How dog friendly is your town?

Jessica at My Imperfect Dog reflected on how dog friendly her city was, and it made me start thinking about our town.

Hiking at Shenandoah
Hiking near Shenandoah National Park with Silas.

We live in Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia, Monticello, softly rolling mountains, artists, rich old people, and a plethora of bookstores. It’s kind of my dream town, and we are loath to ever leave (particularly now that we’ve put such serious roots down by buying our first home). But what’s it like to live here as a dog?

If I could ask the dogs, I would, but I’d give Charlottesville 5 out of 5 stars in a dog-friendly rating. It’s a progressive place to raise a dog.

Out with the girls
The girls on the river trail near our home, which winds for 33 miles through the city.

What makes Charlottesville dog friendly?

  • ย Lots of hiking and great trails throughout the city. Specifically, a river runs through most of the city, and there’s 33-mile-long trail that winds along the river and conveniently picks up near our home.
  • Shenandoah National Park is about a 45-minute to hour-long drive away. Hiking dog heaven! And beautiful vistas. We don’t visit as often as we should.
  • Many parks, including three off-leash dog parks. We don’t partake in dog parks ourselves, for a number of reasons, but there are decent offerings in town for those who do.
  • The dog-friendly pedestrian mall downtown. There are always TONS of dogs on the Downtown Mall, and lots of al fresco dining options, so your pups can eat out with you (if you happen to have super-chill dogs, unlike us).
  • Many pet stores. We have the big chains (PetSmart and PetCo), but we also have great local pet businesses, like a discount pet food store and an all-natural pet supplies boutique.
  • A plethora of veterinarians. However, I have found that some of the most respected vets tend to be out of the city limits, so we take a hike to see our vet.
  • Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA. This is a regionally respected SPCA for their work in providing a happy, humane, clean environment for animals. Thanks in part to generous donations from our local celebrity residents (e.g., Sissy Spacek), CASPCA was also able to become a no-kill shelter. I volunteered here for almost a year before we adopted Pyrrha, and it was a very pleasant experience. Once you’ve seen what a county animal shelter looks like, you really begin to appreciate how luxe the accommodations are at CASPCA. They take very good care of the animals, even though they are still often strapped for time and resources.
  • A great dog trainer. I, of course, think that our trainer, Deven Gaston at Canine Campus, is the best! There are several other positive trainers in town. And there are some shock collar trainers. So. Options.
  • Dog owners in the city, for the most part, respect leash laws. As the guardian of a reactive dog, I really appreciate this. This does not hold true out in the county, but I imagine that’s true anywhere that you’ll find an urban/country divide (country dogs rarely, if ever, wear leashes; city dogs need them).

I think the general dog culture here is also very interesting. Charlottesville has an interesting mix of middle-aged liberals, college students, and rich old people. This demographic combination results in a rescue-focused and generally progressive dog-raising population.

Most people I know have rescue dogs. Come to think of it, I believe all of my dog-owning friends in town have rescues. I’d venture that people who don’t get rescues and instead buy a purebred puppy may even be looked down on (which, of course, is also not great).

But because of the pockets of substantial wealth, I have also seen more rare dog breeds in Charlottesville than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I’ve seen, just to name a few: leonbergers, a berger picard, a Bedlington terrier, borzoi, a Dandie Dinmont terrier, a black Russian terrier, Anatolian shepherds (there’s a breeder not far from town)… It’s kind of exciting for a big dog breed nerd like myself. (The woman who was walking the berger picard was just astoundedย that I knew her dog’s breed; she said I was the only person who’d ever guessed it correctly. I beamed.)

Venturing out in the surrounding country, you have a lot of hounds. So many hounds. Many of these hounds end up at the SPCA, usually having been separated from the pack during a hunting expedition. CASPCA is filled to the brim with hounds year round (usually large coonhound-, foxhound-type hounds). They run seasonal specials on hounds just to get them adopted. They are such sweet, gentle dogs, but they can be hard to place; they’re large, they’re not especially cute, they often have fear issues, and then there’s the baying. But I always have hope for the hounds.

That’s my best summation of Charlottesville for dog lovers and owners. All in all, I don’t have many complaints!

How dog friendly is your town? What is the canine culture like where you live?

