• Nutrition & Wellbeing

Best Areas of Residence for K9s (BARK) Index

We all try to do what’s best for our canine friends. But could what’s ‘best’ be influenced by the city we live in?

Written by vet Dr. Steph Wenban

March 31, 2019

The way we interact with our dogs has changed a lot in the last decade. Those four-legged friends we used to think of as ‘pets’ are now considered bonafide members of the family. In some cases with their own bedrooms, wardrobes and grooming budgets to boot.

With this shift in culture, our cities are beginning to change too. But some faster than others.

Whether we pet parents like it or not, where we live can actually have a big impact on our pup’s quality of life.

In the first annual Paws BARK Index, we take a look at the 25 biggest cities in the UK, weighing up key lifestyle and environmental factors to work out which ones rank as the most dog-friendly, and which ones could dish out a little more dog lovin’.

Use the interactive map below to get a quick snapshot of how your city fares.

Or for the full report, keep on scrollin’!

25. Portsmouth

Portsmouth has some seriously snazzy parks. But they’re few and far between. This lack of green space along with Portsmouth’s poor air quality, traffic congestion and lack of dog friendly pubs lands the south coast city in the bottom place. (Better luck next year Pompey!)

24. Southampton

Clean air and a healthy selection of dog friendly pubs. That’s about all you and your pup will find in Southampton. In terms of green space, clean air, and dogs per capita, the city falls woefully short.

23. Coventry

Talk about an average joe. Coventry ranks smack bang in the middle in all 7 categories - except for green space and traffic congestion where it falls slightly below par. For its lack of standout features, we’ve slotted this medieval town all the way back in 23rd place.

22. Leicester

Leicester boasts an impressive array of parks. But when it comes to the other key categories - like air quality and litter - this heritage hotspot does not *deep sigh* deliver the goods.

21. London

It’ll come at no surprise to learn that London has terrible pollution, traffic jams for days, and the lowest number of doggos per household. However, the Old Smoke does have some redeeming qualities… those being its impressive parks and solid selection of dog friendly pubs. Pint of London Pride anyone?

20. Kingston upon Hull

Super chill traffic and above average air quality. Kingston upon Hull is a great place to take your pawed pal for a long drive with ALL the windows down. Sadly, however, that’s where the fun ends. With its rubbish-ridden streets and lack of green space, Kingston upon Hull offers very little in the way of outdoor play time.

19. Birmingham

In Birmingham you’ll find few dog friendly pubs and even fewer dogs. That’s right - Birmingham ranks third lowest in the Index for its small number of dogs per household. The city does manage to make up some ground with its squeaky clean streets and small selection of top-quality parks.

18. Stoke-on-Trent

With cruisy traffic and super clean air, Stoke-on-Trent makes for a great city to take your pup for a spin around the block. (Windows down. Always.). But when it comes to its parks and selection of dog friendly pubs, the city falls a little bit flat.

17. Sunderland

Clean air, clean streets and green space aplenty. Sunderland is one city where walkies are always guaranteed to be a pleasure. Just don’t expect to come across too many other canine friends on your travels. For this northern city is home to the fourth lowest number of dog per capita.

16. Derby

Looking for a puppy play pal? Look no further than Derby. The East Midlands city is where you’ll find the second highest number of doggos per household. If not for its average amount of green space, terrible traffic and lack of clean air, it might have just been able to climb its way into the top 15.

15. Middlesbrough

Like beer? Love dogs? Then Middlesbrough’s the place for you! This quaint city is home to the highest number of pup friendly pubs in the BARK Index. Not that you’ll find them very full of four-legged folk though. Like Sunderland, Middlesbrough has one of the lowest numbers of pups per capita.

14. Liverpool

Hold your breath and watch your step! Because Liverpool has some of the worst litter and air quality conditions in the entire Index. Luckily, there are plenty of dog friendly pubs for you and your pawed pal to take refuge in.

13. Reading

In Reading you’ll find no shortage of dog-friendly pubs and spiffy parks. It even nabs the top spot for low traffic density. Where it falls down? Green space. Sadly, there just isn’t that much to go around.

12. Bradford

Great parks, endless of clean air and a big population of pups. The city of Bradford has a lot to offer our four-legged friends. Just be careful where you tread when heading out for walkies. Of all the cities in the index, Bradford ranks worst for litter.

11. Sheffield

With its light traffic and clean air, the streets of Sheffield make for a great place to take your dog for a long stroll. Just don’t be surprised if you fail to find much foliage. When it comes to quality and quantity of green space, Sheffield is comes in pretty average.

10. Southend-on-sea

Sandy beaches and top-tier parks. Southend-on-sea offers a lot of opportunities for the athletically-inclined pup. If it can just manage to add a few more dog friendly pubs to its menu, it’ll be sure to snag a top 5 spot next year.

