The First State of Delaware is often overlooked as a vacation destination, but there’s lots to do here for you and your family, including your dog! Unlike Colorado and Arizona, you can drive through the whole state in just one day, making this small, mid-Atlantic U.S. state an ideal weekend getaway choice.
Delaware sits on a small peninsula that’s bordered by Delaware Bay, Delaware River, and the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Here, you’ll find dunes, beaches, and many parks to explore, as well as a thriving riverfront with a wide choice of eateries and trendy boutique-style shops.
But what’s on offer in Delaware for your four-pawed buddy? Well, the majestic Golden Retriever was named Delaware’s official state dog in 2016, although more recently, local dog shelters have received plenty of publicity too. So, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that there are plenty of pet-friendly lodgings and hotels where your dog can stay with you when you visit.
As for places where you can exercise your pup, we’ve done some of the legwork for you by tracking down and reviewing ten of the most popular dog walking spots from around the First State. But before we dive into the reviews, there’s some important information you’ll need to know before you pack your pet into your car and hit the road!
- 1 Licenses
- 2 Leash Laws
- 3 General Dog Park Rules
- 4 Our 10 Favorites
- 4.1 Bethany Beach
- 4.2 Delaware Seashore State Park
- 4.3 Carousel Farm Off-Leash Area, Wilmington
- 4.4 Iron Hill Dog Park, Newark
- 4.5 Lums Pond Dog Park, Bear
- 4.6 Levels Road Dog Park, Middleton
- 4.7 Tidbury Park, Dover
- 4.8 Brecknock County Park, Camden
- 4.9 Elsmere Dog Park, Elsmere
- 4.10 Silver Lake County Park, Dover
- 5 Final Thoughts
In Delaware, dog licensing is managed by the state. You can buy a license by applying through the mail, in person, or online. To obtain a license, you’ll need to provide a copy of your dog’s current rabies vaccination certificate and, if applicable, proof that your pet has been spayed or neutered.
Here’s a summary of licensing requirements for all dogs visiting and residing in the state of Delaware.
- All dogs over six months of age must have a license.
- To obtain a license, you must provide a current rabies vaccination certificate for your dog.
- You must pay for your license in full within 30 days of the expiry date or within 30 days of taking ownership of a dog over six months of age.
- No license fee is payable for guide, lead, seeing-eye dogs, or those who have former US military service.
In Delaware, dogs are not allowed to run off-leash unless they are with an owner or custodian and under reasonable control. However, farm dogs are an exception to this rule.
From sunset to sunrise, your dog must be confined to an enclosure from which he can’t escape. Alternatively, you must secure your dog with a collar, chain, or other device so that he can’t stray from your property.
Dogs are allowed to run off-leash in permitted areas such as dog parks.
General Dog Park Rules
There are plenty of dog parks in Delaware where your pup can enjoy some off-leash fun with the locals. Every dog park has a set of rules that you must abide by when you visit. Below is a summary of what to expect:
- Dogs must be licensed and have an up-to-date rabies vaccination certificate.
- Animals under six months cannot use the dog park.
- Female dogs in heat may not use the dog park.
- Aggressive dogs are not allowed in the dog park.
- You may not bring food or glass containers into the dog park.
- You must pick up after your dog and dispose of feces in the trash cans provided.
For the safety of dogs and children, many dog parks do not allow young kids inside the off-leash area. Also, many dog parks don’t provide water, so always take a supply for your pet.
Dogs are welcome to visit most state parks in Delaware on-leash, but there are some guidelines that you must follow. You can read the state park guidelines in full at this link.
Our 10 Favorites
Delaware has a beautiful coastline, and it would be a shame not to enjoy it with your canine companion. So, in our list of ten of the most popular dog parks in Delaware, we’ve included two beaches where dogs are welcome.
Bethany Beach is located (here) in the town that’s also its namesake, some 55 miles to the south of Dover. This stunning seaside spot has a relaxed vibe and a beautiful stretch of coastline that never seems to get overcrowded.
