What is a Service Dog? (Frequently Asked Questions)


While discussing Samson’s tasks with a colleague the other day, it occurred to me that most of the general public has no idea about all the wonderful things that service dogs are capable of. When people ask questions in public, most don’t mean to be rude but rather they are inquisitive because society hasn’t done a good enough job showcasing all the wonderful things that assistance dogs can do. Most people don’t know how a service dog can help someone who isn’t blind, and it is up to us to help spread that awareness in a courteous and educational manner.

What is a Service Dog?

Legally, a service dog is a dog that has been trained to work or perform commands/actions (called tasks) that are directly related to helping mitigate its handlers disabilities. Service Dogs are often referred to as Assistance Dogs (particularly outside of the United States).

How is a Service Dog different from an Emotional Support Dog or Therapy Dog?

In short, services dogs have particular commands/actions (called tasks) that they are trained to perform to help their handler. Providing comfort (although important) is not considered a task under the definition of a service dog and therefore if the animal’s existence helps the handler by just providing comfort, it is not considered a service dog. Additionally, service dogs have to meet the highest standard of obedience as they are allowed in “no pets” places.

Service Dog – A dog that is specifically trained to do work to directly mitigate its handler’s disabilities. Service Dogs are legally covered by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and allowed to accompany their handlers anywhere. Service dogs are held to an utmost standard and must stay focused and be trained to behave properly in public.

Emotional Support Dog (ESA) – A dog who provides comfort to one particular person via their existence. An ESA makes its handler feel better but not by performing trained tasks or specific work. Since it is the existence of the ESA that helps the handler as comfort, the dog is not considered a Service Dog. ESAs require documentation from a doctor and are only allowed additional privileges in “No Pets” buildings and airplanes. ESAs are not allowed in any other “No Pets” areas such as restaurants or grocery stores. There are no training requirements for an ESA and this has become a point of contention in the United States.

Therapy Dog – A dog that has been trained to help other people such as patients at hospitals or children at schools. Therapy dogs can help many people at once, as opposed to Service Dogs who are trained to only focus on their handler. Therapy dogs are not allowed in “no pets” places except the facilities that they volunteer at.


FAQ: My dog calms me when having an anxiety attack, does this qualify it as a service animal?

Not necessarily. First, Is the dog trained specifically to respond, alert to, or stop a panic attack? Secondly, does the handler have an illness or impairment which limits a major life function to be considered a disability? If it is only the presence of the dog is that comforts someone who is having an anxiety attack (I.e by petting it) then the dog is not considered a service dog.

However, if the dog is trained to recognize when their handler is having a panic attack (I.e deep breathing, increased heart rate) and acts to help stop it, the dog could be considered a service dog. Additionally, if someone feels anxious “sometimes”, this is not the same thing as having a psychiatric DSM-IV diagnosis of anxiety, so a handler must be considered medically disabled in order for their dog to be considered a service dog.

FAQ: I am depressed and my dog makes me feel better, does this qualify it as a service animal?

Again, not necessarily. If a dog helps someone through depression or sadness by sitting on the couch with them, cuddling on the bed, or letting their human give them hugs, these actions fall under the category of “comfort” (still important and life changing, but not a trained service dog task).

However, if a dog is trained to directly interrupt behaviors of self harm that may be related to a DSM-IV diagnosis of depression, they could be considered a service dog. One example of these types of interruptions could be something such as a paw nudge, or more physical interruption to self harming behaviors (I.e hair pulling, breakdowns). During a depressive episode, a dog may also be trained to provide deep pressure therapy to help a distressed handler.


What kinds of illnesses or impairments can a Service Dog help with?

A service dog could hypothetically help an individual with any type of ailment that limits important day to day life functioning. Below are some (but definitely not all) of the impairments that are more commonly considered to be disabling.

  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Side effects of Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Autism
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Cardiac disease
  • Schizophrenia
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depression
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Missing limbs or partially missing limbs
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair
  • Intellectual disability

Does having one of the above illnesses/impairments automatically qualify anyone for a service dog?

Having one of the above illnesses/impairments may qualify someone for a service dog but not always. If you are impaired by your illness to the point of your symptoms impacting major life functions, your illness might be considered disabling. “Impacting a major life function” means that the individual has difficulty performing an activity that the average person can easily perform. It has become all too common for people to equate diagnosis with disability as a way to justify the need for a service dog. However, having an anxiety diagnosis does not automatically mean that anxiety disables you, but it may. Every diagnosis impacts an individual differently and not all disabilities are visible just by looking at someone. Your healthcare team can determine if you qualify for a service dog.

What are the most common types of service dogs?

  • Guide Dogs
  • Hearing Dogs
  • Mobility Assist Dogs
  • Medical Alert Dogs
  • Medical Response Dogs
  • Psychiatric Service Dogs (not the same as ESA because they are formally task trained)

What are examples of some ways that Service Dogs can mitigate disability?

Service dogs are most commonly associated with guide dogs helping individuals with visual impairments – yet there are many other ways that a service dog can help its handler. Here are some examples of how a service dog can aid its handler:

  • A dog pushing a button to open doors for an individual with limited mobility.
  • A dog detecting a seizure or blood sugar drops for an individual impacted by epilepsy or diabetes.
  • A dog notifying a handler with hearing impairment of the doorbell, incoming phone call, or an alarm ringing.
  • A dog detecting increased heart rates and responding (as trained) to prevent or mitigate the impact of a panic attack for individuals with PTSD or other psychiatric illnesses.
  • A dog detecting changes in vitals to alert and respond to an oncoming medical episode
  • A dog finding help or finding the exit in an establishment for an individual who may be dissociating with reality.
  • A dog retrieving dropped items or bringing items for an individual with mobility issues, heart conditions, or chronic pain that makes movement difficult.
  • A dog helping to stop behaviors such as finger picking, leg scratching, crying, self harm, or other compulsive behaviors associated with some psychiatric illnesses. Dogs can interrupt behaviors in multiple ways including licking, jumping up, pawing, (and more)
  • A dog acting as a brace for a handler with chronic dizziness or balance issues.
  • A dog providing deep pressure therapy to help decrease cortisol levels in the body that may lead to panic attacks or fainting
  • A dog trained to find help if its handler is in danger
  • And many more…..

Can any dog be a service dog?

Any dog breed can legally become a service dog. Some dog breeds such as retrievers and poodles have temperaments with a more proven track record for service work, but hypothetically any type of dog could be a successful service dog.

However, not all dogs can succeed as service dogs and most dogs would not be considered fit for service work. Even organizations where puppies are raised from birth and picked specifically for service work will “career change” (I.e not pass) most of the dogs. Service dogs must have stable temperaments, be non-aggressive in all environments, non-reactive, extremely well trained and obedient. Even having a disability does not justify taking any dog and claiming it as a service dog. The dog must meet the highest standards of behavior AND directly help its handler – having a disability does not entitle an individual to bring any dog where they please if the dog is not in control.

I don’t have money to properly care for or train a service dog, but I am disabled…Should I get a service dog?

The short answer is No. Being disabled or eligible for a service dog does not automatically turn a dog into a service dog. Additionally, not having the time or resources to train a dog does not make it ok to cut corners with training or excuse inadequate obedience. If the dog is not trained, it is not a service dog and shouldn’t be. Service dogs are held to the highest standards and it is a handlers responsibility to ensure their dog meets these requirements. Properly training a dog is expensive or very time consuming and caring for a dog is also expensive – it is a responsible handler’s duty to be able to provide care to their dog. If the cost of training is the biggest roadblock, check out non-profit organizations that provide a fully trained dog free of charge!

Is there a Service Dog Registration or ID tag to identify Service Dogs?

A service dog should be discussed with a doctor as part of a treatment plan but legally there is no federal registration or “official list” of service dogs. It is common for websites to try to get uninformed individuals to buy “paperwork” for their dogs, but this paperwork is not what makes a dog a service dog and holds no legal standing – in fact, these websites have become increasingly problematic. A lot of handlers DO choose to have their dogs take exams such as the “ADI Public Access” test or “Canine Good Citizen” tests but these are NOT required and do not determine whether a dog is a service dog. It is the dogs impeccable public access skills and help at mitigating disability with trained tasks that makes a dog a service dog.

What can be confusing is that even though there is no official federal list of service dogs, some cities DO have voluntary registrations where handlers provide a doctor’s note to register their dog as an assistance dog. In San Francisco, the voluntary registration requires the handler to confirm residence, vaccinations, sign an affidavit, and provide a doctor’s note to get the city specific assistance dog tag. Although this registers the assistance animal with the city, it has no federal/legal implications and is not required.

How do you know if a dog is a service dog? Does it have to wear a vest?

A service dog is not required to wear a vest or any identifying markers but people generally choose to vest their dogs as a signal to the general public that the dog is working. If it is not clear that the dog is a service dog, a handler may be asked only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff at an establishment are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.


Can’t I just say my dog is a service dog?

Some people do…but that is illegal and generally blatantly obvious by how the dog behaves. It is best to follow the law and moral code of conduct – i.e don’t fake a disability or a doctor’s recommendation. A common phrase used by service dog handlers is; if you want to bring your dog everywhere with you, you need to accept the life altering disability that goes along with it.

What laws protect service dogs and their handlers?

Service Dogs are protected by Federal Law under the Americans with Disabilities act of 1990. Punishments for falsely representing a service dog vary by state. In California, those pretending to be the owner of a service dog is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.

My Service Dog is in training, is it allowed to go to the same places that a fully trained Service Dog can go?

It depends! Check out your state laws to see whether the state allows Service Dogs in Training into places of public accommodation.

Are there any places service dogs can legally be denied?

Places of Worship: Religious institutions and organizations are not legally required to accommodate service dogs. However some states may have different regulations especially if the organizations are receiving any type of Federal Funding.

Sterile Environments: Although service dogs are allowed in hospitals and doctor’s offices, they may be excluded from parts of a hospital where their presence could compromise the sterile environment. This includes the operating room or areas such as burn units.

If the dog appears out of control: A dog may be asked to leave an establishment if it is not adequately under control or not housebroken. This is generally not an issue for trained service dogs.

How does YOUR service dog help you?

