A lot of my blogger friends are advocating for their various cities to win in the Go Pet Friendly contest for the dog friendliest city. Me? Not so much.

I’ve always been really confused by the dog culture here. Rates of dog ownership are high, and this is a big city. There’s a thriving local chain of top-notch pet food stores with what feels like dozens of locations. Every shopping center in our suburbs has a PetCo or PetSmart. You name a brand of dog product, and I can probably buy it locally. People here have dogs, and they spend money on them.

On the other hand, you see surprisingly few dogs out in public, aside from their regular walks around the neighborhood. Last time I took Silas to PetSmart in the evening, we saw one dog. I might see five or six on a Saturday. Every now and then I’ll run into a dog at the local pet stores, but it’s rare. I take Silas to two fairly busy parks, and we almost never see dogs in either. (In their defense, one of these parks has an area that is quite popular with dogs. Silas is afraid of that side.) There are a few really nice dog parks in town, but no off-leash natural areas.

Partly I think the problem is the weather, as I mentioned to Jen at Back Alley Soapbox a few days ago. For over half the year, it’s too hot to leave your dog in the car for even a few minutes. If I need to pick up dog food and grab two things from the grocery store, Silas has to stay home.

There are also very strict health codes here about dogs and food. Dogs aren’t allowed at my farmer’s market, for instance, because a few vendors sell food to be eaten on-site. Dogs are allowed on restaurant patios, but most restaurants don’t have direct access to the patio without going inside. (I assume this is related to liquor licensing. Most coffee places have open patios.) So, no dogs.

Mostly, though, I feel like the great humanization of dogs just hasn’t happened here on a broad scale. People have dogs. People love their dogs. But, they’re “just dogs.”

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining–just stating the facts. In reality, I am A-OK with this. We encounter a good level of dogs for Silas, and I get to eat in restaurants without having to share my dinner with him. Because taking your dog isn’t the default behavior, I’m spared seeing all those dogs who are more afraid to be out in public than their owners understand. Also, in my somewhat limited experience, “dog-friendly” often means “Everyone loves dogs! Who cares if they behave or follow the rules!” If I see an off-leash dog on my side of town outside of a dog park, chances are very high that it’s perfectly well-behaved. (Most recently, a labrador who sat and gazed adoringly at his owner while I rode by on my bicycle. It was like the Twilight Zone.)

As for Silas, he likes having the park to himself:

Is your town dog-friendly? Do you like it that way?


8 thoughts on “Dog-Friendly

  1. I’ve lived in “dog friendly” places where people seemed to feel obligated to take their dogs everywhere. Unfortunately so many of the dogs looked uncomfortable and were not very well behaved.

    I have seen so many conflicts in parks between parents of human children and people who considered their dogs their children with the same privileges that I am perfectly at ease living in a town where dogs are not considered to be furry children.


  2. Denver is very dog-friendly, in fact two “Dog Bars” that have a dog play area attached to a bar have opened recently. These make me nervous as sober people don’t supervise their dogs well enough!

    I’m so surprised at the farmer’s market rules where you are! I had so looked forward to taking Ruby to the best one here in my favorite neighborhood where I used to live, but alas, Ruby and I can take advantage of few of the local dog-friendly perks.

    Last fall Ruby and I took a weekend trip to a dog friendly B&B on a goat farm. It was just as her issues were just starting to emerge and I nearly canceled, but she did amazingly well, and it was a great experience.

    I am curious about Silas’s sidewalk fears, since in the photo above at the park he appears to be walking on a sidewalk-like path. What are his parameters?


    1. Visibility of moving cars. I say he’s afraid of walking on the sidewalk, but that’s shorthand for “he’s afraid to be near traffic.” And by afraid, I mean petrified, clawing desperately at the ground to get away. It’s the biggest reason I put him on his medication. He was so scared that I couldn’t even begin to counter-condition him. We had to leave parks if he realized that he could see moving cars through the trees.

      He’s doing slightly better now, but I’ve been lazy about continuing to work with him since we finished our run of visits with the behaviorist. Also, I’m a little stumped about what to do next, because he’s gotten so very specific. He would rather DIE than walk out our front gate and down the sidewalk of our very quiet street (and it’s tricky to train him over his fear of this, because the townhouse right next to the gate houses a dog-hating termagant.), but he’ll wander around the parking lot of a gas station. That kind of thing. I should write an update post for the blog.


  3. I briefly considered nominating Calgary, but then decided I was too lazy and Edmonton is in the running representing our province, so I’ll vote for it. (Banff was there, too, but it got knocked out early and I’ll never understand why!)
    Calgary is pretty pet-friendly, though: progressive by-laws, lots of parks and paths. We might be too cold for some dogs, but I think what really puts us bheind is our car culture. Calgary is not pedestrian-friendly, and, as such, makes it not dog-owner friendly to an extent. We are a sprawled city of suburbs. Pet stores and dog parks are several kilometres away.
    But you’ll still see dogs everywhere – including places they probably shouldn’t be, like busy street festivals in the summer. And it’s hard to predict – I’ll walk Alma purposefully at 2pm in the afternoon in the hopes that we’ll run into lots of other people and dogs, only to see no one. Then the next day I’ll be tired and until 10pm hoping for a quiet walk and pass 3 dogs in the first 5 minutes.


  4. I think the Sf bay area is just about as perfect as it gets for dogs. There are tons of restaurants and cafes to take dogs, pet stores galore, I can’t think of a non-food shop that has turned us away, countless beautiful places to take them off leash and plenty of safe on leash places too. Plus the weather is almost always a safe temperature for leaving the dogs in the car to run errands and it doesn’t get cold often either. It only may not be a dog friendly place for dogs who don’t like other dogs because there are a lot of them…everywhere. They mostly seem pretty happy. We’re biased…and spoiled!


  5. We’re currently living in a very dog-unfriendly city. However, we came from somewhere where people loved to take their dogs with them everywhere, which was great. For Emmett. Not so much for the other two. I’d love to have a park all to ourselves, which I think we’d find here… if there were parks! I guess you can’t ever have it all. 🙂


  6. You’re right, “dog friendly” does sometimes mean, “Who cares if they’re well mannered?” Bellingham, Wash., is very dog friendly. Anywhere you go, it’s common to see a dog riding along in the car. (It’s rarely hot enough for waiting in the car to be dangerous). And our local bookstore allows dogs.

    From the time I first had to deal with Isis’s reactivity, I’ve spent a fair amount of time resenting all the people who can take their dogs anywhere. It makes it hard to find places to take my dogs where we won’t run into OTHER dogs. But when it comes down to it, dog friendliness is a good thing. Probably, I stand a better chance of people being understanding when Leo barks and lunges at them.


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