Dogs can be found throughout Silicon Valley and Santa Clara County, particularly in my own town of Los Gatos (ironically, “The Cats”).  Our mild climate probably makes dog ownership easier than many other places around the U.S.

Doggie Playtime!

Bella and Mary - Belgatos ParkMost parks and trails around the county are open to dogs on leash.

There are plenty of popular neighborhoods where you can walk your canine companion if you want a more relaxed social experience.

School yards are not dog facilities, and while many San Jose area neighborhood dog owners find the empty after-school yard to be the perfect place to run their favorite pooch, it can cause a variety of problems. Kids may play in the yard and step in dog poo, or they might hurt themselves tripping on a hole dug by a dog. Dog claws can also tear up lawns that are maintained for school sports. And even for the best behaved dogs and owners: schools cannot be liable for having a dog on the loose in their grounds.

Dogs are generally not allowed in county waterways, as much of the water is either connected to the valley water supply or are protected areas home to native birds, plants, and even endangered wildlife. Contact the County for availability to non-sensitive sites by special permit. (And with creeks, beware: come of them have bacteria or other organisms which if ingested by your pet can get him or her very sick – we know, we have a lab who cannot resist running water and we have all paid the price.  No more creeks for her!)

Special use permits may also be available for organizations with special events such as dog shows, search and rescue exercises, and water retrieval training. Fees and availability vary, and insurance is required. For more information, contact the Special Use Coordinator at (408) 355-2220.

Instead, be content running a dog on-leash, in your yard, or at an off-leash facility!

Where are the off-leash facilities?

Listed below are several parks within the county with off-leash facilities for you and your pooch. Beneath that is a general list of rules for those who wish to use these facilities. Be sure to check with the individual park online for specifics before you visit.

County Parks

Santa Clara County has three parks with off-leash areas for your favorite hound:

  • Los Gatos Creek County Park, off Dell Avenue in Campbell with separate small and large dog off-leash enclosures.
  • Ed Levin County Park, off Calaveras Road in Milpitas with separate small and large dog off-leash enclosures.
  • Hellyer County Park, off Highway 101 at Hellyer Avenue with one large enclosure for large and small dogs.

Use of the facilities is free, but there may be a fee to park. Parks are open 6 days a week with one day closure for maintenance. Maintenance schedules can be found here.

San Jose Dog Parks

The City of San Jose has some truly wonderful Dog Parks! Below is a list of their faciliites, but for more information, locations, and amenities, check out the website:

  • Butcher Dog Park
  • Delmas Dog Park
  • Fontana Dog Park
  • Miyuki
  • Olinder
  • Raleigh Linear
  • Ryland Dog Park
  • Saratoga Creek
  • Watson Dog Park

Santa Clara : Reed Street Dog Park

Sunnyvale Las Palmas Park and Dog Park

Cupertino has it’s own off-leash dog park in the Mary Avenue Dog Park.

Cambell and Los Gatos do not have their own off-leash facilities, but the Los Gatos Creek County Park county dog run is a large facility not far from either.

The Humane Society of Silicon Valley has a members-only dog park: the Sue and Dick Levy Dog Park

If you live in an apartment, check with management for nearby dog parks and popular walking areas.

Check with your city or town for dog parks and dog-related events locally.

Rules for use of the off-leash areas:

  • Dogs must enter and exit the off-leash facility on a 6′ leash and may only be off-leash within the designated area.
  • Dogs must wear ID with proof of current license and all necessary vaccinations.
  • Dogs in heat are not allowed.
  • Dogs with communicable disease are not allowed.
  • Dogs with aggressive tendencies are not allowed.
  • Dogs which show aggressive behavior must be removed from the off-leash facilities immediately.
  • Handlers must pick up and dispose of their dog’s waste.
  • Handlers must be at least 16 years old or must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Handlers must supervise and control the dog verbally at all times.
  • Only two dogs are permitted per handler.
  • Off-leash areas are for dogs, their handlers, and those accompanying the handlers only.
  • Dog handlers and/or dog owners are responsible for all injury caused by their dogs and must provide contact information if their dog bites another dog or person.
  • Visitors assume all risks related to park and off-leash facility use.

Some other general rules: please wear shoes, be mindful of food and try to avoid bringing human-food into the park or leaving any mess behind, no horseplay, avoid wearing sharp objects on yourself or your dog (no spiked or pronged collars or chokes please), mind your manners and your dog’s, move away from the entrance quickly upon entering, and make sure your dog does not appear threatened at any time.

That being said, remember that not everyone will follow all of the rules. Make sure your dog is well trained and you are aware of your dog while it plays and explores. It is best to slowly introduce your dog to the park if it is not used to similar facilities. If you have a young or untrained dog that you bring to the park in order to socialize, be especially aware of it and supervise closely. These are areas for dogs to play, so please refrain from playing around while you supervise your pooch. Opposite of leashed areas, it is not recommended to keep your dog on-leash in off-leash facilities, as it may compromise the dog’s safety.

And finally…

As with anything else, of course, safety first! For the safety of your dog and others I would like to stress the importance of leashing your dog at all times, except in designated off-leash facilities. Follow all signs and ordinances, clean up after your pooch. Bring necessary supplies, such as waste bags and water.  Always double check that dogs are allowed where you plan to visit – most trails and parks are open to leashed dogs, but certain trails and all children’s playgrounds are off limits. While dogs are often welcome at free concerts in the park, events like the Los Gatos Shakespeare Festival in Oak Meadow are restricted, so be sure to double check before you go. Rangers have the right to issue citations or ask a handler to remove a dog from park facilities if it is considered a public nuisance.

On a hot day, consider staying in – the sun can be harder on your dog because dog’s can’t sweat, so they do not eliminate body heat as readily as we do. Ticks and wildlife can also cause danger to your furry companion, so try to keep them on trails at all times. Remember also that some people are scared of dogs or allergic, and you may be sharing the trails with bicyclists, joggers, and horses, so be respectful and reign in your dog to give others plenty of space.





  • Mary Pope-Handy

    Silicon Valley Realtor, selling homes in Los Gatos, Saratoga, San Jose, Silicon Valley, and nearby since 1993. Prolific blogger with a network of sites.

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