My service dog is trained to help respond to medical episodes that I exhibit. He may also sometimes let me know of a medical episode before it occurs so I can take the proper precautions to stay safe. My dog’s most used tasks are medical alert, medical response, tactile simulation, grounding, and interruption tasks. Therefore, my dog is a medical alert & response dog. He allows me to live a better life every single day.

For additional information, the ADA has a FAQ page about Service Animals

Dog Friendly Castles of the Loire River Valley

After visiting Paris, we visited the Loire River Valley with our Dog

The Loire River valley is about 2.5 hours from Paris by car and built along the longest river in France. Turns out, a lot of the attractions in the Loire welcome dogs with open arms. Our dog loved exploring the castle grounds, swimming in the river, and trotting through the countryside during our visit. The beautiful Châteaus (Castles) bring tourists to the Loire from around the world. Beyond the castles, the Loire is home to wineries, small towns, and the beautiful French countryside. The region is filled with historical significance in the towns of Amboise, Angers, Blois, Orleans, Chinon and Tours (to name a few). Check out the Loire tourism website to see the full list of towns and castles.

Where to stay in the Loire with your dog

We decided to stay in a dog friendly AirBnb near Amboise as a central point between all the castles we wanted to visit. Amboise ended up being our favorite town so we were pleased with our decision – AirBnbs in the Loire River Valley are affordable and spacious. We stayed in a converted watch tower for less than 100€ per night.

dog friendly airbnb

Tips for making the most of your trip: organize by location

The Loire River Valley covers 310 square miles so it is important to plan beforehand. Here are some tips for optimizing your visit with the dog:

  1. Group your activities by location – Research the towns of the Loire in advance to understand the location of dog friendly castles, towns, and walks. The map below shows how we clustered our visit. The Loire is known for its castles so we built our activities around the castles we wanted to see each day. Our routine generally included a castle visit, a nearby walk, and a romp through town before moving onto the next castle on the list.
  2. Set a path – To make the most of your time, you’ll want to stay on a set path to avoid driving back and forth. Backtracking your steps can add hours in the car. We started with the castle closest to Paris and continued away from Paris until it was time to come back. We took a different route back to Paris to visit different castles on the way home.
  3. Prioritize & Plan – The Loire is too big to see in a single trip. You’ll have to decide what you want to see most and put together a detailed itinerary. Unlike Paris, where wandering aimlessly is a wonderful way to enjoy the city, it is best to go into the Loire with a detailed plan. This page includes a great itinerary through the Loire with your dog but we encourage you to tailor your visit to your preferences.
  4. Stay in a countryside AirBnB- AirBnbs in the Loire are cheap and many are pet friendly. Staying in a someone’s home rather than a hotel adds to the cultural experience of the Loire.  We stayed 20 minutes from Amboise in a family’s converted watchtower on top of a hill.
  5. Bring an Umbrella & rain coat – France is unpredictable with rain. We got stuck in a few storms without an umbrella.
  6. Restaurants in France have different schedules than in the United States – we were surprised to find it difficult to get a bite to eat in the towns after 1pm. Most restaurants close from 1pm-6pm. Restaurants wouldn’t even serve us a coffee if we arrived after they had stopped serving food. We moved our schedule around to visit castles during the hours that the food shops were closed.

town of amboise on the loire river at sunset

Map of dog friendly activities in the Loire

Follow our sample itinerary or the Loire

Day 1: Leave Paris, Château de Chenonceau, explore and grab dinner in Amboise, check into airbnb

Day 2: Château Villandry, country walk at Candes-Saint-Martin, Château du Rivau, country walk Bréhémont, Dinner in Tours

Day 3: Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, Château de l’Islette, explore Chinon, Château de Chaumont, Visit Wine Bar, country walk Saint Ouen les Vignes, dinner in Amboise

Day 4: Country walk Azay-sur-Cher, Château de Chambord, dinner & cathedral in Cartres, return to Paris

The Castles

Dogs are not allowed inside the castles but there are plenty of pet friendly castle grounds to visit. In most cases, the outdoor gardens are even more breathtaking than the castle.

Château de Chenonceau – 2nd most visited castle in France

Chenonceau was our first stop after leaving Paris – this castle is an example of the gardens being even more beautiful than the castle itself. The castle is built into the river bed of the river Cher so the grounds are surrounded with flowing water. Turns out, Château de Chenonceau is the second most visited castle in France (after Versailles) – not bad for a castle that Henry II gifted to his mistress.

The visit starts with a corridor of trees leading to the main castle. The side paths along the road each lead to different gardens on the grounds. The largest garden will be to your right once you get to the castle – the garden is covered in geometric topiaires and purple flowers. Climb up to the top level of the garden to get a better look at the patterns made by the paths.

After touring the main garden, it is worth wandering the grounds to explore the secret gardens sprinkled throughout – we loved the vegetable garden and the rose garden.

coridoor of trees at chateau de chenonceau

chateau de chenonceau

chateau de chenonceau

dog sitting at chateau de chenonceau

dog at gardens of chenonceau

dog standing between lavender purple flowers

Château de Villandry – The most beautiful gardens

Château de Villandry had our favorite gardens, but unfortunately we were got caught in a downpour so it was difficult to fully enjoy.

Grab a map to follow the walking path through the gardens. Each section is perfectly curated with themed flowers, geometric shrubs, and fountains. Once you visit the main gardens, there is an optional trail for visitors to see the castle from above.

dog wearing a hate at chateau de villandry

chateau de villandry

chateau de villandry

Château du Rivau – Fairytale themed gardens

This was our least favorite castle of the trip – the castle grounds are decorated with different figurines and gnome statues which seemed out of place in the presence of such a historical structure. The castle grounds are meant to be fairytale themed but a lot of the decor appears anachronistic. This is the castle we would have skipped if running low on time.

dog at chateau du rivau

dog at chateau du rivau

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau – Cinderella castle in a cute town

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is a fairytale like castle that appears to be right out of a Disney movie. Unlike the other castles we visited, the gates are located in a bustling town. After exploring the castle grounds, we walked through town to grab a bite to eat. The town is a wonderful place to grab a coffee and explore the cute shops. We arrived early in the morning before the crowds – this is a popular castle for the tourists. Get a map and be sure to check out the secret garden!

chateau d'azay du rideau

dog friendly chateau d'azay du rivau

dog at chateau d'azay du rideau

Château de l’Islette – Less crowded. Peace & Quiet

We made our way to Château de l’Islette and were surprised to find that not a single soul was at the castle – we didn’t see any people on our entire visit (albeit it was drizzling). We found the quiet puzzling since the castle was magnificent – there are so many castles in the Loire River Valley that not all of them can get the love they deserve. Additionally, Château de l’Islette is currently occupied by a family and therefore the inside is known to have a more homey rather than historical feel.

The castle grounds are great for a picnic and there are deck chairs along the river to enjoy some refreshments. This castle is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the Loire tourists and turned out to be a peaceful hidden gem.

chateau de l'islette

dog friendly chateau de l'islette

dog friendly chateau de l'islette

bringing the dog to chateau de l'islette

Château de Chaumont – Castle built onto a cliff during the 10th century

Chaumont had such impressive grounds that we barely noticed the castle (which was equally impressive). The castle is built on a cliff overlooking the hills. The Loire flows to one side of the grounds and the other side offers multiple walking paths to various gardens.

The castle grounds are so large that you could easily spend hours wandering. Some parts are purposefully less manicured – an interesting juxtaposition compared to the main gardens.

We visited during the international garden festival which features themed installations from artists all around the world – each mini garden is judged on various metrics at the end of the festival. We found that Chaumont featured more modern art installations throughout the grounds than the others that we visited, this seemed a bit odd next to the 10th century castle but did not take away from our enjoyment.

dog friendly chateau du chaumont

dog friendly chateau du chaumont

dog friendly chateau du chaumont

dog friendly chateau du chaumont

Château de Chambord – The most magnificent castle

Chambord was the last castle we visited before flying back to California. Château de Chambord was the most magnificent castle we saw but unfortunately, dogs were not allowed in the main gardens. We found the dog rules at Chateau de Chambord stricter than any of the other castles. On the plus side, visiting this castle with a dog is free since dogs are only allowed around the perimeter and not through the gates to the gardens. Despite the dog restrictions, Chambord is worth a visit just to enjoy its extravagant structure. There are an expansive set of paths around the castle perimeter that are worth checking out with your dog.

There isn’t much food in the area but picnics are welcome on the grass. Additionally, there are multiple stalls just beyond the parking lot. Prices are higher than usual, but nothing prohibitive.

dog friendly Château de Chambord

dog friendly Château de Chambord

dog friendly Château de Chambord

Favorite Country Walks in the Loire

The Loire River Valley has a dedicated tourism website featuring hidden gems throughout the region. Most tourists come for the castles but there is so much more to see – the Loire Valley is home to world class wineries & picturesque country walks. See the 25 hikes with maps here. The country walks are great to check out if you are looking for less crowded destinations in between castle visits. We rarely ran into any other people on our country walks and Calvin had a blast running through the fields. Many of the trails are unmarked so be sure to reach the directions and download the maps from the Loire Tourism Website here. Some of the trails can be obscure to find so make sure to download all the maps beforehand.

