Hate seeing those sad puppy eyes when you leave the house some well-deserved fun and adventure? Take heart! There are a ton of dog-friendly places and activities throughout Maryland including Annapolis, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Calvert and Queen Anne’s counties and the Eastern Shore!

Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis offers canine heaven. Leashed dogs are welcome all over the park, including the playgrounds and trails. Two fenced parks offer a safe off-leash play area for small or geriatric dogs that don’t enjoy the occasional rough play of the larger, younger versions. There are benches in shaded corners and two refillable kiddie pools for cooling off. Children younger than 6 are not permitted in the larger park – a very sensible precaution given the speed of these energetic pups.

The best feature of Quiet Waters – an off-leash doggie beach! It’s not fenced in, but is isolated and the dogs are having too much fun with each other to plot escape routes. There’s no way you could use a leash safely – at least not with weekend crowds. Dogs hurtle back and forth on the sandy beach and race each other to fetch sticks, balls and toys from the water. Several dogs would join together to retrieve a large branch, while another barked instructions: “Get that end, it’s going to sink!” “Don’t swim that way!” “Over HERE – don’t you SEE me???” HBO has nothing on the doggie beach. Older children joined in the fun – wee ones watched from a safe distance.

Downs Park in Pasadena offers another secluded dog beach, along with playgrounds, trails, handball and basketball courts.

Several Community parks in Anne Arundel County offer fenced dog parks so that Spot and Fido can run and play while the children enjoy the playground! (each with adult supervision, of course!) Other dog-friendly parks include Bell Branch, Broadneck and Maryland City Parks and Flag Ponds Nature Park.

The Kent Island Dog Park is located behind the Kent Island library on Route 18. Go Friday night or Saturday morning if you want to play with other dog lovers – the park can be deserted at other times. This park rates high – with two fenced dog parks, benches, shade, agility equipment, water fountains and more! The big dogs have plenty of room to run – and the kids love running with them. The kids also seem to enjoy the agility equipment even more than the dogs. Non-kids will enjoy the shaded benches and great conversations with other dog lovers. There’s no fee to use the park – just clean up after your pooch (and kids, if necessary). The nearby library offers bathrooms and water when open.

Terrapin Park is also on Kent Island, off of Route 8 just north of the Bay Bridge. It’s tricky to find – parking is off of the large industrial and business park area. You’ll have a hike to the beach, but families and dogs swim together while looking at the beautiful Bay Bridge. It’s not secluded – if your dog’s not under voice control you’d better leave the leash on. There were several dogs there off leash – but they stayed firmly with their families. This wasn’t the place for a dog free-for-all.

Matapeake Park is just south of the Bay Bridge with splendid views of the bay and bridge. There’s a mile trail to get to the sandy beach, where dogs are welcome to romp off-leash.

Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area is located between the Wye River and the Wye East River. The area offers trails, wildlife, bathrooms, picnic areas and a small sandy beach the whole family will enjoy!

Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge is just south of Rock Hall on the Chester River and offers hiking, crabbing and fishing activities. There is no charge to enter the park, but they prefer dogs to be on leash.

Claiborne is in Talbot County, just off of Route 33 on the way to St. Michaels. This historic town offers a small off-leash dog beach that the locals love!

If you’re a nature lover, take the dogs and kids for a leisurely stroll through Adkins Arboretum in Ridgely. Open 10-4 daily, the arboretum offers self-guided nature walks, a visitors center, miles of trails and an entire world of exploration. Entrance is $3 adults, $1 children (under 5 free). Leashed dogs are welcome.

There’s no reason to leave your furry friends home alone anymore!  If your dog isn’t well-behaved enough to pass muster, invest in some dog training classes and then hit the road — just be sure to have your head hanging out of the window.

By Cyndi Paxton Johnson

Cyndi Paxton Johnson and her husband write and publish Mid Shore Life and build interactive websites. They also homeschool three children, train three dogs, and share space with two cats and sixteen chickens.  Learn more at www.MidShoreLife.com.

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