Maybe it’s the rats. Or the smell. Or the bad reputation of vets, animal lovers and newspapers. Whatever the reason, it seems more and more New York dog owners no longer think the city’s public dog parks are a good place for their puppies to play.
“It’s unruly. Dogs knock people down, ”Rachel Sedor said of her visits to the Washington Square Dog Run, a public dog park in the West Village. “One of them urinated on my friend’s leg. The owner didn’t say anything!
Ms Sedor, 52, said her Australian Shepherd mix Frankie ultimately refused to enter space, which is used by up to 100,000 dogs a year. (Eileen Shulock, president of the Washington Square Dog Run, said run use doubled during the pandemic.)
Instead, Ms. Sedor joined the private Mercer-Houston Dog Run, a few blocks away, for an annual fee of $ 60.
She is not alone. For an annual fee ranging from free to $ 2,200, private dog courses offer an alternative to the city’s 84 public courses that, during the pandemic – and the canine boom it caused – became more crowded and chaotic.
In true New York style, there is a range of options, from simplicity to whimsy.
Annual Fee: $ 795 for non-guests; free for hotel guests
This tony run, which is attached to the SoHo Grand Hotel, “welcomes all dogs, big and small, as long as they’re furry and cute – or not,” said Lauren Richards, hotel manager. She said Leonard Stern is the owner of the hotel as well as the CEO of Hartz Mountain, the large pet supply company, so he “has a special affinity for dogs.”
The park is open to uninvited guests, that is, if they are lucky enough to get on a growing waiting list (and want to spend nearly $ 800 a year). The hefty price covers a Zen rock garden, a small pond, and seasonal flowers. There is also a small fire hydrant which “makes the park more interactive, a little more fun for the dogs,” Ms. Richards said.
The park’s surfaces – which come in AstroTurf and gravel – are electrically washed at least twice a week, and the hotel’s Wi-Fi is available so owners can work while their pets let off steam.
Eileen Murphy and Crixus, a 4-year-old boxer, take trips twice a year to New York from Boston. Ms Murphy, 49, said the race attracted “a nice crowd of dogs.” In public parks, she said, people don’t pay as much attention to their dogs as they should.
Annual membership fee: $ 245
The West Village DOG Run on Little West 12th Street is as easy as a park could be. Looks like a prison yard.
“It’s functional, period,” said Sabrina Schollmeyer, who frequently visits Rubin, a Basenji, a rare cat-like breed that can climb trees. “It’s a space. It’s closed. He has what he needs: running water to spray the surface, bowls for the dogs to drink, a few balls.
Although naked, the spirit of the DOG race has attracted hundreds of dogs and owners, some of whom have returned – with a second and third dog – for the past 30 years.
“We are a community,” said Tracey Sides, a writer and photographer who founded the park in 1992 with her late husband, Randy. “When you walk in the door, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. Small dogs don’t have to be afraid here.
Ms Sides said anyone can join the West Village DOG Run as long as they have proof of vaccination and a friendly dog with good manners.
“Everyone volunteers, shovels snow in winter, washes the surface in summer, dumps garbage. »The annual subscription covers rent, electricity and cleaning products. A big plus: WVDOG, unlike most parks, is open 24 hours a day. There are security cameras so people feel safe.
“It helps,” said Ms Schollmeyer, 42, “that there is a bar next door.”
Annual membership fee: $ 2,200
When she lost her illusions about public dog parks, Annie Grossman founded the School Yard, which bills itself as “the only dog run supervised by a trainer in New York City” where “member dogs can have fun. with their friends or just enjoy the time off leash with their favorite person in our indoor / outdoor facility.
“People sit on the perimeter of public roads and look at their phones. It’s like the Wild West, ”said Ms. Grossman, 41. “No one is in charge. It can be quite dangerous.”
Located inside a Lower East Side townhouse, the school yard is great for dogs who need a lot of attention and maybe a little extra supervision. No more than five dogs – carefully assorted according to size and temperament – are allowed in each 45-minute playground. That’s a big plus for owners like Stephanie Higgs, 50, whose 7-year-old Papillon, Mu, is overwhelmed in public parks.
Adam Davis, who oversees some of the classes, has 10 years of canine experience and keeps a close eye on Mu, Bobby, Tacy, Lola and other Yard regulars, offering treats when appropriate and firmly calling ‘pause’ when dogs become disjointed or aggressive. .
With its steep membership fees, which covers five visits per month, the Yard isn’t for everyone, including running dogs: the small outdoor area, covered in “pet-specific faux grass.” , is not exactly a meadow. But the sessions here train dogs and new owners to understand dog play better and ideally navigate other dog courses better.
Annual membership fee: $ 60; $ 30 for people aged 62 and over
Also in the no-frills category: this downtown dog park. A concrete fenced-in area, with an enclosed tree, a concrete ramp, a bone-shaped plastic pool, and a hose to spray, you know, “things,” the Mercer-Houston trail is sandwiched between two. towers, one of which is now under construction. It is a race for members only, open to the public.
It’s not fancy, but “it’s user-friendly. There aren’t too many people. It’s not smelly, ”said Jen Railla, 51, who enjoys the park daily with her Labrador.
Annual membership fee: $ 40
Astro’s may be one of New York’s latest and greatest deals.
This Hell’s Kitchen hub is a great example of how New Yorkers can scratch a little something out of nothing, or at least very little. The park sits on a triangle-shaped plot of land between the traffic lanes near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel; it is an area that would otherwise be unusable. Clean, well-lit and pleasantly equipped with flowerpots and tennis balls, Astro’s is rarely crowded.
“It’s very cold – a nice, caring community,” said Peter Shankman, an entrepreneur who visits his one-year-old rescue dog, Waffle, a mix of dachshund and pit bull at least once a day.
Astro’s has a locked entrance and double gate and Mr Shankman, 49, said he felt safe inside during the height of the pandemic when hotels in the area closed and the streets were relatively deserted. “It’s wonderful,” he said. “Once you get used to the rumble of the trucks every second.” “
Annual fee: None
Jackson Heights Canine Recreational Wonderland in Queens offers what Manhattan parks often can’t: lots and lots of space. JHCREW, as it’s called, occupies half a block on land donated by the New York City Department of Transportation.
Membership is open to everyone. JHCREW lead volunteer Gerald Gold said the park’s “props” – tubes the dogs can walk through, benches, solar lights, and a rain barrel that volunteers fill with cool water for the dogs – are “rudimentary”.
But the park has separate areas for large and small dogs, a luxury for space-tight Manhattan parks. Volunteers empty trash cans and patrol to make sure owners clean up after their dogs.
Green space is scarce in the Jackson Heights neighborhood, and Mr. Gold said he and his neighbors take pride in the park. After all, in a dog-eating dog world, they have come together and created a place that serves the interests of the community.