My dog Annie gives Florida two paws up. There are so many things for dogs and their owners to do together. Grab a leash and let's go!
Getting clean and pretty, something dogs need to do regularly, becomes a whole new experience at a dog spa. After all, we humans feel better with a little tender loving care for ourselves, so why shouldn't our best friends have the same pampering?
Annie and I made an appointment at Park Avenue Paws, a luxury day spa for dogs in St. Augustine. Annie, a rescued Golden Retriever/terrier mix, walked in the spa door as a dishwater blonde with lots of matted undercoat.
After a blueberry facial (good antioxidants), a bath, blow dry and nail clipping, she emerged her true self—a beautiful golden honey blonde with shining hair and no undercoat. And she loved it.
To my surprise, Annie, who is normally shy about new things, was a happy dog. The experience was positive and fun. She especially liked the blow dry part. It was like a wind massage
Pampering pooches is a popular activity around the Sunshine State. Miami, for example, lists 275 places for grooming your dog.
Annie's tips for humans: Go with your dog to the spa the first time. It will increase their comfort level—and yours. Be advised, these blueberry facials are for the pooches only!
On the Gulf of Mexico, you could say the Lorelei Resort Motel in Treasure Island has completely gone to the dogs and you'd be right. Unlike most pet-friendly overnights that add an extra charge for your dog, at the Lorelei, the first two pets stay free (additional pets are $10 per night).
The property is completely fenced so your four-legged friend can literally walk out of the room to the patio and make new friends.
A good resource for finding dog-friendly accommodations all over the United States is the paperback guide Traveling With Your Pet, published by the American Automobile Association and available through AAA and bookstores.
Orlando, for example, is listed with 57 AAA-rated, pet-friendly lodgings. Dogs will wag their tails over all the things to do with your human—go to the city's dog park or stay at the theme park resorts including Walt Disney World Resort, Sea World Orlando and Universal Orlando Resort.
You can use VISITFLORIDA.com’s search tools to find other dog-friendly accommodations. Start by picking your destination (try the page that lists all tags), then choose the link for “hotels and places to stay.” You’ll have a filter option on the left-hand size for property amenities; click on “pets allowed.”
Annie's tips for humans: Bring your dog's favorite blanket or sleeping pad for overnights so your best friend feels at home amid all the new smells. Having them sleep on their own bed also cuts down on any shedding on the hotel sheets.
We humans like to get out and be social. Dogs do too. Where are the dogs gathering? Lots of places, including dog-friendly beaches, state and county parks and dog parks—special places that are fully fenced and set aside for dogs to have fun sans leash. Some dog parks are free, though many charge a fee. The website Florida Pets lists more than 126 beaches and dog parks in Florida.
Dog Wood Park in Jacksonville is an off-leash park with 42 acres. Think of it as a high-end gym and social club for dogs. They have dog-swimming ponds, jogging/walking trails and exercise equipment including tunnels, tires and jumps. There is a huge field for Frisbee and ball throwing. The park provides tennis balls. The public has certain days for visiting (members have different schedules) and a fee is charged. You must provide proof of current rabies shot.
Check out the photos of dogs at the pond. These are wet, happy dogs!
Beaches are a big attraction for many dogs and their humans. The rules regarding dogs on beaches vary widely. A good resource is the paperback book The Dog Lover's Companion to Florida: The Inside Scoop on Where to Take Your Dog by Sally Deneen and Robert McClure.
Dogs are not allowed on the beach at Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine, for example, but just north of St. Augustine at Vilano Beach, dogs can visit and go swimming in the surf.
Pinellas County on Florida’s west coast has six Dog Parks and more are planned. Fort De Soto (3500 Pinellas Bayway in Tierra Verde) has one of the Dog Parks - two acres fully fenced with a 200-yard stretch of beach. If you want to stay in the park for a few days, pets with proof of vaccinations are allowed in Area 2 of the campground.
Annie's tips for humans: Bring a big beach umbrella so I can relax in the shade after chasing my rubber ball in the surf. You might like to bring a chair for human sitting.
In my book, 50 Great Walks in Florida (University Press, 2008), a total of 33 walks permit well-behaved, leashed dogs on either part or all of the walk.
Annie's personal favorite is the Land Bridge Trail, south of Ocala, on the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. As long as your dog is on a leash, she'll enjoy a nice, leafy forest trail with lots of shade trees and a big log on the path for jumping back and forth. It is a dog thing.
Annie’s tips for humans: I love walks, especially if you’re well prepared with some of the items below!
Traveling with your dog is easy when the basics are covered.
- A supply of plastic bags to clean up your pet's waste
- Water bowl and water bottle
- A copy of your dog's rabies certificate and/or rabies tag
- Collar with a tag that has your contact information
- Any dog medications
- Recent photo of your dog should you become separated
- Car restraint—either a harness or a short lead to keep your dog secure inside the car
Never, never, never leave your dog waiting in the car. They can suffer injury or die from overheating in less than ten minutes, especially during our Florida summers. Plan ahead so any trips with your dog has them out of the car with you at every stop.
Annie's tips for humans: On long drives, let's stop every hour for a potty break and short walks.