The Best of Houston 2015: The 10 Best Dog Parks in Houston

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Dogs come in all shapes and sizes; so do dog parks. Houston has tiny, barebones parks, huge, well-equipped parks, parks with shade, parks with no shade, parks in the middle of the city and parks in the middle of other parks. Where you take your dog for its daily exercise and recreation depends on location, sure, but with as many parks as Houston has, owners usually have a choice of two or three nearby parks. Here are our top ten. Did your favorite make the list?

10. Elizabeth Glover Park 1400 Elgin

Elizabeth Glover Park is officially the smallest park on our list (taking the honor away from T.C. Jester). It's tiny and relatively unadorned. Bark chips are used as ground cover (based on the holes and piles we saw on our last visit there, bark chips are fun for dogs who like to dig). There are two double-gated entries...and that's it. No benches. No shade (unless you count the shadows of the office buildings directly west of the park).

Outside the fenced area, there's a small lawn of lush grass with an "exercise platform" at one end (we thought it was an outdoor stage). A line of robust native grasses and bushes create a bit of a barrier between park and the always-busy Elgin Street; there's a small noise factor.

So how did this tiny, barebones park make our list? Location, location, location. It's perfectly situated to serve the growing number of Midtown residents. Another big plus is the fact that the park is right across from a busy fire station (the wailing sirens are big fun for the dogs every time the fire trucks race out).

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9. Johnny Steele Dog Park in Buffalo BayouPark 2929 Allen Parkway

The newest park on our list is Johnny Steele Dog Park in Buffalo Bayou Park. (Keep reading; that isn't even the most cumbersome park name on our list.) There are separate areas for large and small dogs; each area has a pond. There are also washing areas and shade structures. And there's a definite fashion vibe to the clientele, both the canine and human varieties. Pink seems to be popular, and doggie clothes -- and accessories -- are common.

8. T.C. Jester Dog Park 4201 West T.C. Jester Boulevard

At just one acre, T.C. Jester is a low-key park with a friendly group of regulars. There are separate small and large dog areas, drinking fountains, benches, washing stations, trees and a double-gated fence.

Just outside the dog park fence, there are long walking trails, playground equipment, baseball and soccer fields and plenty of free parking, so even after you leave the dog park, there's lots to do.

Back to that group of regulars. Well-behaved dogs and their owners can expect a warm welcome, plenty of smiles and casual small talk. Ill-behaved dogs and their owners aren't so warmly received. Aggressive behavior by either is promptly shut down.

7. Market Square Park Dog Runs 301 Milam

Dedicated to the memory of Houston advocate Holly Anawaty, the dog park in Market Square is colorful with separate areas for large and small dogs, water features, drinking fountains, benches and paths. Best of all, the dog runs are just a few steps away from the rest of Market Square Park's other amenities.

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6. West Webster Dog Park 1501 West Webster

West Webster Dog Park is a lovely little pocket park. There are no separate large- and small-dog areas, but there's enough room for everyone. The park boasts a double-gated fence, soft bark ground cover, drinking fountains with water spouts at three different heights, and a dog-washing area.

There's very little shade, which can make noon on a summer day uncomfortable. There are, however, lots of benches, and street parking is plentiful although lots of area residents just walk over.

The Houston skyline makes a nice background for the park.

5. Bear Branch Dog Park 5200 Research Forest Drive, The Woodlands

Two well-equipped acres make up the Bear Branch Dog Park in The Woodlands. There are separate areas for large and small dogs, and both have soft bark ground cover (no grass), lots of shade, water play stations, benches and double-gated fences.

4. Danny Jackson Family Dog Park 4700 Westpark

Situated under towering power lines and surrounded by busy roads and office buildings, the Danny Jackson Family Dog Park might not have great views, but it does have lots of room. Large water play features and enough room to run are the main attractions here. It might not be pretty, but it's an excellent use of otherwise wasted space. The location's convenient to southwest Houston and the Kirby Drive area.

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3. Discovery Green Kinder Large Dog Run and Harriet and Joe Foster Small Dog Run 1500 McKinney

Thank goodness the folks who designed the Discovery Green Kinder Large Dog Run and Harriet and Joe Foster Small Dog Run were more aesthetically aware than the people who named it (come on, a 14-word title is just too long). There are separate areas for large and small dogs, both featuring crushed-gravel ground cover, plenty of shade, drinking fountains and benches. As with Market Square Park, part of the attraction here is the multi-use facilities just outside the double-gated fence, in this case the award-winning Discovery Green.

2. Millie Bush Bark Park 16756 Westheimer Parkway

It was a close race for the No. 1 and 2 spots on our list. Millie Bush Bark Park is 13 acres of comfortable, enjoyable facilities with separate areas for large and small dogs. There are large swimming ponds in both, lots of shade, benches, water fountains, dog-washing areas and walking paths. Picnic benches and restrooms are just outside the double-gated fence.

1. Congressman Bill Archer Bark Park 3201 Highway 6

At 20+ acres, the Bill Archer Bark Park is among the largest in the area. Large and small dogs have their own areas, each with a large swimming pond banked by artificial beaches. Each also has its own agility equipment, in a variety of sizes, as well as an assortment of fountains, benches, walking trails and dog showers.

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