Japan has to be one of the greatest places on earth to be a dog. Dog-ownership is commonplace, and facilities that humans and their canine companions can enjoy together are everywhere. From dog cafes with special pooch menus, to dog-friendly hotels with puppy pampering facilities, to dog parks where your furry friend can go off-leash and play outside with their pals – there are options in Japan that the Western dog-owner can only fantasize about.
Dog parks in Japan offer dogs the opportunity to run free in a safe outdoor environment and interact with other dogs. This is an incredible facility, particularly for those living in apartments (fun fact though – some apartment blocks have dog gyms). However, certain etiquette and rules must be followed to ensure that using the dog park is a positive experience for everyone involved. Doing a bit of research before visiting will go a long way towards avoiding any potentially embarrassing missteps.
Here’s what you need to know in advance of your adventure in the dog park. Please note – this guide is written with urban areas in mind; in isolated rural areas, there may be less restrictions on the free-roaming of your furry friend.
Traveling To The Dog Park With Your Pet
If you’re using public transport, your dog needs to be in a cage or holder. This is also the case for traveling by taxi. If your dog is too big for a cage (over 22 lbs), you don’t have many options outside of organizing a lift privately, or walking to the park.
If you’re walking, your dog needs to be on a leash at all stages until you enter the dog park section of the park. It doesn’t matter how well trained they are, you cannot go off-leash in a public place. This is partly why dog parks are so important – it might be your dog’s only chance to experience outdoor life without the restriction of a leash in Japan.
There are slightly different expectations for cleaning up after your dog in Japan. While in many countries it is acceptable to dispose of bagged dog waste in public bins, you are expected to bring it home with you in Japan.
If your dog pees, you’re expected to pour water on top to dilute it and mask the smell. Be sure to pack a water bottle as well as a bag when going to the dog park. You might also see people laying mats on the ground for their pup to pee on, which they then pick up and carry with them. Others have trained their dogs only to go at home.
The bottom line is, dogs have to go no matter what country you’re in – but in Japan, their waste is a much more private affair.
Many dog parks in Japan require proof that your pooch is registered – carry your dog’s documents with you to avoid disappointment. Proof of vaccination is also a requirement of many spaces – carry your dog’s vaccine passport with you in case you’re asked to show it.
For some dog parks, you will need a permit for your dog to access the space. These are generally available from the city offices – make contact with the park in advance if possible to check on particular requirements.
Law enforcement officers are often seen in dog parks, verifying that all dog-owners hold the correct documentation.
What’s important to note here is for some dog parks rocking up on spec with your pooch isn’t an option – at least not the first time you go. While this can be a pain, it’s also a good thing for protective owners – it means all the dogs your pooch is mixing with have been vetted in some way (if you’ll excuse the pun) and this enhances the safety of the space for everyone.
Dog parks in public service stations and resorts tend not to be as strict on these documentation requirements.
Observe Signage About Size and Weight
Many larger dog parks will divide the park into sections. Larger dogs and smaller dogs may be separated to keep all pooch parties safe and happy. If this is the policy, it will be clearly sign-posted with visual representations of dog size – make sure you put your dog in with the right crew!
What Is There To Do In The Dog Park?
Essentially, your dog makes their own fun here. It’s a large outdoor space with loads of other dogs where they can roam free – what’s not for them to love?
You generally won’t see toys or treats in a dog park, and it might not be appropriate for you to bring your own, either. It could cause unnecessary fights between happily playing dogs! Many dog parks do have some playground-style equipment – raised ramps and such to run and jump on.
There are generally a number of benches too, for the human companions to relax on – but please note that you are responsible for your canine companion at all times in the park, so don’t let them go out of sight.
Where Do I Find A Dog Park?
My usual go-to site for all things pup-friendly, BringFido.com, doesn’t have a huge Japanese representation – Yelp has some listings, but it’s definitely not exhaustive.
Speaking from experience, many dog parks are found within larger park spaces. You can also find them at motorway stops – an excellent resource if you’re traveling long-distance with your pup. Dog-friendly resorts (of which there are many) tend to have leash-free dog parks onsite where your pooch can play to their heart’s content.
If you stumble upon an excellent dog park on your travels, help the community by posting a review or a blog post about your experiences.
I Don’t Have a Dog – Can I Still Go?
Absolutely! Sitting and watching the dogs play can be a beautiful activity to while away an afternoon in Japan. There are also some excellent people-watching opportunities in dog parks, as many of the owners are regulars that gather to convene and gossip.
For those of us who have a beloved four-legged friend at home who leaves paw prints on our hearts when we travel, this can be a great way of scratching that canine-shaped itch!
Which Dog Park Should I Visit in Japan?
Many of the best-known dog parks in Japan are located in Tokyo, which makes sense – this high-density city has many dog-owners living in apartments, desperate to find outdoor spaces for their dogs to run around.
Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park has a large dog run, accommodating dogs of all sizes and breeds. Yoyogi Park itself has plenty to see and do – a visit to the dog park could be incorporated as part of a larger itinerary.
Jindai Botanical Gardens in Tokyo also boasts an impressive dog park facility – is there a nicer way to spend an afternoon than watching dogs and looking at flowers?
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more dog-cuddle heavy experience you can visit a dog café. You’ll find these all over Japan, but they are especially concentrated in the Akihabara region of Tokyo. You could also pay a visit to Wan Wan Land, Japan’s famous doggy theme park located in Tsukuba.
Whether you’re a dog-owner in Japan looking for some friends for Fido, or just a dog enthusiast looking for some friends for yourself, a dog park is an excellent place to visit and observe Japanese dogs and dog lovers alike having fun.