Walking Trail: Saint-Ouen-les-Vignes

The Saint-Ouen-les-Vignes trail map covers 8 km and starts at Place de l’Eglise. The walk starts in town, then winds through vineyards, fields of grazing animals, and offers a panoramic view of the Ramberge Valley.

field of poppies in the loire river valley

dog in a field of poppies in the loire river valley

dog in a field of poppies in the loire river valley

dog in the countryside of france

french countryside loire river valley

Walking Trail: Azay-sur-Cher

The 10km trail in Azay-Sur-Cher takes you along both the  right and left banks of the river Cher. Park your car at Place Besnard and follow the directions on the Loire Tourism Website for trail markers. The trail follows the banks of the river so as long as you are near the river you are heading in the right direction. About halfway through, you will switch to the opposite side of the river and make your way back to the starting point. This peaceful walk is accompanied by the sound of a flowing river on one side and lush greenery on the other.

dog friendly hikes in the loire river valley

dog friendly hikes in the loire river valley

dog friendly hikes in the loire river valley

Walking Trail: Bréhémont

The Bréhémont Country walk starts in town and passes through the rural countryside – the walk mostly brings hikers through open fields and small clusters of country homes. The entire trail is 12km long but can be any length you’d like. See the Bréhémont trail map for details. We passed local residents hanging around their homes but no other people on the actual trail. One thing to note is that because this trail passes through residences, you will almost definitely run into dogs. Because the town is so rural, most homes have designated guard dogs. The guard dogs are kept behind gates but their snarling and barking made us nervous worrying what they would do if they escaped. We didn’t have any issues and met a lot of friendly local dogs as well.dog friendly trails in the loire river valley french countryside

dog friendly trails in the loire river valley french countryside

dog friendly trails in the loire river valley french countryside

dog friendly trails in the loire river valley french countryside

dog friendly trails in the loire river valley french countryside

Stop at a Winery for some Wine

The Loire Valley is dotted with wineries nestled into the cliffs along the river. We stopped at the Volupia wine bar and enjoyed our wine at the patio seating overlooking the water. We enjoyed our wine tasting while Calvin swam in the Loire. Volupia was the most unique wine bar we came across – The wine cave opens out onto a waterfront patio where guests can enjoy world class wine with a gorgeous view. We enjoyed our wine while Calvin swam in the Loire River.

french wine cave

french wine cave

french wine cave

dog friendly loire wine bar

french wine cave

dog friendly loire river

dog friendly loire river

dog friendly loire river

Our Favorite Cities of the Loire

In between castle visits, we walked through the different towns of the Loire. Each town has its own unique charm and quaint streets to explore. Keep in mind, that many restaurants in France will stop offering food service around noon and reopen for dinner We found this to be especially true in the Loire and got stranded a few times when our town visits weren’t properly timed.

Tours: Medieval architecture and bustling nightlife

Place Plumereau in Tours is worth a visit for dinner. This main square is part of the old town and resembles a charming medieval village. Tours is home to the Cathédrale Saint-Gatien but we skipped the Cathedrals and only visited for dinner on the main plaza of Place Plumereau. The medieval architecture in the square has been perfectly preserved and is surrounded by a picturesque streets worth strolling through. The square was wonderful for people watching while surrounded by breathtaking architecture. The pubs at Place Plumereau are also the place to be for nightlife in the Loire as Tours is a college town.

Amboise: Leonardo Da Vinci’s home and resting place

Amboise was our favorite town in the Loire River Valley. One of the castles, Château du Clos Lucé , is known as Leonardo Da Vinci’s home and resting place. The castle is still in good shape but is now used as a museum showcasing the work of Da Vinci. The castles in Amboise are not dog friendly but the town and restaurants are very welcoming. Our Airbnb was near Amboise so we ate at multiple places during our stay. We ate at Chez Bruno one night and loved the filet paired with local wine. The town center gets crowded with tourists but we discovered a hidden gem across the river. Le ShakerLe Shaker is right on the banks of the Loire and has the best view in town. The restaurant offers delicious bar food and drinks with a direct view of the river and the Amboise castle. We ordered the charcuterie plate and the goat cheese tartines (delicious!).

french meal in amboise

ice cream in amboise

dog at the amboise castle

dog overlooking amboise and the loire river

amboise on loire river

Chartres: world class cathedral 55 miles from Paris

We made a quick stop in Chartres on our last night in France – Chartres is best known for its Gothic Cathedral built in 1220.  The cathedral has remained preserved since the 13th century and survived World War 2 even when the rest of the city was largely destroyed. By the time we arrived, most of the shops had closed for the night but we found an open restaurant overlooking the cathedral. During business hours, the shops around the cathedral are bustling with life.

chatres cathedral

Chinon: a fortress built into a rocky outcrop

We visited Chino in the early afternoon right as the brasseries were closing for the afternoon. The main attraction is a hike from the main square (La Fontaine) to the Royal Fortress of Chinon. Due to the topography of the city, the castle is located at the top of a rocky outcrop with the town built to surround it from below. As you ascend towards the fortress, the views become magnificent.

french countryside towns with a pet

french countryside towns with a pet

The Loire River Valley is a wonderful dog friendly (and kid friendly) destination near Paris – we spent a few days visiting the castles but the visit could be done as a day trip if you are only interested in visiting a few castles.

King of the Castle, 
-Your Pal Cal

Visit Joshua Tree National Park & Palm Springs with your Dog

dog at joshua tree national parkdog at joshua tree national park

Is Joshua Tree Pet Friendly? Yes, but National Parks are not very pet friendly.

The short answer is yes, pets are allowed in Joshua Tree National Park. However, National Parks in the United States are not very dog friendly as dogs are only allowed on a limited number of trails. National Parks generally exclude dogs from the “prettiest trails” but we make it work. At Joshua Tree National Park, dogs are only allowed on roads that cars can drive on. This includes roads that require four wheel vehicles. We have indicated the dog friendly trails on the Joshua Tree Map below but take a look at the official pet friendly trails online in case any rules change.

Winter is the best time to visit Joshua Tree with your Dog

Because of the brutal summer heat, November – March are the best months to visit Joshua Tree with your dog. We visited Joshua Tree National Park in January and found the weather perfect for being outside. Winter in Joshua tree is warm in the sun (mid 60s), cool in the shade, and cold at night. Dress in layers during the day and bundle up at night.

Temperatures start to hit the 80s in April. By May, temperatures are in the mid 80s and then reach the 100s through September. The summer temperatures in Joshua Tree are far beyond the safe threshold for dogs.

dog at joshua tree national park

Where to stay in Joshua Tree with your Dog

The two closest towns to park entrances are Joshua Tree and Twenty-Nine Palms. We stayed in Joshua Tree in a renovated trailer (get a discount on your first AirBnB stay here) – the trailer had running water, a bathroom, and plenty of Joshua Trees on the property. Some of the most beautiful views we had all weekend were from sunrise and sunset over the dessert from our AirBnb. For a Joshua Tree National Park visit, we recommend staying as close to nature as possible to get the most out of your stay. There are plenty of pet friendly tents, trailers, bungalows, and houses that allow pets and offer an amazing view of the desert. Check out Booking.com for additional pet friendly accommodations.

We watched sunrise each morning and then went into town for coffee at Joshua Tree Coffee Company….

dog at joshua tree, california

dog at joshua tree desert

sunrise with a dog at joshua tree national park

Each evening, we returned back to the trailer to watch the entire sunset from golden hour to dark. We enjoyed pizza from “Pie for the People” by the fire and were asleep by 8pm……dog wrapped in blanket in the desert

As the sun sets over Joshua Tree, it turns a cotton candy pink. The sky appears even larger than usual in the vastness of the dessert…..
dog sitting in the dessert at joshua tree sunset

sunset in the town of joshua tree

What to Bring to Joshua Tree

  • WATER – The only sources of water are at the edges of the park. The nearest source of water may be 45 minutes away. We made the mistake of letting our water run out and had to drive through the entire park to get a refill. Keep all the humans and dogs hydrated -at least two gallons (8 liters) of water per person, per day.
  • Portable dog bowl
  • Sunscreen (even in the winter)
  • Hat (even in the winter)
  • Wear Layers (during the winter)
  • Hiking boots

the geology trail at joshua tree national park

geology tour road with a dog at joshua tree

Keep Dogs on Leash (Rattlesnakes & Scorpions)

Other than for a few photos, we kept Calvin attached to us. Dogs are to remain on leash by park rules to preserve the ecosystem but also for their own safety – Joshua Tree is home to 7 different types of venomous rattlesnakes. You likely won’t see any on the pet friendly trails as these are wider and more frequented by cars – still keep your dog on the trail at all times.

Map of Pet Friendly Activities in Joshua Tree National Park

pet friendly joshua tree national park

Joshua Tree Pet Friendly Trails

Dogs are allowed on any “road” that cars are able to drive on and must remain on leash. Below are the roads listed on the National Park Service website as pet friendly. Although these are all considered “roads”, we didn’t see cars on any of them and felt like we were just on any other trail.

All Vehicles Trails

  • Bighorn Pass Road: 3.2 miles (5.1 km) one way
  • Desert Queen Mine Road: 1.2 miles (1.9 km) one way
  • Geology Tour Road (to mile 5.4): 11.7 miles (18.8 km) one way
  • Odell Road: 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
  • Stirrup Tank Road: 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
  • Queen Valley Road: 2.9 miles (4.7 km)

4 Wheel-Drive Trails

  • Berdoo Canyon Road: 11.5 miles (18.5 km)
  • Black Eagle Mine Road: 9.6 miles (15.4 km)
  • Geology Tour Road (past mile 5.4): 11.7 miles (18.8 km)
  • Old Dale Road: 12.6 miles (20.3 km)
  • Pinkham Canyon Road: 19.2 miles (30.9 km)
  • Covington-area roads: 9.9 miles (15.9 km)

pet friendly joshua tree national park

pet friendly joshua tree national park

Geology Tour Road:

Geology Tour Road is a flat, wide & sandy trail that offers a full experience of Joshua Trees. The rangers recommended this trail as the best one to check out with a dog. There are restrooms and plenty of parking at the trailhead. The trail continues for more than 10 miles so there is flexibility over how far to walk. We followed the trail for about 5 miles. We passed a few hikers but no cars.

pet friendly joshua tree national park geology tour road

pet friendly geology tour road at joshua tree national park

pet friendly geology tour road at joshua tree national park

pet friendly geology tour road at joshua tree national park

Joshua Tree Picnic Areas are Pet Friendly:

Joshua Tree National Park with your dog can also be enjoyed by stopping at picnic areas to enjoy the atmosphere. Dogs ARE allowed at all campgrounds and picnic areas – The photo below was taken at Keys Ranch Road. Dogs are not allowed on the Keys Ranch trails but they are allowed at the picnic area which lies in the shade of a massive rock formation.

