Dog-Walking In Central Park

Floppy + Josie enjoy off-leash time

Central Park has the most draconian set of by-laws in the world. There are huge swathes of fenced-off precious green space accessible only to park workers, there are fields given over solely to certain types of sporting activity and there are a great many ‘Passive Lawns’ where everything except sitting down and keeping quiet is forbidden. You can’t smoke anywhere in Central Park. Rules pertaining to dog-walking are the strictest of all. Dogs can only be allowed off-leash before 9am and after 9pm, in the dark, when they root out sleeping homeless people and bark at shady figures lurking behind bushes. Disregarding this rule can lead to an on-the-spot $100 ticket! Despite this, dog-walking in Central Park before 9am is a lot of fun. That iconic green space looks at its best first thing in the morning, the skyscrapers around silhouetted against a most-often crisp blue sky. And as with all outdoor pursuits in New York City, the morning dog walk is another big source of entertainment.

Floppy, Josie and I have selected the Great Lawn as our off-leash arena of choice. This fenced-off 55-acre pasture is where the sprucest softball fields are found and is also the setting for the Park’s outdoor concerts. Before eight in the morning, the areas surrounding the Great Lawn become a roving carousel of dogs and walkers of all breeds and dimensions. Hounds cavort around the Arthur Ross Pinetum, schitzus play in the grass below Belvedere Castle, a Victorian folly whose tower is also the source for New York temperature readings, and occasionally a labradoodle will leap into algae-covered Turtle Pond, prompting shrieks of horror from its walker.

This is where Floppy and Josie meet their US counterparts; Skip, Austin, Piper, Buddy, Buzz and the like – New Yorkers seem to like to extend frat-boy status to their dogs. Like a furry uncontrollable source of nature they muddle up the Central Park royalty of joggers, cyclists, fitness freaks, personal trainers and their victims, skateboarders, moms jogging with buggies and the such. Like I said, the morning dog-walk in Central Park is a lot of fun.

PS: I subsequently discovered that dogs are NOT allowed off-leash in the Arthur Ross Pinetum – or Pine Tum as it’s known here.

For more on the crazy New York dog world see:

4 Responses to “Dog-Walking In Central Park”

  1. You do understand that you’re not allowed to write or complain about the rules…. As another (dog owning) Brit I truly feel your pain. But, I understand that before the rules and pop scooping laws, NYC was pretty disgusting as people literally let their dogs crap anywhere and everywhere. Check out the ‘waterfall’ in the Ramble. The only running water in the park where our dogs can (I think) legally lie down and cool off. It’s a life-saver in the summer.

    • The longer I live in New York the more I understand why the rules are there and, in any case, I like being in Central Park early in the morning. Actually I’m scandalised by how much poo I see on the streets around our neighbourhood – surprising given how hard the city comes down on detractors. I will certainly check out the waterfall. I love the Ramble – even if dogs aren’t allowed off-leash there. Thanks for the tip.

  2. And another couple of things: Use the ‘Dog Runs’ sparingly. Especially in the summer they are havens of disease. We used to use the 87th street one in Riverside Park but it becomes too depressing seeing people NOT picking up and other dogs running through ‘it’ chasing a ball. Also as winter draws in you’ll see the Upper West Siders (especially the older ones) come into their own when the first snow falls and for some reason they take it as a sign they can just walk away from their dog’s doings… sorry to go on but I spend a lot of time chasing after people shouting “Do you need a bag?”

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