Bethany Beach has a long boardwalk that runs across the sand, providing the perfect spot for a stroll along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Note that dogs are not allowed on the boardwalk or the beach from May 15th through September 30th. However, your pup is welcome on the beach outside of these dates, provided you keep him on a leash.
To visit the beach, your dog must be licensed and wearing tags. Also, you must dispose of any deposits your pup makes on the boardwalk and the beach. There’s plenty of scope for a stroll here, as the beach is around one mile long and 150 feet wide. There’s a comfort station at the beach front on Garfield Parkway.
Delaware Seashore State Park
The state park boasts six miles of uninterrupted, pristine beach and dunes. The west bay area is great for watersports, including jet-skiing, paddle boarding, wind surfing, and water-skiing. There are two swim areas with concessions and modern facilities too. There are events held here throughout the summer vacation period, and if you want to stay longer, there are camping sites and cottages here.
Away from the shore, you can enjoy cycling, horseback riding, and hiking along the many trails that weave their way through shady woodland. If you’re a keen birder, check out the Rehoboth Bay Marshes Nature Preserve.
Dogs are welcome at the park beaches, but there are different rules, depending on what time of year you visit. Throughout the summer season from May 1st through September 30th, dogs are not permitted on sunbathing and swimming beaches, which are easy to spot, as they are the only beaches that have lifeguards. However, dogs are allowed on any beach that doesn’t have a lifeguard station.
From October 1st through April 30th, dogs are permitted on all of the beaches in the park, although your dog must be kept on a leash, and you must clean up after your pup. Note that you’ll need to bring a supply of poop bags, as none are provided.
Carousel Farm Off-Leash Area, Wilmington
Carousel Farm Bark Park (here) in Wilmington is a great place to take your pup for a run around a huge open space. On a warm day, your dog can cool off with a dip in the pond. If you bring your pup here, you must have him under good voice control, as there’s no fencing or gate.
The pond is quite shallow and has a ramp down into the water where you can stand and watch your pet play and swim. The large field is well-maintained and mown regularly, and there’s a small woodland area surrounding the field that forms a natural barrier. There are picnic tables and benches around the lake where you can sit and watch your dog playing in the water.
Water and poop bags are not provided at the park, so remember to bring some with you.
Iron Hill Dog Park, Newark
Iron Hill Dog Park is located (here) in Newark within Iron Hill Community Park.
The park is fully-fenced and has separate areas for large and small dogs. If you have a tiny dog, be aware that the fencing between the zones might allow your dog to squeeze through. The park is well-maintained with a mulch surface instead of grass. And when your pet has finished playing, you can go for an on-leash walk around the trails in the main park.
There’s plenty of shade here under the trees, as well as lots of benches and a gazebo. Water is provided during the summer months, but the supply is turned off throughout the winter to avoid damage to the pipework. That’s no problem, as visitors to the park bring water with them for their dogs and fill the enormous water dish that someone has donated.
Although poop bags are provided, it’s advisable to take a few with you, as the supply does run out sometimes.
Lums Pond Dog Park, Bear
Lums Pond Dog Park is located in the town of Bear (here). The park is open every day from sunrise to sunset. There is an entry fee if you want to enjoy the main park, but use of the dog park is free.
Lums Pond is the largest freshwater pond in Delaware State, measuring around 200 acres. The park that surrounds the lake covers almost 2,000 acres, and there’s lots to do here for visitors and their dogs. You can camp here, there are baseball fields, soccer pitches, and lots of picnic places. You can hike, go mountain biking or horseback riding along the many trails in the park. If you prefer, try fishing, boating, or cross-country skiing in the winter.
The pond is in an off-leash area for dogs, so your pup can enjoy a dip with his pals on a hot day. Lums Pond Off-Leash Area is not fenced and has been left natural. There are dirt paths that run through the meadows, woods, and grasslands, but the area is not mown, which means that the grass can grow pretty high during the summer.
The dog-friendly area of Lums Pond is marked by buoys so that boats are kept well away from the dogs. A small dock provides a launching point for adventurous pups that love to leap into the water! You can take a seat at one of the picnic tables in the off-leash area to watch your pet play.
