with amenities like a pool in Renaissance Dog park. Getting local grub is easy with your dog as with 241 restaurants where dogs are good-to-go.

On top of this, Atlanta hosts some pretty cool events like PUP culture Festival and Puglanta PugFest. Food trucks, live music, and even a Pug kissing booth bring Atlanta natives and their doggies in for the fun.

8. Cincinnati, Ohio

Pet Budget Rank: 24

Pet Health & Wellness Rank: 27

Outdoor Friendliness Rank: 28

Total Score: 57.19

Representing for the Midwestern states, comes Cincinnati with the second most veterinarians per capita and strong numbers of pet businesses per capita. Coney Island might have the hot dog eating contest every fourth of July, but September 15th is the annual Running of the Wieners in Cincinnati. Dachshunds in hot dog costumes run the streets of downtown kicking off “Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati.”

The Ohio city also has eight dog parks, five hiking trails, and 26 restaurants where dogs of all breeds can participate.

7. Austin, Texas

Pet Budget Rank: 54

Pet Health & Wellness: 3

Outdoor Pet Friendliness Rank: 54

Total Score: 58.26

Austin is becoming known as the hip cousin of Dallas, adopting the “Keep Austin Weird” motto to contend with the country’s rebellious places like Santa Cruz. Austin has definitely earned its rank as one of the most dog friendly cities. Bars like the Dog House Drinkery, which is a bar inside a dog park, and 4th Tap Brewing Co-Op encourage pet owners to bring their dogs down for a drink.

In total, there are 315 dog friendly restaurants in Austin. The sunny weather makes this possible with outside-seating being an option almost everywhere. The Texas city also has 15 dogs parks, five hiking trails, and three dog friendly walking tours. For shoppers, there are seven pet friendly stores. If that’s not enough, Austin Doga is yoga studio dedicated to both humans and dogs to stretch out and get centered.

6. Birmingham, Alabama

Pet Budget Rank: 54

Pet Health & Wellness Rank: 21

Outdoor Pet Friendliness Rank: 50

Total Score: 59.37

Birmingham is an extremely affordable place for pet care. Pet insurance is cheap and access to a veterinarian is a smooth process. The southern city is also home to Bruster’s Real Ice Cream with delicious sundaes, tasty for the doggos and you. If you’re hankering for something savory,  Pub 261 is another dog friendly place that serves up southern dishes from fried catfish to pot roast.

Birmingham hosts 64 pet friendly restaurants, three dog parks, and five hiking trails to explore. Dogs of BHAM, a community for dogs in the area, help facilitate rescues and connect local dog lovers.

5. Orlando, Florida

Pet Budget Rank: 27

Pet Health and Wellness Rank: 4

Outdoor Pet Friendliness Rank: 47

Total Score: 59.81

Yes, Orlando has Disney, Universal Studios, and Seaworld. The Sun Belt tucked city also fetches the fifth-best place to own a dog. With more veterinarians per capita than any other U.S. city, Orlando is the big dog for pet health.

Orlando also ties for most animal shelter per capita and most pet businesses per capita. Dog friendly restaurants are as common as sandals here with over 228 places to get a bite with Fido. To work it all off, there are nine dog parks and four hiking trails that are off-leash.

4. San Diego, California

Pet Budget Rank: 85

Pet Health & Wellness Rank: 2

Outdoor Pet Friendliness Rank: 6

Total Score: 60.56

Another Disney and doggie city, San Diego is the kind of place where dogs surf and pet boutiques are so common they’re yesterday’s news. Events like Paw-Micon—dogs dressed as superheroes—and Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon put a Cali twist on the pet owner lifestyle.

Ready for some Baja tacos? San Diego has over 326 dog friendly restaurants where you and your dog can get everything from a kale salad to BBQ. California’s beautiful scenery offers 17 dog parks, four hiking trails, and a myriad of dog boutiques to peruse.

3. Tampa, Florida

Pet Budget Rank: 10

Pet Health & Wellness: 9

Outdoor Pet Friendliness Rank: 19

Total Score: 61.48

The Sunshine state makes the list again, this time further down. Budgeting for your dog is water under the bridge, as Tampa is the 10th best city for pet ownership costs, and one rank lower in health and wellness. It’s also right across the bridge from another ranking pet city, St. Petersburg.  If you keep driving, you’ll hit a third—Miami.