pet friendly geology tour road at joshua tree national park

Spend a night in Palm Springs

The Town of Joshua Tree is a 45 minute drive from Palm Springs – The Joshua Trees are a wonderful experience, but after two days of the desert, we were ready for Palm Springs. The main street in Palm Springs – “South Palm Canyon Drive” – is lined with shops, colorful lights, restaurants, and entertainment. The patio at Lulu California Bistro was great for dinner and people watching.
We spent a night at the Pet Friendly Saguaro Palm Springs and explored the town before heading home bright and early.
 pet friendly saguaro palm springs
pet friendly saguaro palm springs

Whitewater Preserve Trails

On our way home to San Francisco, we stopped at the Whitewater Preserve (30 minutes north of  Palm Springs). Check the website beforehand to ensure that the trails are open. The trails will close periodically during wildfire season. We chose the 3.5 mile Canyon View Loop Trail but there are multiple other well marked trails to choose from. Access the trail heads at the end of Whitewater Canyon Road, northwest of Palm Springs, off Interstate 10 (9160 Whitewater Canyon Road). Parking and restrooms are available at the visitors center.

white water preserve pet friendly trail

whitewater preserve dog friendly trail

white water preserve dog friendly trail

whitewater preserve pet friendly trail

white water trail preserve palm springs dog friendly


An American dog in Paris: Things to do in Paris with your pet

Above Photos: Celine Chan Photographie

It’s easy to bring your dog to Paris from the United States

Thinking of bringing your dog to France? International pet travel from the United States to the EU is straight forward. Start by checking out our international pet travel checklist for all the rules around bringing your dog on a plane internationally. We found France to be very dog friendly, and the only requirements for border entry are a USDA stamped health certificate, microchip, and rabies vaccine. Having spent 2 months a year in France while growing up, we are no strangers to Paris – we have put together a guide with the top destinations that are dog friendly. Luckily, Paris is very dog friendly so the outdoor monuments are pet friendly!

Where can you bring your dog in Paris?

Yes! Dogs Allowed & Welcome…

  • At cafes with outdoor seating are very dog friendly!
  • In the metro (dogs are supposed to be in a bag or muzzled – we used the gentle leader but saw many dogs in the Metro and none were muzzled)
  • “G7” Taxi service has a dog friendly option
  • In the outside portions of tourist attractions
  • At stores that do not sell food

Sorry, No Dogs….

  • At any Museums
  • At many small fenced in parks (I.e almost all the parks not listed in this post)
  • In normal taxis (took us a long time to get a taxi from the airport as even working dogs aren’t often accepted)
  • Inside food stores (same as the United States)

You’ll find that most cafes have outdoor seating and most tourist attractions have outdoor areas. Since museums and all indoor locations in Paris aren’t pet friendly, make sure to bring your walking shoes to see the city by foot or leave the dog in your hotel.

Most of Paris’s smaller parks do not allow dogs but surprisingly the Metro IS dog friendly as long as the dog fits into a bag OR wears a muzzle. We rode the Metro twice and had Calvin on a very thick gentle leader. When we returned with Samson, we visited in February so we rode the Metro multiple times a day to avoid the cold. We saw many dogs on the train and didn’t have any issue. Our biggest mistake was trying to find a taxi that would take us into the city from the airport – the concept of a Working Dog is not well known in France and does not hold up with small businesses. When we finally found a taxi, Calvin was required to stay in the trunk. On our second trip to Paris, we were able to order a taxi that allowed dogs through “G7” by indicating that we wanted a taxi that could accommodate dogs. We wish we had known about this on our first visit, because we had no issue getting into the taxi with Samson.

What are the leash laws in Paris?

The level of obedience we witnessed in Parisian dogs is unlike anything we have ever seen in the United States. It is unclear what the leash laws are in Paris as we rarely saw any dogs on leash – dogs trot calmly beside their humans, wait patiently outside of stores, and seem very seamlessly intertwined in the daily life of the city. Many businesses have a resident dog just hanging out outside the shop greeting people who walk by. Pups sit around at cafes while their humans read the morning news. No treats or commands needed – these dogs know where to be and are never far behind their human. It was such a magical dynamic to observe and definitely ought to set an example for dog obedience in the United States.

Best time to visit Paris with your Dog

We have now visited Paris with both of our dogs at different times of year. We have visited in May and February. In May, the crowds are beginning but haven’t gotten to the peak levels that the city sees during summer vacation. May wasn’t quite as hot as visiting in July/August so we found the weather quite pleasant. Our more recent visit was mid February. Paris winter is cold, but nothing compared to the cold in New England USA. The cold was not painful, and there was little wind. We dressed in boots, down jackets, hats, and gloves and were able to have a very pleasant visit. Because of the strong smoking culture in Paris, most restaurants and cafes have outdoor seating even in the winter. The cafes have heat lamps and we had no trouble staying warm

while sitting for meals and coffees. We didn’t find the tourists to be any more manageable in February so it seems as if Paris is just tourist filled year round (not surprising).

Where to stay in Paris with your Dog

There are ample pet friendly hotels and airbnbs in Paris so check out neighborhoods based on the activities you are interested in. We stayed in the Marais but here our thoughts on other neighborhoods:

If you are a first time visitor, check out the neighborhoods near the biggest tourist destinations (1st & 7th arrondissement). In the 1st, you’ll be walking distance from Notre Dame, the Tuileries, the Louvre which are pet friendly on the outside. In the 7th, you’ll be near the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower.

If you are looking for a trendy neighborhood with great nightlife, check out the Marais or St. Germain neighborhoods. Nightlife is always bustling and the Seine is animated through the night.

If you are looking for a charming and romantic neighborhood with great views, Montmarte is a great choice. Although Montmarte is home to Scare Coeur and views of Paris, it is further away from the rest of the famous sights.

Map of Pet Friendly Paris, France

4 days & 50 miles through Paris with our Dog

After a 12 hour flight with our dog, we were ready to hit the ground running (See here for international travel rules for dogs). We figured that if let ourselves nap, the jet lag would take over and we’d lose a day of seeing the city. Lucky for us, Paris has cafés on nearly every block. Fueled by espressos and baguettes, we managed to see most of Paris’s biggest sights by foot on our first day. This page is organized by groupings of activities that are in close proximity to each other. Refer to the dog friendly map above for a better look at the relative locations of Parisian sights. Over 4 days, we covered over 50 miles by foot and returned to our favorite places multiple times. We have since returned to Paris again with our younger dog and revisited all of our favorite stops.

dog in paris holding baguette bread in his mouth

Day 1 & 2:

Notre Dame, Jardin du Luxembourg & The Panthéon

Cross the Pont Neuf to Île de la Cité to see Notre Dame. Then take a short walk to the pet friendly Jardin de Luxembourg – stop at the Panthéon on the way.

the Cathedral of Notre Dame is located on Île de la Cité (basically a small island in the middle of Paris). We crossed the famous Pont Neuf to get to Île de la Cité and made our way to Notre Dame (10 minute walk). At the time of our visit, Notre Dame was still recovering from the fire and therefore could only be enjoyed from afar. Standing in front of such a fine piece of architecture is humbling, especially when reminded that it was built in the Middle Ages…..over 600 years ago!

After Notre Dame, the next logical stop is the 15 minute walk to the Jardins du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens). We took the route that passed in front of the Panthéon to get a glimpse of Roman architecture in France. The facade of the Panthéon in Paris is modeled after the one you would find in Rome. The Luxembourg Gardens are a straight shot from the Panthéon down Rue de Soufflot.

The dog rules at the Luxembourg Gardens are unclear – there are certain entrances that have “no dog” signs but others have “dogs on leash” signs. After doing research online, we found that the Luxembourg Gardens have an entire section of the park called the “dog path” that even has a dog fountain….we figured that dogs must be allowed. By asking the security guards upon arrival, we learned that dogs ARE allowed but it is preferred that they enter through the Blvd. Saint Michel gates. Turns out this park has more dogs than any other park we visited – we met lots of friendly pups at all parts of the gardens.

dog at luxembourg gardens in paris

palace at the dog friendly luxembourg gardens

Dog Friendly Eiffel Tower, Trocadéro & Champ de Mars

We stopped by the Eiffel Tower a few times during out time in Paris. We visited briefly on our first day in the late afternoon and then returned a few days later at 7:30AM. This area is probably one of the most crowded tourist attractions in the entire world so the best time to visit the Eiffel Tower & Trocadéro is in the early morning. We did our family photoshoot at 7:30AM and found the area to be more peaceful than our visit earlier that week.

Geographically, the Champ de Mars (Field of Mars) is the large grassy area directly adjacent/underneath the Eiffel tower. The Trocadéro is the area across the bridge that overlooks the Eiffel Tower from above. Most iconic Eiffel Tower photos are taken from the Trocadéro staircase and fountains.

One great way to enjoy the Eiffel Tower with your dog is to take some photos at the Trocadéro and then wander through the fountains to make your way to Champ de Mars across the Seine. Set up a picnic blanket on the grass and enjoy some cheese & wine. Calvin played some fetch off-leash while we enjoyed our snacks.

dog at trocadero with eiffel tower in paris

view of eiffel tower from trocadero in paris

dog in trocadero gardens in paris

dog in the champ de mars under the eiffel tower

Jardins des Tuileries, the Louvre Pyramid, and the Palais Royale

The Jardins des Tuileries (Tuileries Gardens) is the park located between Place de La Concorde and the Louvre. We approached the gardens from Place de La Concorde and made our way to the Louvre via the Gardens. 

Walk across Place de La Concorde to get to the entrance of the Tuileries Garden. Place de La Concorde is the largest public square in Paris. Note: traffic in the roundabout does not yield to pedestrians….so follow a crowd of tourists to get across safely.

Dog rules at the Tuileries Gardens: As with many other places in Paris, the pet walking rules are unclear. After some research, we found that dogs are officially allowed in the upper section of the Tuileries Gardens. This means that they may not enter through the main entrance but rather any of the side entrances that have steps leading  up to the upper sections. These parts of the Tuileries Gardens are known as the “terraces” and overlook the gardens from above. Once you get to Avenue du Général Lemonnier (on the Louvre side of the Gardens), dogs are allowed anywhere. This means you can absolutely walk your dog through the Carrousel Arch, along the grass, and around the fountains. Dogs aren’t allowed in the museum but can get up cloase to the Louvre Pyramid and walk around the Napoleon Courtyard.

dog holding french flag at the louvre pyramid in paris

bringing a dog to the paris louvre pyramid

bringing your dog to the louvre pyramid in paris

Near the Louvre you will find the Palais Royale with its adjacent gardens. Take a moment to admire the remarkable architecture in the Palais Royale courtyard.