Lums Pond is a great place to bring your dog but drinking water is not supplied and nor are poop bags, so you’ll need to bring some with you.
Levels Road Dog Park, Middleton
Levels Road Dog Park is located in the town of Middleton (here). The dog park is situated within Charles E. Memorial Park and is open from 7 am until 8 pm.
The off-leash dog park has separate areas for large and small dogs, with around three acres set aside for small pups and five acres designated for big dogs, so there’s plenty of room for pups to run and play. The entry/exit to the dog park is double-gated for safety.
The park has grassy areas and shade trees, and there’s a water fountain providing drinks for your pup on warm days. If you visit the park during the winter months, you’ll need to bring water for your dog, as the fountain is usually turned off to prevent the pipes from freezing. There are several benches provided where you can sit and chat with other dog owners while your charges play. Poop bags and waste disposal cans are provided throughout the park.
Within Charles E. Memorial Park you’ll find over 100 acres of hiking trails, playgrounds, pavilions, and beautiful open areas that you are welcome to explore with your pet, provided you keep him on a leash.
Tidbury Park, Dover
Tidbury Park is a small community park that’s located (here) in the town of Dover. Here you’ll find lots to do on a day out, including hiking, birdwatching, and fishing. There’s also a large, covered picnic area where you can barbecue.
The off-leash dog park is located a short distance from the main park parking lot. Note that you must keep your dog on his leash during the short walk to reach the dog park, and carry some poop bags with you, just in case.
The park has two separate areas, one for large dogs and one for smaller pups. Facilities here are pretty good with a hand pump-operated doggy water fountain that has built-in bowls. It’s advisable to bring a supply of poop bags with you, and you must clean up after your dog.
Brecknock County Park, Camden
The park is not an off-leash area, but it’s the only park in Camden that allows dogs to visit on-leash. If you come here with your family, and your dog, you’ll love the open fields, wooded trails, and kids’ playground. There is no water or poop bags provided at this park, so you’ll need to bring a supply with you.
If you’re passing through Camden on your way to the coastal resort town of Dover, Brecknock County Park makes a great spot for a short rest stop for you and your canine companion.
Elsmere Dog Park, Elsmere
Elsmere Dog Park is located (here) in a pleasant neighborhood within the town of Elsmere. The parking lot is located conveniently right next to the dog park.
The park is open every day from dawn till dusk and provides plenty of scope for entertaining your pup. The off-leash park is fenced and has a double entrance gate for safety. There’s a small range of agility equipment, including weaving poles, a tube run, table, and an “A” frame challenge.
There are two separately fenced areas for small and large dogs with plenty of room for play. Thirsty dogs can take a drink from one of the doggy water spigots and there’s a drinking fountain for owners too. You can relax and take the weight off on one of the many benches provided while your dog stretches his legs. Be aware that there’s no shade on hot days in the large dog area, although the benches in the small dog zone do have canopies.
Although trash cans are provided, poop bags are not always available, so be sure to bring your own supply.
Silver Lake County Park, Dover
Silver Lake County Park is well worth a visit during your stay in Delaware. You’ll find the park in the town of Dover (here). Dogs are welcome, but they must be kept on a leash at all times. Dog waste stations and poop bags are provided throughout the park, so please make use of them.
Silver Lake Park is a beautiful community facility with a large lake and park area that locals and visitors love to explore. There’s a modern playground area for families, and there are lots of benches provided throughout the park where you can sit and watch the wildfowl. If you’re lucky, you could even spot an eagle, soaring overhead on the lookout for bass and carp in the lake.
The park is crisscrossed by paved pathways, making it easy to enjoy a mud-free walk here year round. The park is open from dawn to dusk every day.
If you’ve never visited the First State of Delaware, you must add it to your bucket list of destination vacations.
Throughout this scenic state you’ll find many lovely, natural areas to explore with your dog, including beaches, lakes, and well-maintained community parks. Before you visit, make sure that your pup is vaccinated against rabies and has collar tags too.