It seems sunshine and dogs go hand-in-hand. Doggie eats are good in this city too, with 109 restaurants like Mad Dogs & Englishmen opening their doors to the canines. Tampa also has 10 dog parks including one dog beach where dogs can cool off in the surf. Since the weather is always permitting, dog festivals happen year-round in this tail-wagging city.

2. Phoenix, Arizona

Pet Budget Rank: 12

Pet Health & Wellness Rank: 6

Outdoor Pet Friendliness Rank: 10

Total Score: 63.54

Phoenix, dubbed The Valley of the Sun, keeps the sunny themes going as second in rankings of most dog friendly cities with 85 percent of daylight hours filled with the sun’s rays.

With over half of Arizona’s yearly visitors’ destination being Phoenix, the city makes some pawesome accommodations for dogs. Events like Strut Your Mutt and the Annual Doggie Street Festival help raise money for homeless pets and provide some fun too. Fashion is huge in the pet world in Phoenix, with 13 pet friendly spots like the Biltmore Fashion Park.

Mountain ranges like the Guadalupe and North Mountain make beautiful scenery for 16 dog friendly hiking trails in Phoenix. There are also nine dog parks and a tour for residents and tourists alike.

1. Scottsdale, Arizona

Pet Budget Rank: 80

Pet Health & Wellness Rank: 1

Outdoor Pet Friendliness Rank: 2

Citizens of Arizona love to participate in dog-centric culture. The citizens of Scottsdale reap the most benefits of this as the number one place healthiest place for a pet to live. Meaning, access to the highest number of caretakers, pet businesses, pet meetups, animal protection laws and more. Scottsdale is also the second in outdoor pet friendliness! Although the city does rank 80th in costs, Scottsdale is still dogtopia U.S.A. this year.

There are six off-leash dog parks in Scottsdale and nine hiking trails cresting the Sonoran Valley. 116 restaurants like 5th and Wine or Snooze an Am Eatery welcome the pooches. Chase Field, home of the MLB Diamondbacks, even has a patio to bring your dogs to summer games. Also, the Lisa Sette Gallery offers art exhibits that welcome all four-legged aesthetes.

This just scratches the surface (or the dog’s ears) of things to do with your dogs in Scottsdale. Explore for yourself and see why this the best dog city in the America!

*All Ranking and Key Metrics provided by WalletHUB



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Starting a Franchise or Independent Business, What’s Best for Me?

Read this Guide on Deciding on Starting a Franchise or Going Solo with an Independent Business

Entrepreneurs and investors looking to open a business are faced with a difficult decision. Should I start a franchise, or work from the ground up with independent business? There are big distinctions between both options which will lead small business owners down very different pathways. Whether you want to open a restaurant or a pet store, eventually you will come to the crossroads.

Before figuring out which route to take, you will need to ask yourself some questions to discern which is your best option.

  • What is your business background?
  • What kind of experience do you have in the industry you are pursuing?
  • Do you work better with support and guidelines or do you have an unshakeable vision of what you want your small business to look like?
  • Do you have viable finances available to start your business?
  • Do you need support and training?
  • What are you passionate about?

Opening a small business is an inherent risk. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 20% of businesses started in 1994 are still open. Many state that franchise success rates are higher than independent businesses, but the truth is, the failure rate is the same. Only 66% of small businesses will survive the first two years. An even more bleak statistic is that one-half of total businesses fail in the first year. Avoiding becoming a statistic and establishing a thriving business is contingent on the decisions you make as an owner. The first of these decisions is deciding the route of business you plan on pursuing.

Read through this list of pros and cons to figure out your plan of action.

Creative Control

The area that is arguably the most important aspect of going into business is the operational concepts that establish and build the business. A franchise has developed these operational concepts and proved them in the marketplace. Successful franchises have fine-tuned these operations. Independent business requires prospect small business owners to develop these themselves. For example, if you plan on a retail store you will need to find vendors, design an inventory, and secure a POS system to name a few tasks.

Independent Business

With an independent business, this responsibility is completely your own. The advantage of this is that you have complete creative control. You design your bottom line and you alone are the ultimate deciding factor in every choice that pertains to the future your small business, for good or for worse.


