The best North Brooklyn dog runs and off-leash areas

brooklyn dog runs

Your pup will jump for joy when you bring her to one of these dog runs or off-leash areas. All photos by Kirsten White

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You and your mutt can only play fetch for so long in your apartment’s 10 feet of common area before you’ll both literally run into the wall. Now that it’s summer, you’ve got no excuse not to get off your haunches and bound into the great outside! Whether catatonic in the coffice or comatose on the couch, you’ve both been cooped up for too long and are in great need of some Vitamin D(og). Don’t despair, we’ve made a list of seven of our favorite North Brooklyn dog runs and off-leash areas where you both can run around free. 

We know you and your furry friend are chomping at the bit, but hold up, first, let’s break down the rules. In NYC, you have two legal options for socializing your dogs, no leash required: dog runs or off-leash areas. A dog run is a fenced-off area designated for dogs. An off-leash area is an open space where dogs are permitted, untethered, during specific hours—from 5am, when parks open to 9am, and then from 9pm to when parks close at 1am. Check out this page, scrolling down to select “Brooklyn” for a full list.

Each has its pros and kongs. An off-leash area gives your dog more room to roam, and since it’s usually in a park, has actual grass and trees. Dog runs are manmade, filled with either gravel or wood chips, and might be too confined to fully tire out Spunky. On the other paw, you’ll never have to worry about sporty Spot straying too fur. And at a dog run, you can go whenever your schedule permits, instead of waking up extra early or waiting until nightfall.

No dog? No problem. Hanging out at a dog park without a dog does not have the same stigma as going to a playground without a kid: they’re called “pets” for a reason. Studies show that interacting with dogs lowers levels of the stress-causing hormone cortisol while increasing levels of oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone.” Flush that Prozac down the toilet and go show Sparky some love! You might even meet somebody human that you like…maybe, in the romantic comedy version of  your life.

hillside dog run

Relax in the shade at Hillside Dog Run

Hillsidedog run

The sloping hill wedged in between the BQE, Vine Street and Columbia Heights Street in Brooklyn Heights combines the best of a dog-run and an off-leash area: with more than two enclosed acres for your mutt to safely sprint around, it’s one of the largest dog runs in NYC. The wood chips are replenished often enough that you and your dog won’t get too dusty, and there’s 24 trees to provide plenty of shade and preserve that natural vibe. Not to mention the amenities! Two human/doggie water fountains and a plastic bag dispenser for Toto’s turds.

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prospect park dog run

Oh to be canine and fancy free…mornings before 9am in Prospect Park!

Prospect Park, off-leash

Prospect Park’s FIDO, “New York City’s largest off-leash community,” permits you to unleash your dog on the Nethermead, Peninsula, or Long Meadow during the hours of 5am to 9am, or 9 pm to 1 am. In the mornings, if it’s nice weather, it’s not uncommon to see at times more than a hundred dogs-gone-wild like it’s Spraang Braaake all year long. “It’s dog heaven, which makes it people heaven,” says Brokelyn alumna (and mom of beagle mix Polly) Meghan Doherty. “On the weekends, come for the Farmer’s Market, stay for the dog pond,” she advises. (The pond she’s referring to is located down the path from the tennis house at 9th Street, and adheres to the same off-leash rules.)

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fort greene dog park

A beautiful morning in Fort Greene brings all the dogs & their owners to the park

Fort Greene Parkoff-leash

A more urban, hipper scene than Prospect Park off-leash, pre-9am at Fort Greene Park at the corner of Dekalb Ave. and Washington Park is filled with dog owners chatting over to-go coffee and their puppy progeny. The dogs take over a good deal of space, roaming as far as the hill just beyond the tennis courts. There’s one human/dog water fountain the dogs and humans share like the cross-species pack we all long to be.

Fort Greene Park also draws in folks from surrounding neighborhoods. Chrissy and Sebastian, owners of dachshunds Pippa and Ginger, walk over most mornings  from Bed-Stuy. “It’s a ten block walk, they play for an hour, then we go home,” said Sebastian. “It’s a good way to tire them out for the day.”

Regulars say they can usually get away with lingering until at least 9:30am before Parks and Rec shows up to clear everybody out. Afterwards, it’s nice to hit up a coffee shop, or on the weekends, peruse the Farmer’s Market.

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herbert von king dog run

Straight chillin’ with the bowsers at Herbert Von King dog run

Herbert Von King Park, dog run

At the northwest corner of Herbert Von King Park, at Marcy Avenue between Greene and Clifton Streets, Bed-Stuy’s dog run is a chill neighborhood spot and a pretty much D.I.Y. affair. It has two sections, one set aside for dogs that maybe don’t play as well with others. You’ve got to bring your own water and dog bags. Mellow in the daytime, it fills up after 6pm with a solid post-work crew. It has benches, a couple trees providing shade, and an awesome throne carved out of a tree trunk.

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mccarren park dog run

Just dogs and dirt. At McCarren Park dog run

McCarren Parkdog run

More dirt than wood chips, you and your mutt will leave looking like Pigpen. The biggest draw to this dog run is its location, at the intersection of N. 12th Street and Driggs Avenue adjacent to the McCarren Park baseball fields and the Greenmarket on Saturdays. It’s divided into two sections, one for smaller or bigger dogs, and has some bowls of water. It’s a great place to drink an iced coffee and read a book on one of the makeshift wooden benches while Max communes with pitbulls who are trying so hard to be good, if only their owners would quit showing them off like a new tattoo.

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mcgolrick park dog run

Two brindle mixes put on a show for the lazy humans at McGolrick Park dog run

McGolrick Parkdog run

In the lovely McGolrick Park at the corner of Driggs Avenue and N. Henry Street, Greenpoint’s dog run is a laid-back alternative to McCarren’s, much like the neighborhood of Greenpoint is to Williamsburg.

Kurt, dad of an almost translucent Italian greyhound named Marcello, says that they used to go to McCarren, but it’s “more crowded, and just seems grimier. Everyone goes there to be seen.” Margaret, mom of Fergus the Westie, agreed. “If I were single, I’d probably go there,” she said.

McGolrick’s dog run is set up the same way as McCarren’s, with two sections for smaller or bigger dogs, filled with wood chips and the occasional water bowl. Dog owners have been known to get away with having their dogs off-leash in the park proper.

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maria hernandez park dog run

Dogs gettin’ down at Bushwick’s Maria Hernandez Park dog run

Maria Hernandez Park, dog run

This dog run at the north end of Maria Hernandez Park, on Irving at Willoughby, is a welcome addition to the neighborhood for Bushwick dog owners, who prior to its opening in November 2012, didn’t have any designated area to bring their four-legged friends. Irving Square Park and Maria Hernandez Park proper often served as unofficial spots, but folks who let their dogs run free ran the risk of citations. The two gravel-filled sections, separated for small and big dogs, are nothing fancy, but provide a much needed service in the Bushwick dog community. Amenities include doggie water fountains, benches, and plastic bag dispensers.

Follow Kate at @yatinbrooklyn for more from the Brooklyn dog mom perspective