Echo, the white dog, and Rollo, the standard poodle, wrestle at the Dog Park at Lake Ida West in Delray Beach, but it’s all show. Monica Swift, Echo’s companion, supervises the activity, so it doesn’t get too rough. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
Companion, confidante, comforter, comedian. Your dog gives everything to you. Want to pay him or her back?
Here’s what Brienne, my 2-year-old rescue dog, and I have planned this month to strengthen our relationship and fulfill my dog’s needs:
1. Visit a dog park
Dogs are social animals: They want friends, and they need socialization. Since she was 4 months old, Brienne, a 90-pound Belgian Malinois-boxer mix, has romped and wrestled with dogs at the Dog Park at Lake Ida West.
The tree-filled park has areas for small dogs (under 30 pounds) and large dogs (over 30 pounds), and the diversity of the dogs and the people makes the experience like going to a different dog show every time.
In the morning, the park is quiet and the air is fresh, clean and bright. In the evening, a cooling breeze blows in off the lake, and folks, weary from a long day, rest on benches and watch the sun set and the dogs play.
Not a fan of dog parks? Try doggie day care or set up a doggie playdate with a friend or neighbor.
Leashes hang on the fence at an off-leash park.
2. Enjoy a dog beach
If you’re not fortunate enough to have access to a private stretch of beach, the only public beach that currently (and legally) allows dogs in South County is Bark Beach at Boca Raton’s Spanish River Park, between lifeguard towers 18 and 20. The swath of beach and the park’s hours are limited: 7-9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to sunset during Daylight Saving Time. Dog owners also need permits. Annual fees range from $35 (residents) to $210 (nonresidents). Weekend passes are available for $15.
In the fall and winter, Boynton Beach opens Oceanfront Park (6415 N. Ocean Blvd., Ocean Ridge) to pups one Saturday morning each month. It usually starts in September and continues through January. Check www.boynton-beach.org and look for the calendar page under “Government.”
In northern Palm Beach County, Jupiter Dog Beach is 2.5 miles of off-leash dog heaven. It is the only free seven-days-a-week dog beach in the Palm Beaches. Jupiter Beach opened to dogs in 1989 and it’s been successful because it’s supported by the Friends of Jupiter Beach, a well-oiled machine when it comes to taking care of the beach.
Another beach option is Peanut Island, located in the Intracoastal Waterway in Riviera Beach, accessible by boat or shuttle. This dog-friendly haven requires a little planning because services are limited, although it has plenty of dog waste stations. The shuttle leaves from Riviera Beach Marina (adults pay $18; $9 for ages 9 and younger and Fido rides for free). Parking at the marina (200 E. 13th St.) is free.
The rules are the same as they are at all county parks where dogs are allowed; all dogs must be on a 6-foot leash. But reviews on Yelp and Bring Fido say things are pretty relaxed and they’ll likely stay that way until someone abuses the rules.
3. Teach new skills
“Learning a new trick can be more tiring than a long walk,” says Babette Haggerty, a second-generation dog trainer who lives and does private training in Boca Raton. (Her father was the renowned trainer Capt. Arthur Haggerty, who served as captain of the Army’s K-9 Corps on three combat tours.)
Even practicing a simple skill like how to wait builds impulse- and self-control in your dog, Haggerty says. And a trained dog is a confident dog. Getting your dog to come when he’s called, to sit and stay and to properly walk on a leash could save your dog’s life and save you or someone else from injury.
Brienne, Janis Fontaine’s 2-year-old rescue Malinois-boxer mix, loves to walk at the Dog Park at Lake Ida West in Delray Beach. Photos by Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
4. Take a dog hike
There’s a difference between a walk and hike. When you’re walking your dog, he should be at a heel, walking beside you, waiting attentively for your next command. Walking is about traveling, and it reinforces your relationship and builds positive behaviors.
On a hike, let the dog’s primitive brain take over. Let him smell every bush, chase down that squirrel, pick up a stick, investigate the bird in that bush. A dog’s nose is as important a source of information to him as our eyes are to us. Letting him bask in new odors is like taking us to an action movie. And spending time in nature is good for you and your dog.
Dianna Scotto, owner of Scoopy Doo’s, prepares a bowl of ice cream for Scarlett, a black lab mix.
5. Enjoy a dog date
Doggie dining has become commonplace in eateries, but taking your dog to a restaurant isn’t about the dog.