“The Food Street”: Rue Montorguiel for Dinner

Rue Montorguiel is known as the “food street” of Paris. It is a pedestrian only stretch of casual restaurants and bars about an 18 minute walk from the Louvre. This street boasts casual but high quality food at affordable prices. In the evening, the area is animated with locals and tourists alike. Most restaurants have outdoor “bistrot” style seating with the tables facing outwards for people watching. We ate at a casual crêpe shop one night (nothing to write home about), and the fabulous Le Compas another night.

Day 3:

Sacré-Cœur Basilica and Montmarte

Sacré-Cœur and the surrounding neighborhood (Montmarte) is located away from the center of Paris, but worth a visit for the great views and stunning architecture. The Montmarte neighborhood is essentially a massive hill with Sacré-Cœur at the very top –  The “Anvers” or “Abbesses” Metro stops will get you most of the way to the Basilica but you’ll have to walk up the rest of the way. Bring plenty of water as the walk will break a sweat, especially in the summer. At the top of the hill, you’ll have a birds eye view over all of Paris on one side and a breathtaking Basilica on the other. After exploring Montmarte, we made the long walk back towards the center of Paris.

dog at Sacre Coeur basilica in paris montmarte

dog at montmarte in paris

bringing your dog to the love locks in paris

Park Monceau

Our goal was to eventually reach the Arc de Triomphe, but we took the long route through Paris to explore new parts of the city. First, we made our way towards Park Monceau (Metro Stop: “Monceau”). We picked up some bread and cheese for a picnic and let Calvin play with the children in the grass while we ate. He had a blast fetching sticks for the French kids who had just gotten out of school for the day. Park Monceau is located in a very fancy neighborhood – exit through Avenue Van Dyck for a direct 15 minute walk to the Arc de Triomphe. We stopped for an espresso along the way and eventually got to Place Charles de Gaulle, home to the Arc de Triomphe.

dog sitting at french cafe and bistro

ice cream cone in paris

dog at the front of a shop in paris

Arc de Triomphe & Les Champs-Élysées

The Arc de Triomphe stands at 164 feet tall in the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, one of the busiest roundabouts in Paris. It connects 12 different avenues – the most common avenue to follow from Place Charles de Gaulle is the famousChamps-Élysées

If you opt to go down the Champs-Élysées, you’ll end up back at Place de La Concorde and the Tuileries Gardens. We recommend walking down the Champs-Élysées if you are first time visitor to Paris. This is a great way to get to the Louvre Pyramid via a different route than described earlier.

Les Champs-Élysées is the 2 kilometer corridor from Place Charles de Gaulle to Place de La Concorde. Les Champs-Élysées is probably the most famous avenue in the world, and is lined with cafés and shopping.  Everything from H&M to the flagship Louis Vuitton store can be found on the ~60 minute walk down Les Champs-Élysées.

dog at the place charles de gualle in front of the arc de triomphe

Bois de Bologne

If you don’t care about experiencing the Champs-Élysées (or have already experienced it),  Avenue Foch leads to the pet friendly and off-leash Bois “Forest” de Bologne. This park doesn’t have any cultural significance so we only recommend this if you have already been to Paris and seen all the sights. Bois de Bologne is a favorite among locals for off leash dog fun – it has multiple wooded and river front trails. We meandered around the park before making our way back to the Eiffel Tower again for sunset.

dog walking by the side of the river in paris

parc de buttes chaumont in paris

dog in paris wearing a floral bandana

Day 4:

Basin de La Villette & Parc de La Villette

Basin de La Villette is a quiet, off the beaten path destination. The area seemed frequented by locals and a few curious tourists. We actually started off this adventure at the Parc des Buttes Chaumont for a stroll along a local park and then made our way to Basin de La Villette. Basin de La Villette is a rectangular artificial “lake” that meanders like a river through the 19th arrondisement. We sat along the water at Le Pavillon Des Canaux….a cute cafe with a French bulldog mascot.

Basin de La Villette leads to the park which is home to the largest Science Museum in Europe (Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie), large concert venues and the Paris conservatory. We walked through the park to check out the 10 themed gardens

dog sitting at basin de la villette

espresso latte in paris

Some (Not) Pet Friendly Activities

If you are looking to leave Fido in the hotel (only if he is comfortable enough to do this!) there are plenty of museums to check out in Paris. We did not museum hop this time around as we’ve already been to Paris enough times to never want to step into a museum again. Needless to say, the historical significance of Parisian galleries is unprecedented so here are our favorites.

Museums to visit in Paris without your pet:

  • The Louvre (the World’s largest and most visited museum)
  • Musée d’Orsay (for some Monet, Renoir, and Van Gough)
  • The Centre Pompidou (equivalent of NYC’s MoMa)

Other no pets activities:

  • Riding to the top of the Eiffel Tower
  • View of Paris from the top of the Arc de Triomphe
  • Dinner or Lunch on a boat that is cruising down the Seine
  • Versailles (1 hour train ride from Paris)

Paris is always a good idea,
-Your Pal Cal



San Francisco Urban Hikes for your Dog

off leash dog at Baker Beach in San Francisco

The Best Dog Friendly Hikes in San Francisco

When it comes to pet friendly, San Francisco is the place to be – San Francisco is one of those cities where dogs outnumber children. Most beaches, parks, and green areas are open to dogs and most are frequented by off leash pooches. We are finally going to be covering all the dog friendly hikes and trails in San Francisco. Although San Francisco is a dense urban city, it boasts over 200 parks and outdoor areas within the city limits. Over the past few years, we have explored all the urban hikes of the city and have come up with a list of our favorites.  These hikes only include green areas within the city limits, and not all the wonderful hikes in Marin and East Bay (these would need an entirely separate post). Enjoy our top 5 favorite trails plus some honorable mentions.

Map of Dog Friendly Trails in San Francisco

1. Lands End Trail: Must see for first time SF visitors 

Length: 3.4 mile loop
Skill Level: Easy to Moderate (some stairs)
Trail Conditions: Wide, mostly paved, Crowded
Leash Rules: On-Leash
Vibes: Touristy & crowded
Navigate: 680 Point Lobos Ave

The pet friendly Lands End Trail in San Francisco is the most famous and heavily trafficked San Francisco urban hike. The trail is built along a cliff and has multiple lookout points over the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. The trail passes through the famous Cliff House, Legion of Honor, Sutro Baths and provides easy access to Ocean Beach. You’ll have the best views at sunset on a clear day, but unfortunately the area is generally covered by a thick layer of fog and strong winds. On a foggy day, enjoy the mysterious vibes of the fog rolling off the cliffs. Start at the visitors center at the cross streets of Point Lobos & El Camino del Mar.

2. Bernal Heights Park & Summit: Panoramic view of the city

Length: 2 minute walk to viewpoint, optional trails around the hill
Skill Level: All
Trail Conditions: Paved path to viewpoint, best on clear days
Leash Rules: Off-Leash
Vibes: Popular among local dog owners
Navigate: Bernal Heights Blvd (drive to the top)

The dog friendly Bernal Heights Park is one of the most underrated viewpoints in San Francisco. Tourists generally head to Twin Peaks, but the real gem is the view from the top of Bernal Heights Park. There is nothing more stunning in SF than sunset on a clear day from the summit. On a clear day, you can see the golden gate bridge and all the way across the bay. As an added bonus, this beautiful area acts as an off leash dog park. If you visit on a foggy day, skip Bernal Heights Park as visibility will be low and not worth the visit. The area is often covered by fog but be sure to double check if you are visiting on a clear day.

To access the dog trail, drive all the way to the top of the hill (along Bernal Heights Blvd) and park along the hill. You can park anywhere along the hill except the parts that have clear “no parking” signs. The path to the panoramic view of San Francisco is about a 2 minute walk and there are optional dog friendly trails all around the hill.

Additionally, Bernal Heights is currently one of the nicest neighborhoods in San Francisco. Due to the hills, we recommend driving all the way up to the park and then driving back down to the neighborhood to explore. Check out the pet friendly Precita Park Cafe, The Front Porch, Bernal Star, Cafe St. Jorge.

On a clear day, the hour before sunset is the most beautiful time to visit Bernal Heights Park.  By summertime, the grass has dried out, leaving behind golden fields in the sunset….. 

view of San Francisco from the top of Bernal Heights Summit

golden retrievers sitting in the grass at Bernal Heights Summit

golden retriever sitting at Bernal Heights Park with San Francisco skyline

birds eye view of the San Francisco Downtown from Bernal Heights Summit

At sunset, the remaining sunlight beams off of downtown…..

San Francisco skyline with light reflecting off the buildings at sunset

dog on the Bernal Heights Summit hike in front of the san francisco skyline

During the winter rainy season, the hill regains its color and the dried out fields are replaced with lush green grass. It is hard to find a clear day during the rainy season so check in advance to see if the view will be covered by fog….

dog friendly bernal summit hike in front of san francisco skyline

dog friendly bernal summit hike in front of san francisco skyline

view of san francisco skyline at sunset from bernal heights park

dog friendly bernal heights hike in front of san francisco skyline

dog friendly bernal heights hike in front of san francisco skyline

dog friendly bernal heights hike in front of san francisco skyline

In stormy weather, the hill can become enveloped in fog and dark clouds….

dog running towards camera on hilltop

During midday, the hill is very bright but the views do not disappoint…..

dog friendly bernal heights hike in front of san francisco skyline

dog friendly bernal heights hike in front of san francisco skyline

3. The Presidio: Known for the best views of the Golden Gate

Length: Varies
Skill Level: All
Trail Conditions: Paved and dirt paths
Leash Rules: On-Leash
Vibes: Locals & Tourists Collide
Navigate: Depends on the trail

The Presido offers a range of on-leash trails. The area is popular among tourists, but there are also many trails that do not get particularly crowded. Since the presidio is so large, you’ll want to pick the trails you are interested in

Golden Gate Views: California Coastal Trail

Golden Gate Lookout to Baker Beach (2 miles out and back) – This California Coastal Trail follows the coast line from the Golden Gate Bridge down to the iconic Baker Beach. Because of the crowds, we recommend navigating to parking away from the main GG Parking lot. The “CGN Parking Lot,” “Langdon Court Parking,” and “6302 Merchant Road Parking” are good options for parking. Free parallel parking is also available along Lincoln Avenue. The California Coastal Trail can be started anywhere along the coast between the Golden Gate Bridge and Baker Beach. There are multiple lookout points along the walk. Follow the signs to Baker Beach to get the best view of the bridge.

dog friendly california coastal trail hike to golden gate lookout

Baker beach is where locals and tourists collide to get panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Nudists (yes, it is also a nudist beach!) lounge on the sand, people picnic with their friends, dogs run off leash through the waves, and tourists gawk at the beautiful bridge in the background. It is a real cultural phenomena found on a little stretch of land under the bridge. The best time to do this trail is on a clear day at sunset.