9. Bristol

Home to a booming dog population and loads of pup friendly pubs to boot, Bristol offers the perfect destination for beer-loving pet parents. Letting the city down? Its terrible traffic and below average air quality.

8. Nottingham

The Queen of the Midlands does not disappoint! Ranking in the top 10 for green space, street hygiene and the number of dogs per capita, there’s more than enough here to keep our canine companions happy and healthy. If only the quality of its parks was just that little bit better...

7. Leeds

Of all the cities to go walkies in, Leeds does make for one of the grubbier ones. Making up for this, however, is the city’s bountiful green space, big population of doggos and cruisy traffic conditions.

6. Brighton

Brighton has plenty of top-quality parks to keep our best bud entertained. But that ain’t all. Those who prefer to hang indoors will be delighted to find a big offering of dog friendly pubs to cosy up in. If not for its crummy traffic and poor air quality, this summertime city would’ve slipped into the top 5 without a doubt.

5. Manchester

Green space. Breezy traffic. Loads of dog friendly pubs. Manchester more than delivers the goods for our four-legged friends. The only catch? There just aren’t that many dogs going around. Manchester has the second lowest number of dogs per household. So if you’re looking to get your best bud socialised, this city might not be the city for you.

4. Plymouth

Plymouth’s streets may be in need of a serious scrub. But for clearing top 10 in the categories of green space, clean air and low-density traffic, we consider this city one of the best places our pawed pals can call home in 2019.

3. Bournemouth

Bournemouth is one of the few cities in the Index to score big in both the quantity and the quality of its green space. Add to this its squeaky clean streets and the city of Bournemouth has earned itself an impressive third place. If not for its average traffic and air quality, it might’ve been able to bag the top spot!

2. Preston

Is your pup a social butterfly? If so, Preston’s the place for you. This quaint northern city is home to the biggest dog population in the BARK Index! (An impressive 0.63 dogs per household... in case anyone was wondering). With its top quality parks and doggos galore, new pet parents will find no shortage of opportunities to socialise their pups.

1. Newcastle upon Tyne

Fetching the number 1 place in 2019 is Newcastle upon Tyne! A clear leader of the pack, it manages to bag a top 10 spot in all categories except for one. Clean air, litter-free streets, easy traffic, endless offerings of green space... this top dog of a city sure knows how to keep a pup happy and healthy. Not in the mood for heading outdoors? That’s okay too. Newcastle upon Tyne has plenty of pubs that’d be happy to welcome you and your canine companion.

How is the BARK Index scored?

The BARK Index uses 7 measures to assess the ‘dog friendliness’ of cities. These include:

  • The abundance of green space

  • The quality of local parks

  • Traffic density

  • Air quality

  • Street hygiene

  • The number of dogs per capita

  • The number of dog friendly pubs per capita

Green space

Walkies are always more fun when there’s room to run off-lead. But for this you need space… something that’s in short supply when it comes to most UK cities. Taking into account the ratio of green space to city streets, as well as the number of big parks, we sussed out the cities that offer the most in the way of space to fetch, run and play.

Green space: from top dog to underdog

  1. Preston

  2. Manchester

  3. Leeds

  4. Newcastle upon Tyne

  5. Brighton and Hove

  6. Plymouth

  7. Middlesbrough

  8. Nottingham

  9. Bradford

  10. Bournemouth

  11. Liverpool

  12. Sheffield

  13. Southend-on-Sea

  14. Stoke-on-Trent

  15. London

  16. Sunderland

  17. Derby

  18. Leicester

  19. Birmingham

  20. Bristol

  21. Coventry

  22. Kingston upon Hull

  23. Southampton

  24. Reading

  25. Portsmouth

Quality of local parks

Just like your dog, the BARK Index takes its parks very seriously. So seriously that it not only looks at the quantity of green space on offer, it also holds a magnifying glass up to the quality of that space. By taking into account the levels of litter, vandalism and recreational opportunities on offer, were able to separate the cities with the loveliest parks, from those with the most lacklustre.

Quality of local parks: from top dog to underdog

  1. Brighton

  2. London

  3. Leicester

  4. Reading

  5. Liverpool

  6. Southend-on-Sea

  7. Birmingham

  8. Portsmouth

  9. Derby

  10. Bournemouth

  11. Plymouth

  12. Bradford

  13. Preston

  14. Coventry

  15. Newcastle upon Tyne

  16. Leeds

  17. Sheffield

  18. Bristol

  19. Southampton

  20. Manchester

  21. Kingston upon Hull

  22. Nottingham

  23. Middlesbrough

  24. Sunderland

  25. Stoke-on-Trent

Traffic density

Our pups’ safety while we’re out and about in the streets is a key consideration for all inner-city pet parents. By measuring the yearly number of miles travelled per car, we’ve managed to sniff out which cities are the easiest for you and your best bud to traverse on foot, and which ones will have weaving through a maze of traffic-jammed cars.