Scoopy Doo’s on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach is all about the dog.
The store sells dog-friendly treats and other accessories, and it’s just fun to visit. Brightly colored, airy and clean, Scoopy Doo’s opened last October and has become the go-to for homemade pet-safe treats and, yes, dog ice cream.
“We wanted a mom-and-pop pet shop feel,” said Dianna Scotto, 56, who owns Scoopy Doo’s with her son, Kyle, 30. She’s a former police sergeant who retired to South Florida permanently a few years ago. Kyle is an e-commerce whiz who keeps online sales clicking.
“We came down eight years ago on vacation and the third week we bought a condo,” Scotto said.
When you enter Scoopy Doo’s, you and your dog will be greeted at the door by mother or son. Dianna or Kyle will walk you through the ice cream-tasting process and ask questions about your dog’s health, dietary restrictions, food sensitivities and illnesses.
“If your dog has diabetes or pancreatitis, we’ll know which treats are OK for them to have,” Dianna Scotto said.
You’ll be offered samples — really, your dog will with your permission — to see what flavors he prefers. The store has a wide variety of nature treats, including softer treats especially for dogs with bad teeth, a common problem with small breeds and older dogs. Knowing the nutritional value of its products is job one at Scoopy Doo’s.
“It’s not a people store,” Scotto said, “it’s a dog store.”
Though the store does cater to canines, cat treats and accessories are available, too. The team makes many of the treats on-site using natural ingredients, fruits and vegetables and organ meats as the main ingredients.
Got a birthday coming? Celebrate your dog’s birthday at the store or pick up party supplies to host a party at home. Scoopy Doo’s has more than 40 custom cakes, or pick up a premade cake you can freeze for up to six months. Ice cream comes already made in pints or in powder form to mix and freeze at home.
Now Scoopy Doo’s is adding grooming to its services. The store also hosts special events like dog adoptions for local rescues. “It’s all good,” Scotto laughs.
“But we’re not a store. We’re an experience.”
Scoopy Doo’s, 507 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. 561-265-5362 or scoopydoosdelraybeach.com.
Having fresh drinking water is more rewarding to a dog than all the hugs and kisses in the world. Want to make friends with a dog? Offer that pup a drink.
Places to take your dog
Off-leash dog parks
Canine Cove at Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park, 12551 Glades Road, Boca Raton.
Dog Park at Lake Ida West, 1455 Lake Ida Road, just east of Congress Avenue and the I-95 overpass, Delray Beach.
Lake Woof at John Prince Park, 2700 Sixth Ave. S., Lake Worth Beach.
Municipal dog parks
Mizner Bark Dog Park — 751 Banyan Trail, Boca Raton. Small-, medium- and large-dog sections. A permit is required, but it’s free for residents, $355 annually for nonresidents, or $30 a month for nonresidents.
The Crowder Dog Park — 800 Renaissance Commons Blvd., Boynton Beach. Large-, small-dog sections. Dogs allowed off leash in designated areas. Free.
Maddock Park — 1200 W. Drew St., Lantana. Large-, small-dog sections. Dogs must be vaccinated and display current licenses. Any dogs that show the first sign of aggression must be immediately removed from the park. Free.
Bark Beach at Spanish River Park — 3001 N. A1A, Boca Raton. Fee for residents is $35 per dog for a one-year permit (Oct. 1-Sept. 30). Nonresidents pay $210 per dog for an annual pass. Weekend passes are available for $15. Fees do not include beach parking. For that you’ll need a beach permit ($75/year for residents; $35/day others) or take your chances with metered parking on Spanish River Boulevard.
Jupiter Dog Beach — 2188 Marcinski Road, just north of Ocean Cay Park. Since dogs are not required to be on-leash here, only non-aggressive dogs that respond to voice commands from their owners are allowed. Free. Info: friendsofjupiterbeach.org.
Dogs like gardens, too
Mounts Botanical Garden (531 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach) is dog friendly 9 a.m.-4 p.m. the second Sunday of the month, or 9-3 out of season. Admission for your dog is free with garden admission ($15 nonmember adults; $12 age 65+, college students, and military with ID; $7 ages 6-17, free for ages 5 and younger). No retractable leashes. One dog per person. Bring water and treats. The next dogs day is May 14. www.mounts.org/dogs-day.
Columnist Janis Fontaine usually writes about religion. This month she wanted to share her pet story.