Wooded Trails: Less crowded but no views

Ecology Trail & Lover’s Lane (2 mile loop) – Mostly wooded with partial views to the bay. Start at 14 Funston Avenue

Presidio Loop Trail (3.6 mile loop) – Mostly wooded, loops around the golf course with partial views of the water. Start at Finley Road


view of golden gate bridge from dog friendly baker beach

view of golden gate bridge from dog friendly baker beach

view of golden gate bridge from dog friendly baker beach

view of golden gate bridge from dog friendly baker beach

golden gate bridge lookout from dog friendly baker beach

golden gate bridge lookout from dog friendly baker beach

dog at baker beach at sunset in front of golden gate bridge

dog at baker beach looking at sailboat during sunset

golden gate bridge lookout from dog friendly baker beach

4. Twin Peaks Loop: 360 degree view of San Francisco

Length: Varies
Skill Level: All
Trail Conditions: Paved and well maintained paths
Leash Rules: On-Leash
Vibes: Touristy & Crowded
Navigate: Clarendon & Twin Peaks Blvd for the Trail

Twin peaks is a great Urban Hike for first time San Francisco visitors.  On a clear day, the area is crowded with tourists trying to get a view of the entire city from the top. This is THE PLACE to get a 360 degree view of the city.  If you don’t want to do the 3.8 mile trail, you can drive all the way up to the top. If you are doing the trail, find the trailhead at Clarendon & Twin Peaks Blvd. Dress warmly as the breeze gets cold at the peak. Hikes like Twin Peaks are only worth it on a clear day – on foggy days there will be no view and you will be covered in cold fog.

5. Glen Canyon Park: Quiet trail in a picturesque neighborhood

Length: 2 mile loop with lower and upper trails
Trail Conditions: Dirt trails with some loose rocks. Very muddy after rain.
Leash Rules: Effectively off-Leash
Vibes: Calm & Quiet
Navigate: Glen Canyon Trailhead on Bosworth Street

If you want a quiet, peaceful walk, Glen Canyon is a good choice. Explore the Glen Park Neighborhood and then head to the Canyon for doggie fun among the rock formations and wildflowers. Glen Canyon Park is located a short walk from the picturesque neighborhood of Glen Park. Glen Park offers a quintessential San Francisco experience away from the crowds of tourists in Downtown. Parking is available at the trailhead and throughout the neighborhood. The trails are generally quiet and offer great views from the top. Enjoy the colorful wildflowers, especially after seasons of rain. The trail always has warnings for coyote sightings but we go at least once a week and have never seen any. If your dog does not have strong recall, we recommend keeping them on leash just in case.

To access the trail, walk through the main entrance, past the children’s playground and athletic fields. At the trailhead, you’ll have a choice at the fork. Because the trail is a loop, it doesn’t matter which side you start on.

For an easy stroll, stay on the lower trail without climbing any steps. The lower trail will give you a forest-style experience through the trees. For great views, take any of the stairs along the trail for access to the top of the canyon. We always choose to climb the stairs and walk along the top the canyon.

dog on glen canyon park san francisco urban hike

dog on glen canyon park san francisco urban hike

dog on glen canyon park san francisco urban hike

dogs on glen canyon park san francisco urban hike

dog on glen canyon park san francisco urban hike

More Dog Friendly Urban Hikes in San Francisco

Mt. Davidson Trail: Quiet Stroll on Windswept Hill

Length: 1.5 mile loop
Skill Level: Easy
Trail Conditions: Dirt trails
Leash Rules: Effectively Off-Leash
Vibes: Quiet
Navigate: 14 Dalewood Way

The Mt. Davidson trail is one of the highest viewpoints of San Francisco. The trail is located in a suburban San Francisco neighborhood and generally frequented by locals. The trailhead is unmarked but very obvious behind the bus stop at the bottom of the hill. You’ll need a car to get to Mt. Davidson and there isn’t much to see in the area other than the trail. This is one of the quietest trails we have discovered in San Francisco and has been forgotten among the countless other urban hikes. At the viewpoint, you will find the Pacific Ocean visible through the trees behind you and the San Francisco Skyline in front of you. The park offers 40 acres of open space so a lot of opportunities for your dog to run around.

Mount Sutro Loop: Escape the City

Length: 2.2 mile loop
Skill Level: Moderate
Trail Conditions: Narrow dirt trails, Overgrown on side trails, Muddy after rain. Share path with bikers.
Leash Rules: On-Leash
Vibes: Quiet with Occasional Bikers
Navigate: 4981 17th St

The Mount Sutro loop is a green oasis in the middle of San Francisco but completely covered in thick trees so don’t come here for the views (there are none!). This is the kind of trail to visit for an escape from the city – The Mount Sutro trail is trafficked by bikers and San Francisco residents. You’ll find that the side trails are overgrown especially after a rainy season, but exploring off the main trail will lead you through different SF neighborhoods. The trailhead can be accessed at multiple entry points – It is easy to get lost so consult your phone maps to ensure you are staying on path.

dog on mount sutro san francisco urban hike

Stern Grove: Off Leash & Live Music

Length: Short Stroll
Skill Level: Easy
Trail Conditions: Paved and dirt paths
Leash Rules: Off-leash
Vibes: Popular among local dog owners
Navigate: 100 Vale Ave Parking Lot

Stern Grove is a full scale recreational area with plenty of space to stroll on paved paths of explore the switchback dirt trails along the trees. The 33 acre park has an official off-leash dog play area and there are always many dogs chasing frisbees and jogging alongside their humans.

During summer weekends, Stern Grove hosts music events on Sunday afternoons with ample picnicking space and food trucks. The park is hidden about 6 miles from downtown.

John McClaren Park Upper Reservoir & Philosopher’s Way Trail: Dog Lake & Wilderness Trails

Length: Varies
Skill Level: Easy
Trail Conditions: Dirt paths, muddy after rain
Leash Rules: Off-leash
Vibes: Popular among local dog owners with a great swimming hole for pets.
McClaren Upper Reservoir (for dog lake), Field of Dogs (for open space), Philosopher’s Way Trailhead (on Mansell Street)

McClaren park is a San Francisco favorite for dog owners. The 300+ acre park is quiet and almost exclusively frequented by dogs. In the dog world, McClaren park is best known for it’s “Upper Reservoir” which acts as an off-leash swimming hole.  The Upper Reservoir has easy access to the Field of Dogs and multiple side trails for long walks.

dog friendly lake in san francisco at mcclaren park

dog friendly swimming hole in san francisco at mcclaren park

dog friendly lake in san francisco at mcclaren park

Beyond the San Francisco city limits, there are countless additional trails for dogs to enjoy.  Stay tuned for our guide to dog hikes in Marin and East Bay.

Keep on trail blazing,
Your Pal Cal

How to prepare your dog to pass the Advanced Canine Good Citizen Test (CGC-A)

two dogs in front of plush toys shaped like diplomas

There are a total of 3 Canine Good Citizen titles that asses your dog’s basic obedience. Any dog of any age can take the tests to get the titles – Some handlers choose to test their dogs as a way of checking in on progress, and the test may be taken again at a later date if the dog does not pass. The CGC tests are split up into three levels: CGC, CGC-U, CGC-A. The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is the first step and evaluates basic obedience. The Canine Good Citizen Urban test (CGCU) evaluates obedience in an urban environment. In this post, we will be focusing on the Canine Good Citizen Advanced test also known as the AKC Community Canine Test (CGCA). If you are starting from the beginning, see our post about how to pass the CGC test first.

How is the CGC test different from the CGCA Test?

The CGC test is a pre-requisite to taking the CGCA test. The CGCA takes the basics from the CGC and applies them to more complex scenarios. The CGCA test is administered in a busy area with other dogs and many distractions.

Why would you test your dog?

Unless you are in a Therapy Dog program, there’s no legal requirement to take the CGC test. The only reason to test your dog is for your own enjoyment or to confirm training. We make all our dogs pass the CGC testing series to ensure that we are meeting some standard of training. There are a few reasons that we choose to test our dogs. Again, these are just our personal reasons and we are lucky to have easy access to evaluators:
1. Therapy dog organizations frequently require testing: Calvin & Samson are therapy dogs which means that they visits hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. The SPCA and many other Therapy Dog organizations require the dogs to pass the CGC and CGCA tests before being fully certified for visits (for liability reasons, therapy dogs do get formally certified and tested by organizations).
2. Task trained service dogs should and must be held to the highest standards: While our dogs are trained to help others by providing comfort, they are also formally task trained. We believe that any working dog should be held to just as high a standard as dogs who have been through formal programs and tested/evaluated for multiple years. Any working dog should have absolutely no issue passing the entire CGC, CGCU, and CGCA series of tests – at the core, these tests really just evaluate basic obedience. Note: the CGC titles are NOT required for working dogs and there are many legitimate reasons that a handler may not title their dogs (I.e access to evaluators); titling our dogs is just personal preference.
3. It’s hard to judge our own dogs: all dogs are great and so it’s very hard for us to conduct an unbiased assessment of our own dogs. Having someone else judge your dog’s obedience by following a set of objective standards is a great way to confirm a dog’s training. We wanted to make sure our dogs could pass the test items to confirm that they were trained. The CGCA is a great goal to work towards with your pup.

two dogs laying down wearing sunflower bandanas

Can I use training tools on the CGCA Test?

