Dog-friendly parks on Long Island

A handsome hound thrills the crowd at the

A handsome hound thrills the crowd at the Basset Hound Olympics in Wantagh Park. (Credit: Newsday / Lorina Capitulo)

There's nothing better than enjoying the great outdoors with a few good friends, but what if your friends are among the four-legged set? Long Islanders enjoy several parks where dogs are free to socialize, romp and play to their heart's content. So go ahead, BYOD -- bring your own dog -- and check out a few great spots for you and your furry friends.

In general, dog runs are open from dawn to dusk. Most are fenced, some with separate areas for large and small (usually 25 pounds or lighter) dogs. You're expected to clean up after your animal, be able to produce proof of rabies vaccination and obey park guidelines about where dogs can roam on and off their leashes.

Some parks charge a fee or have resident-only restrictions from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Here's a growing list of state and county parks where your dogs can roam free or leashed.

NASSAU COUNTY PARKS

Bay Park: First Avenue, East Rockaway, 516-571-7245 Fees: Free parking It's hard to tell who enjoys the socializing more here - the four-leggers or their owners. This run is a real neighborhood hangout - regulars organize doggy birthday and barbecue parties throughout the year. This park has a dedicated dog run for off leash play. Dogs are not allowed in any county parks, preserves or facilities. Cons of the run include slow draining after a big rain, no water source inside the run, which is far-flung from parking, and very little shade.

Christopher Morley Park: Searingtown Road (north of LIE), Roslyn- North Hills, 516-571-8113 Fees: Free parking A strong group of regulars congregate in this attractive dog run. The fenced area has a wood chip base, with easy parking and a water source. Small and large dogs share the same space - and dogs are only allowed in the run, not elsewhere in the park.

Cedar Creek Park: 3340 Merrick Road, Seaford, 516-571-7470, Cedar Creek Park Dog Run Association Fees: Free parking This well-kept Nassau County park has side-by-side fenced areas for small and large dogs. It's small enough for owners to all know each other. The entire park offers loads of other amenities, but dogs are not allowed in any county parks, preserves or facilities. In terms of cons, there's little natural shade and in terms of room to roam and sprint, these runs are on the small side.

Eugene Nickerson Beach Park: 880 Lido Boulevard, Lido Beach, 516-571-7700 Fees: $8 residents and those with a Leisure Pass, $20 nonresidents without Leisure Pass, Memorial Day-Labor Day This large park, beside the sand dunes, is one of the busier dog runs on the Island. There's a raised cement platform with seating and a user-installed agility area where dogs can try basic obstacles. A separate small-dog area is sometimes used as a "doggy timeout" for canines that get too rambunctious.

Wantagh Park: Kings Road and Canal Place, Wantagh, 516-571-7460, Wantagh Organization of Friends Dog Park (WOOF) Fees: Free parking There's lots of regulars at this dog park, with large- and small-dog runs situated around a grassy picnic area that's close to other park amenities. Dogs are not allowed in any county parks, preserves or facilities. See photos from the Basset Hound Olympics held at Wantagh park.

SUFFOLK COUNTY PARKS

West Hills Dog Park: Sweet Hollow Road and Round Swamp Road, Huntington, 631-854-4423 Fees: $3 (with a Green Key) or $10, daily Memorial Day-Labor Day The huge (nearly 2 acres) fenced area within West Hills County Park has permanent seating, shaded areas and doggy water fountains. The small-dog park is about a third of an acre. Watch this video of West Hills Dog Park . LI Dog Owners Group , lidog_news@yahoo.com

Blydenburgh Dog Park: Off Veterans Memorial Highway, across from H. Lee Dennison Building, Smithtown, 631-854-3713, suffolkcountyny.gov/parks Fees: $3 (with a Green Key) or $10, daily Memorial Day-Labor Day There's lots of dog traffic here, with designated off-leash areas, plus a fenced run with wooded, dirt and grass areas covering 1.8 acres. You can walk dogs on leash outside the run to water and along the boardwalk. The dog park is located within 627-acre Blydenburgh County Park in the southern section of the park. The dog park itself is on the activity field, north of the campgrounds. There's a bathroom near the run, but no other park facilities. Blydenburgh also offers trails to hike, lakes to jump in and places to picnic. LI Dog Owners Group , lidog_news@yahoo.com

Middle Island Dog Park: 1075 Middle Country Road (Route25), Middle Island, 631-451-9101, middleislanddogpark.org Fees: $25 annual pass This 4-acre site, Brookhaven's first dog park, has separate areas for small dogs (under 30 lbs.) and large dogs (over 30 lbs.), with benches, water fountains for each area, and waste-bag dispensers. Users have also set up agility areas. Dogs must have current rabies vaccines and be spayed or neutered. Admission by "Pooch Pass" required. When nature calls for dog owners, there are only portable toilets.

East Northport Dog Park: Depo Road A good-sized space (about 300' by 90'), it has bag stations and a shade/rain pavilion with benches. For Huntington township residents only. Permits are required and free.

Gardiner Country Park: Montauk Highway at Manor Lane, Robert Moses Parkway, Bay Shore, 631-854-0935 Fees: None The huge space is quite popular with wooded trails, a pond and access to the Great South Bay. Leashes required.

Southaven Country Park: Victory Avenue, Brookhaven Much of the terrain here is flat and easy to walk. The lake is pretty cool, too. Park is dog-friendly, but doesn't have an actual dog park.

Southold Town Recreation Center Dog Park: 970 Peconic Lane, Peconic (behind Recreation Center), 631-765-5182 Fees: Free parking A bit of a hidden gem, this new North Fork dog park is a hit with those in-the-know. Another of those hidden gems; separate area for small and large dogs; grass and dirt. In terms of cons, the park is on the small side, less than a half-acre total, with no water source not much permanent seating.

Coindre Hall: 101 Browns Rd., Huntington, 631-854-4949 Fees: None It's not an authorized off-leash park, nor a fenced-in dog run - but it's easily one of the most beautiful areas for dogs on leashes to visit. A grassy field on a hill leads down to the water.

DOG PARK ETIQUETTE

- Scoop the poop.
- Keep your dog on a leash when a leash law is enforced.
- For safety reasons, never let your dog greet others unless invited to do so.
- Make sure your dog is well behaved and will listen to obedience commands.
- Pay attention to your dog and be responsible for their behavior
- Follow the posted rules as they can vary at individual parks.

DOG-FRIENDLY BEACHES

Atlantic Beach: Dogs on a leash are allowed on the beach only during the off-season, from Oct. 1 through March 31. Dogs are not permitted on the boardwalk at any time.

Heckscher State Park in East Islip: Dogs on a leash no longer than 6 feet are allowed on the beach, access in undeveloped areas only. Dogs are not permitted in camping, bathing and picnic areas, in buildings or on walkways.

Fire Island National Seashore: Dogs are permitted, but must be kept leashed and are not allowed in public buildings, on lifeguarded beaches or near areas closed for endangered species.

Ocean Beach in Fire Island: Dogs on a leash are allowed on the beach only during the off-season, from September 16 through May 14.

Town-owned beaches in Southampton: Dogs are allowed on all town-owned beaches only between October 1st and April 1st.

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