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11 thoughts on “How dog friendly is your town?

  1. You are very lucky, I live in the province of Quebec in Canada and they are not dog friendly at all. Mostly because of lack of respect. People do not pick up after their doggie, huge dogs are running around with no leash and scarring a lot of people and little dogs like mine. We have to drive several miles to get to a place where we can walk with our dogs in nature. I only wish people were more respectful so that the majority of us could enjoy parks and such more.

  2. Vets – that’s a good consideration for a city’s dog-friendliness. Calgary has lots of vets… and they’re all pretty expensive. Just like most things in Calgary, really. Dog ownership is really a big buiness here, with lots of boutique pet stores and fancy dog daycares. It speaks to the city’s larger “spend culture” as a booming oil city – sure, it means you can provide for your pet really, really well, but how necessary is some of it? Not very. Pets and pet care do kind of turn into a luxury and a status symbol at some point. Definitely the case here for some. But the market certainly rises to the demand.

    1. Oh, goodness, you just nailed exactly what is wrong with dog culture here. I can find a $50 dog collar, but not an agility class. People are willing to spend MONEY on their dog, but not necessarily TIME. This town is all about conspicuous consumption. High school girls carrying $400 bags kind of conspicuous.

  3. Thanks for the link!

    I really like the Carolinas/Virginia part of the South, enough that I periodically consider moving back. (I’m more from the cars-on-cinderblocks part of the South, and was deeply relieved to get out.)

    I love to watch the hound group in dog shows. I think hounds are lovely dogs, but they are so dumb. Bless their hearts. My husband grew up with a hound, and all of his stories are about that dog getting himself involved in stupid situations and then being too dumb to get out.

  4. I lived in Hampton Roads for a long while, and ALMOST moved to Charlottesville. (I moved to Nashville instead – bad choice!) I’ve always loved its charm.

  5. Sounds like your town is super awesome! We’re thinking of a trip to the East Coast sometime soonish and may have to stop through.

    We live in Portland, OR- hands down the dog-friendliest place I’ve been. I can shop with my dogs at the Nike store! ๐Ÿ˜‰ We have many places we can dine outdoors with the dogs, and three dog friendly restaurants that serve meals to the pups-I’ll have to do a little write up on it ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Ooohh I see all the comments so far are from the U.S, but we are here in the U.K ๐Ÿ™‚
    Firstly we don’t appear to have as many dog parks as you do. All of our parks welcome dogs, but they’re not kitted out with agility equipment or paddling pools ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
    In terms of walks, we live in a city, Kingston Upon Hull, so sometimes you may have to have a car ride to walk somewhere a little more scenic. However, there are what I like to call ‘hidden gems’; huge parks hidden off main roads. That you would never know are there!
    I’d say 80% of the people I meet when walking are friendly, to you and the dogs, the rest are grumpy!
    As for vets, groomers, pet shops, dog trainers and so on, I am still fairly new to this city, but I am definitely learning by using their services or word of mouth who have a good reputation ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Colorado in general is pretty dog friendly. The city I am in has plenty of restaurants that allow them on the patios, and within an hour drive are two bars that dogs are welcome at (and have play yards for them to run off leash with other dogs). Tons of hiking and an overall positive view. Our ‘state pet’ was named Shelter Dogs & Cats.. yeah, we like them ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. We live in a really small town, and I don’t really count it because we don’t do a lot of social things right in town. We live near two decent sized cities, though, and both of them have their share of amenities, but Bloomington is what I’d really consider a dog-friendly town more than Peoria. They have drinking fountains with lower dog bowls, a lot of walking trails, more restaurants with patios that don’t care if your dogs join you and a more…open…attitude about things in general. Peoria has some nice things about it, too. I would say that our area is making strides towards becoming more dog friendly and considering where it started at a few years ago, it’s a lot better than I expected.

  9. Our city is definitely pretty dog friendly – I can take my dogs inside a lot of places downtown and eat on the patio most restaurants. There are several dog parks and a ton of doggy daycares – I would love some higher quality agility/competitive obedience classes but we make do. I do wish we lived somewhere with a bit more hiking options but if I have to try half an hour for a half decent hike, I’ll do it.

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