Even though they are great for learning, training tools (prongs, gentle leaders, e-collars) cannot be used during any of the CGC tests. The test evaluates how the dog listens to voice commands, not how well they behave with corrective tools. Although treat rewards are not allowed, praise is encouraged and the handler can speak to their dog as much as they would like while completing test items.

What is on the CGCA Test (Test Items)?

There are 10 test items on the CGCA test and the dog must successfully complete each one for the CGCA title.

Test Item 1: Dog stands, sits or lies down and waits under control. This situation may present itself in a few ways – While the handler is filling out paper work at the registration table, while the group of handlers are standing in a crowd, while the handler sits down and eats food ect.

Dog Cannot:
-Start begging for attention from passersby
-Bark or act uncomfortable while it waits
-Beg or become agitated

How to Prepare:
-Prepare at pet friendly stores. Have your dog sit quietly by your side while you check out
-Teach your dog the “under” command. If you are sitting down for this test item, the “under” command makes it easier to position them

Test Item 2: Left turn, right turn, slow, fast, stop at a heel through a distracting environment (generally outdoors) with a loose leash

Test Item 3: Walking through a crowd. Dog will walk at your side through a crowd on a busy sidewalk, through a bunch of people, or at a fair ect.

Test Item 4: Walking past multiple dogs. This can be done with Test Item 3 if dogs are included in the crowd.

Dog Cannot:
-Pull on the leash, walk ahead of you, the leash must be slack by your side
-Show any signs of reactivity to other dogs or humans
-Get distracted

How to Prepare:
-Train a strong “leave it” to ignore people, dogs, food, sounds, and other distractions while outside
-Don’t let your dog walk ahead of you while walking
-Don’t let your dog greet dogs while on leash or ensure they have a strong “leave it” while passing dogs

Test Item 5: Sit-Stay in a crowd with other dogs. All handlers taking the test with start to have a conversation while their dogs are in a sit-stay on their left sides. This is to ensure that dog can settle in a crowd with dogs around in close proximity.

Dog Cannot:
-Pull towards other dogs
-Show excitement or reactivity to the other dogs
-Excessively fidget or act uncomfortable

How to Prepare:
-Train an auto-sit on walks with your dog
-Practice having conversations with other handlers while their dogs are present and have the dogs ignore each other

Test Item 6: Stranger approaches dog while carrying something. Item is placed on the floor and stranger then asks to pet the dog.

Dog Cannot:
-Show any reactivity
-React to the item being placed on the ground
-Sniff the item
-Jump up on the stranger

How to Prepare:
-Train a command for your dog to sit at your heel. We use the command “finish” where the dogs position themselves in a sit on our left side
-Familiarize your dog with medical equipment, bags of different sizes, hates, canes ect
-Don’t let your dog automatically greet humans. Have a release command such as “ok” or “say hello”

Test Item 7: Walk by food and “leave it.” Evaluator places food in a dish for handler and dog to walk by. Dog must ignore the food.

Dog Cannot:
-Pull towards the food while walking by

How to Prepare:
-Practice walking by food on the street
-Solid leave it

Test Item 8: Handler leaves dog in a down or a sit stay and walks 20 feet away. Handler receives a bag or item from the evaluator and then walks back to the dog while still holding the item. Dog must remain in a stay.

Dog Cannot:
-Break the stay
-Jump on the item or try to take the item

How to Prepare:
-Practice “stay” with distance, duration, and distractions
-Practice “stay” while circling around your dog
-Practice “stay” while throwing a ball past your dog
-Practice “stay” for long periods of time
-Practice “stay” with dogs as a distraction

Test Item 9: Handler walks 20 feet from dog and recalls the dog while distractions are present.

Dog Cannot:
-Go to the distraction
-Fail to get to the handler

How to Prepare:
-Reward your dog for recall in various scenarios

Test Item 10: Controlled entry through a doorway by having the dog wait at the doorway while the handler goes through. We chose to have our dog wait but the test also recognizes walking through a doorway with the dog at a heel or sending the dog through the doorway first and having them wait at the other side. The evaluator is testing to make sure the dog follows directions at doorways but a handler may choose what method to use as long as the dog follows the verbal command for that method.

Dog Cannot:
-Forge ahead of handler
-Ignore handler’s command

How to Prepare:
-Practice at home and outside with every doorway

See the official CGCA evaluator checklist here

Happy Testing, 
Your Pal Cal

dogs wearing matching green sweaters


Northern California: Pet Friendly Mendocino

dog standing on rocking chair during sunset

A Pet Friendly Weekend on the California Coast

For our second trip to Mendocino, we were lucky enough to be invited to stay at the Little River Inn with the dogs. Mendocino County combines coastline, with redwood forests, and wine country for a perfect weekend getaway. Now that we’ve been able to fully explore the area, we put together a guide to our favorite pet friendly activities throughout Mendocino County.

dog wearing sunflower bandana sitting on porch


two retriever dogs with sunflower bandanas

Getting to Mendocino from San Francisco

Mendocino is the perfect weekend trip for anyone in Northern California. It is also a great stop for anyone driving up or down the coast to the Pacific Northwest. The town of Mendocino is located on the coast but the county has everything from wine tasting, hiking trails, to water sports.

If you are coming from San Francisco, be sure to leave before the start of Friday afternoon traffic. Without traffic, you can get to Mendocino from San Francisco in about 3.5 hours. If you leave early enough you will get to fully enjoy sunset over the coast when you arrive – We made the mistake of leaving during traffic on our first visit and missed the beautiful sunset drive. For our second trip, we did not make the same mistake and the trip was much more enjoyable.

little river inn mendocino ocean view


little river in mendocino ocean view room

Accommodations in Mendocino with your Pet

To get the most of your Mendocino experience, we recommend staying on the coast. The Little River Inn has a variety of pet friendly ocean front rooms to choose from – Being able to wake up to the sound of the ocean and drink morning coffee on the balcony allowed us to get the full Mendocino experience.

Besides the ocean view, our room had a fireplace, balcony, jacuzzi tub, king bed, and plenty of room for the dogs to zoom around. Explore all the available rooms here to find your perfect match.

Not only are the ocean views breathtaking from the rooms, but the food at the Inn was top notch from 5 star chef Marc Dym. We were able to enjoy breakfast from our ocean front balcony – hotcakes, eggs benny, and fresh OJ (it was amazing). For dinner, The oysters and fried calamari were spectacular. As an added bonus, there is a pet friendly dining area for breakfast and dinner with advance reservation. We will definitely be bringing out parents here next time we visit Mendocino.

dog with plaid bandana


two dogs wearing bandanas


dog wearing sunflower bandana at sunset


two retrievers wearing sunflower bandanas at sunset


two dogs wearing bandanas at sunset




When to Visit Mendocino with your Dog

Because Mendocino weather does not vary much throughout the year, it is always a good time to visit Mendocino with your dog. Dress in layers as the ocean pulls in a cool breeze throughout the day and the temperatures drop at night. You’ll dress lightly during the day, but will be bundled up in sweaters at night.

Map of Pet Friendly activities in Mendocino, California

Take your dog canoeing down Big River

Canoeing down Big River is a MUST when visiting Mendocino with your dog. Catch a Canoe & Bicycles Too offers Canoes, Kayaks, SUPs, and bicycle rentals. If you are interested in biking, the 10 mile Big River bike trail begins at the facility. The most unique part about renting a canoe with Catch a Canoe is the “Canine Cruiser” which is designed specially for stability. These are the only human powered boats in the world that are specifically made for pets! Even with Calvin running around on it, we stayed dry and stable.

Calvin was so excited to get into the canoe that it took our full strength to keep him from jumping over the dock and into the water. Be sure to allow your dog to take breaks from swimming – On the other hand, Samson was happy to relax and enjoy the breeze.

As you canoe down the calm Big River Estuary, it is not uncommon to see harbor seals bathing on the shores and river otters playing in the water. We saw at least 10 harbor seals bobbing in the water. Don’t miss out on this unique experience in Mendocino.

canoe on river



dog in canoe looking up at camera


golden retriever sitting on canoe


dog looking out of canoe


yellow labrador wearing a red life vest perching off of a canoe on a river

Ride the Pet Friendly Skunk Train through the Redwoods of Fort Bragg

The Skunk Train is a best way to experience the Mendocino redwoods without having to break sweat on a hike. The pet friendly train leaves from Fort Bragg and travels for a 7 mile, one hour, round trip through the historical landscape of northern California. The experience felt AND looked like what you’d expect on a real life Hogwarts Express (minus the wizards). The dogs loved the breeze on the outdoor railcar and they all got plenty of attention from fellow passengers.  Before your visit, check out the seasonal activities like the Magical Christmas rides and Pumpkin Express.

golden retriever wearing a green toggle button sweater


golden retriever wearing a green sweater sitting on a train car seat


golden retriever sitting in a train


golden retriever dog on the fort bragg skunk train


Relax with some wine at Maple Creek Winery

The highway 128 route to Mendocino from San Francisco winds through the hills of wine country. We stopped by  “Artevino” Maple Creek Winery for a signature wine tasting. We sat with the wine maker for over an hour, learning about the history of the vineyard. Tom & his staff were so welcoming and stick true to their motto “enter as strangers, leave as friends”.

golden retriever at maple creek winery




three wine bottles at maple creek winery








dog sitting on red chair

Check out the Beaches

The “Glass” Beach at Fort Bragg
The glass beach was the most heavily trafficked part of Fort Bragg, but frankly did not live up to its expectation as a “glass” beach. We’ve chosen to include the Glass Beach here since it is a neat spot to check out after the Skunk Train in Fort Bragg. The disclaimer to add is that the shores are no longer lined with beautiful sea glass as they have historically. The smooth glass that is found washed up on the beach is a result of extensive dumping of trash into the ocean in the 20th century. Today, only small pieces of glass are still visible if you look closely enough – mostly in whites, greens, and browns. It was a fun search to collect the pieces of smooth glass, but definitely underwhelming and disappointing. Dogs are welcome on the beach but must be kept on leash.