Since you are starting a franchise, the scaffolding of the business is already in place. Many think of this is as buying a business in a box but in actuality, it is much more intricate than this. You will have to follow the guidelines set up by a franchisor—many of these are in place to secure a franchisee’s success.


Opening a business requires a huge amount of capital. Construction on a storefront, purchasing equipment & inventory, and training a staff are just a few costs that small business owners have to contend with. Each option has initial start-up costs, but where they differ is in the methods of financing and division of funds.

Independent Business

Historically, future independent business owners will have to account for more extraneous spending than franchises. Higher investments costs are due to liabilities and the fact that operational tasks are being done for the first time. For instance, a retailer will have to find vendors for their initial stock order and will not be entitled to group discounts that franchise owners are eligible for. However, having more control allows independent business owners to forestall certain investments. They are not mandated to proceed with expensive construction or purchasing non-essential equipment.


A prospective franchise owner will need to meet financial requirements that the company has in place to ensure success. They will also need to pay a franchise fee and annual royalty fees. Still, franchise business buyers have typically lower investment costs up front. Since the franchise model is perfected, franchisors have configured how to open units in the cost-effective method possible.  This is advantageous.  But in place, the franchisor reserves the right to Experience Level impose enforceable costs like remodeling and timing of construction.

Experience Level

Regardless of the industry, you are venturing toward, you are going to need to have a comprehensive experience level of the market and business tactics necessary to own a thriving business. Your experience plays a huge role in deciding whether opening your own business or starting a franchise.

Independent Business

If your background is within the industry you intend to invest in, then going solo might be a considerable choice. Over the years you have gained insights into how a business operates in this particular market. Essentially, you can cut out the middleman because you are a veteran. You are comfortable being in charge of the creative aspects of the business and can effectively lead a team.


One of the beautiful things about starting a franchise is you can have very limited experience in a field. Learnability goes a long way in franchises. If you can follow a business template and execute a business plan that has been proven to work then you can be a successful franchise owner. You can bring your unique skill set to the table combined with the guidance derived from the franchisor. This will maintain a thorough expertise on your operation.

Brand Recognition

A business’s brand extends beyond logos and company culture. Brand tells the story of the business and helps consumers associatively identify with the product or service. An effective brand for a restaurant will tell customers what their food tastes like, the ethics behind the food cultivation, and creates trust between the restaurant and the customer. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) also pertains to brand. These days consumers engage with brands tactilely because of social media. This means constructing an authentic and well-perceived brand is vital.

Independent Business

Going solo means you have absolutely no brand awareness or loyalty. First, you will have to create a brand. Then you will have to market this brand. This means you need a great idea. Then hiring at least a graphic designer to design a logo, letterhead, etc. Again, since you are creating this you will have the ultimate artistic vision over your brand. Store design is also a major segment of a brand. You will need to compose these elements too.


This is a huge advantage for franchise owners. Before opening doors, consumers already have a brand awareness for the future storefront. This means franchise owners don’t have to spend any time devoted to developing their brand and can focus their efforts toward marketing and other operational projects.

Operational Resources

Depending on the type of business you plan on opening will decide what operational resources you will need. Almost every business needs inventory, staff, POS system, marketing materials, equipment, and a workplace. Whether you are a SaaS developer or a burger joint these items are essential.

Independent Business

Like a start-up, independent business owners will need to build everything themselves. The vantage point to this is having no constraints. You can ‘cookie-cutter’ different resources for your specific needs. For instance, you can choose what scheduling software you want to use with your employees and only pay for the functions you need. The downside to this is it will be time-consuming. There are dozens of tasks that need to be finalized before a grand opening. Each task needs to be foolproof to increase the chances of your business survival.


Owning a franchise isn’t about developing operational resources, it’s about training to use them. A franchisor will provide all the resources you need and usually have proprietary software to assist with scheduling, inventory management, and accounting. You will have these resources at your disposal.

The Bottom Line

The best way to decide is to take an introspective look at yourself. Which route would you profit in? If you’re a DIY person who does not handle following rules, well then you might want to consider doing the independent route. If you excel at taking a concept and utilizing the resources to grow a business, franchising is the right move for you. There is a reason military veterans make talented franchise owners. They have an ability to follow the instructions toward success.

Think long and hard before choosing, and good luck!


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