Traffic density: from top dog to underdog

  1. Reading

  2. Stoke-on-Trent

  3. Kingston upon Hull

  4. Sheffield

  5. Sunderland

  6. Plymouth

  7. Manchester

  8. Leeds

  9. Newcastle upon Tyne

  10. Bradford

  11. Nottingham

  12. Southend-on-Sea

  13. Preston

  14. Bristol

  15. Liverpool

  16. Bournemouth

  17. Birmingham

  18. Leicester

  19. Southampton

  20. Brighton

  21. Coventry

  22. Middlesbrough

  23. Derby

  24. Portsmouth

  25. London

Air quality

Clean air is just as important for our four-legged friends as it is for us. In fact, studies have shown that air pollutants and smog can lead to respiratory disease and Alzheimer’s in dogs¹². To find out where our pups can breathe easiest, we picked through DEFRA’s airborne pollution data from the past two years.

Air quality: from top dog to underdog

  1. Newcastle upon Tyne

  2. Sheffield

  3. Sunderland

  4. Preston

  5. Middlesbrough

  6. Plymouth

  7. Bradford

  8. Stoke-on-Trent

  9. Manchester

  10. Leeds

  11. Liverpool

  12. Kingston upon Hull

  13. Bournemouth

  14. Bristol

  15. Coventry

  16. Southend-on-Sea

  17. Birmingham

  18. Nottingham

  19. Derby

  20. Leicester

  21. Brighton

  22. Southampton

  23. Reading

  24. Portsmouth

  25. London

Street hygiene

Litter. It’s an eyesore for us humans and possible danger for our pets. Making sure our dogs don’t hoover down random bits of street rubbish is tricky at the best of times. But when you live in a city that’s teeming with litter, this task is even more trying. To find out where your pup will least be at risk of stray chicken bones and tumbleweed crisp packets, we tallied up the cities with the best street hygiene.

Street hygiene: from top dog to underdog

  1. Bournemouth

  2. Southend-on-Sea

  3. Birmingham

  4. Sunderland

  5. Southampton

  6. Newcastle upon Tyne

  7. Stoke-on-Trent

  8. Bristol

  9. Portsmouth

  10. Nottingham

  11. Derby

  12. Manchester

  13. Middlesbrough

  14. Reading

  15. Coventry

  16. London

  17. Brighton

  18. Preston

  19. Plymouth

  20. Kingston upon Hull

  21. Leicester

  22. Leeds

  23. Sheffield

  24. Liverpool

  25. Bradford

Dogs per capita

Dogs are a very social species. So the more pawed pals they have to play with, the better. By looking at the number of dogs per every 100 households, we were able to pinpoint which cities offer the most opportunities for socialisation, and which ones could benefit from a slight doggo boom.

Dogs per capita: from top dog to underdog

  1. Preston

  2. Derby

  3. Bradford

  4. Bristol

  5. Kingston upon Hull

  6. Leeds

  7. Bournemouth

  8. Brighton

  9. Nottingham

  10. Newcastle upon Tyne

  11. Plymouth

  12. Southend-on-sea

  13. Coventry

  14. Sheffield

  15. Reading

  16. Stoke-on-Trent

  17. Portsmouth

  18. Liverpool

  19. Southampton

  20. Middlesbrough

  21. Leicester

  22. Sunderland

  23. Birmingham

  24. Manchester

  25. London

Dog friendly pubs

For pet parents, socialising isn’t always that easy. On evenings and weekends, you want to spend time with your friends. But you don’t want that time to come at the expense of your dog. The solution? Dog friendly pubs! There are plenty to go around in the UK. Though as we found out, some cities offer a heck of a lot more than others.

Dog friendly pubs: from top dog to underdog

  1. Middlesbrough

  2. London

  3. Nottingham

  4. Manchester

  5. Bristol

  6. Liverpool

  7. Brighton

  8. Reading

  9. Preston

  10. Newcastle upon Tyne

  11. Derby

  12. Leicester

  13. Southampton

  14. Bournemouth

  15. Leeds

  16. Sheffield

  17. Plymouth

  18. Coventry

  19. Portsmouth

  20. Birmingham

  21. Sunderland

  22. Bradford

  23. Kingston upon Hull

  24. Southend-on-Sea

  25. Stoke-on-Trent

Sources

Heyder, J. & Takenaker, S. (1996). Long term canine exposure studies with ambient air pollutants. European Respiratory Journal, 9, pp571-584.

Kilian, J. & Kitazawa, M. (2018). The emerging risk of exposure to air pollution on cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease - Evidence from epidemiological and animal studies. Biomedical journal, 41(3), pp141–162.

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