sea glass


glass beach at fort bragg

Off Leash Big River Beach
The Big River Beach is located directly across from the Catch a Canoe rental facility. It’s a great place to visit after or before canoeing. The beach is relatively abandoned except for some dogs chasing frisbees and swimming in the gentle tides. The water is perfect for swimming as it’s right at the beginning of the estuary so it is clean but there are no waves.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

The pet friendly Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens are a great way to enjoy beautiful flowers and ocean views all on one visit. We spent about 2 hours following the loop through the flower gardens and open fields to the coastal trail. We found the walk a lot more tranquil than we expected – we found our way to different gardens and sat on benches to enjoy the fresh air in each other’s presence. The gardens are scenic, inviting, and truly a hidden gem of Mendocino. The best part – the gardens are entirely dog friendly!

mendocino botanical gardens




Walk along the Mendocino Headlands Trail

The Mendocino Headlands trail is a 4 mile out and back stroll located along the coastal bluffs of the town. Even if you do not complete the entire trail, this is a great way to take in the coastal views. The trail follows the coast with the sounds of waves crashing below. The trail is overgrown at some parts, but we just trudged through without difficulty. The trail is best paired prior to or following a walk through town – we loved stopping into the cute shops and coffee bars.

mendocino headlands trail view of the ocean


pacific ocean from mendocino headlands trail


NorCALis CALling,
Your Pal CAL

Guide to Pet Friendly Activities in Seattle with your Dog

 golden retriever dog sitting in front of the seattle washington gum wall in post alley. He is wearing a bandana with bicycles on it

How to see Seattle with your dog in TWO days

Weekend Seattle trip with your dog? No problem. Find the best places to have fun in Seattle with your dog even if you are only visiting for the weekend. There are more than 20 dog parks within the Seattle Metropolitan area and countless off-leash dog trails through the forest. Most restaurants in Seattle have pet friendly patios where you and your pet will be treated like royalty. Even better yet, dogs are allowed on the bus, seaplanes, and boats throughout Seattle! From city adventures to nature, the Space Needle City will welcome your dog with open arms. We finally checked the fido friendly Seattle off our bucket list with a super quick trip. We were able to see the greatest sights but will be back for more in the years to come.

The best time of year to visit Seattle with your dog

As always, we recommend visiting the Pacific Northwest in the late spring and summer. The temperatures do not get too hot so you your dog will stay safe and the weather is generally sunny. It can be difficult to enjoy pet friendly cities during rainy winter months so we visited Seattle with our dog in August. The weather was perfect for being outside – sunny 76 degrees with a slight breeze.

Accommodations in Seattle with your dog

We wanted to stay in downtown Seattle so we could walk along the water and through Pike Place in the morning. We stayed at the Pet Friendly Kimpton Hotel Monaco. We had previously stayed at the Kimpton in Portland with our dog and had just as wonderful service this time around. The hotel allows dogs to stay free of charge without a pet cleaning fee. We got a free upgrade, were greeted with smiles and coffee each morning and found plenty of street parking around the hotel. Parking in Seattle was GREAT and easy (something we are not used to).

Map of Dog Friendly Activities in Seattle

golden retriever in front of pike place seattle market sign

Dog friendly activities in Seattle

The Pacific Northwest is known for its laid back, pet friendly cities and Seattle was no exception. We split up our time among different neighborhoods to take in the sights and vibes. We’ve organized this travel blog in order of our favorite activities by neighborhood. We arrived in Seattle from San Francisco on Friday evening, and left on Sunday night – this left us with less than 2 full days to visit so we tried to focus on the must see areas. Here’s how you can see Seattle with your dog in two days…..


Dinner in the the Hip & Artsy Capitol Hill 

We hopped off the plane at the Sea-Tac airport, grabbed our rental car and drove about 25 minutes into Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The neighborhood is known for its laid back vibes, artsy feel, and hip dining. This neighborhood is the LGBTQ epicenter of Seattle and a great place for nightlife. We enjoyed walking through the neighborhood to find a place to eat – unsurprisingly, most establishments were crowded on Friday night. We passed by the famous Salt & Straw ice cream (for dessert), and a Cat Cafe (with real cats!). Samson admired the cats through the window and we found an outdoor Mexican Restaurant for some tacos. We had plenty of dog friendly dining options to choose from in Capitol Hill so we recommend walking around to choose a place for your taste.

Catch some Coronas at the Barking Dog Ale House or the Voff Bark & Brew

We aren’t really into nightlife, but if there’s “Dog” in the name, we are THERE. The two famous pet friendly bars in Seattle are the Barking Dog Ale House or the Voff Bark & Brew.

The Barking Dog Ale House is off the beaten path and most known for its unique and rotating selection of beers on tap. They have a standard selection of bar snacks with a solid American style dinner menu. Dogs are no longer allowed inside but there is an outdoor patio with full service!

Voff Bark & Brew is essentially a bar in a dog park and therefore introduces the potential of issues with aggressive dogs. The bar owners are very strict in not allowing out of control, loud dogs into the bar and outdoor area.  Dogs are allowed to play off leash and socialize with each other while humans enjoy their drinks. We did not visit as we choose to stay away from dog parks. We did see lots of great reviews online so it may be worth checking out as long as the risks are clear.


Get an early morning start at Pike Place Market & The Gum Wall

We got an early start to our day around 8am and found the waterfront and Pike Place Market already bustling with activity. We strolled along the waterfront to the Seattle Great Wheel then walked 10 minutes to the Pike Place Market. Dogs are not allowed inside the market but there are still plenty of shops to walk by along Pike Place. Check out the Original Starbucks (order ahead), Piroshky Piroshky, and Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.

The Gum Wall came next and took us a few moments to find – when in doubt, ask around. The best way to access the Gum Wall is at the corner of the market where Pike Place meets Pike St. Head down the stairs at the gold statue of the pig called “Rachel the Piggy Bank.”  The stair case looks grungy but leads tourists to the gum wall (equally gross, but awesome to see).

seattle public market sign at pike place

seattle post alley sign at pike place

fish at pike place market

berries at pike place market

golden retriever in front of seattle gum wall

Brunch with your dog at Norm’s Eatery and then check out Gasworks Park

Norm’s Eatery in Seattle may be one of the most dogified places we have ever visited – the food was great too! The speakeasy style bar has indoor and outdoor sections and is decorated entirely with dog memorabilia. Dog paintings, dog figurines, dog statues, dog beers, dog menus….everything dog is found at Norm’s. Even the bathrooms are dog themed.

We ate at Norm’s and then drove to the nearby Gasworks Park for views of the city. The actual Gasworks Park is nothing special and dogs must be kept on leash. The main reason to go to the park is for the best views of downtown Seattle. We made a quick stop, took in the views, then headed to Old Ballard.


dog signs at norms eatery in seattle

picture of labrador retriever puppies on a bench

dog menu at norms eatery in seattle

dog in front of seattle skyline at gasworks park

seattle skyline from gasworks park

retriever wearing a bandana in front of the puget sound

Take your dog to the Botanical Gardens & Old Ballard

Dogs are allowed on leash at the Carl English Botanical Garden. The garden was flowing with live music and the landscaping was beautiful. Walking through the garden leads to the Ballard Locks, a complex set of machinery that allows Boats to pass through areas of water that are at different levels. Even as an adult, I was mesmerized by the process – the nontrivial operation is run by US Army Corp Engineers. As boats enter through one side, they are locked into a waiting area as the water level changes to match the water on the other side. During salmon season, find the fish ladder to watch the Salmon jump out of the water against the current. We watched one lock switch and then headed to explore the Old Ballard neighborhood.

The Old Ballard neighborhood is where history meets trendy. We accessed Old Ballard by turning onto Ballard Ave NW from NW Market St. The neighborhood has a historical vibe paired with boutique shopping, thrifting, hip eateries, and coffee shops. We had outdoor pizza at Stoneburner and then grabbed an ice cream at the famous Salt & Straw. We found the Salt & Straw line to be shorter than any of the San Francisco locations. Although we stopped for pizza, there were countless pet friendly patios throughout Old Ballard. We saw the most dogs sitting on the Ocho patio at the beginning of the neighborhood.

On Sundays year round from 10am-3pm you will find the Old Ballard Farmer’s Market along 22nd Ave NW.

dog in front of yellow daffodils while wearing a sunflower bandana

Head to Discovery Park

Discovery Park is only 13 minutes from Old Ballard. We went to the park 2 hours before sunset to get to the beach front with enough time before dark.

The nicest part of Discovery Park is the West Point Lighthouse and Fort Lawton Beach. Dogs are not officially allowed on the beach (we did see some swimming) but the pathway along the beach is pet friendly. We parked at Discovery Park North Parking Lot since there was a full restroom nearby. Discovery Park South Parking Lot offers direct access to the main “Loop Trail” (unsure about bathroom access).

The trails are clearly marked and the best way to decide which trails to take will depend on your desired level of activity. There are shorter paths and switchbacks and luckily google maps works well throughout the park. We followed the main “Texas Way” paved path until it met the “Loop Trail.” The “Loop Trail” goes through the trees and eventually reaches cliffs over the Puget Sound where it meets the “South Beach Trail”. The “South Beach Trail” leads to the beach and turns into the “North Beach Trail” at the Lighthouse where it eventually gets back to the parking lot via the “Loop Trail”. We chose to take the long way back as the “North Beach Trail” kept us along the water for the longest time. Consider these trails when you visit Discovery Park:

  • Loop Trail
  • South Beach Trail
  • North Beach Trail
  • Hidden Valley Trail
  • Bird Alley
  • Texas Way

golden retriever standing in front of the puget sound during sunset

dog wearing a bandana on a cliff overlooking the puget sound

If you have time, enjoy the Kubota Gardens

Since we spent so much time at Discovery Park, we did not have a chance to see the pet friendly Kubota Gardens. The 20 acre Japanese Garden is advertised as a blend of Japanese styles with Northwest plants.


Sunrise at Magnuson dog beach

The 8.6 acre Magnuson Park Off Leash Dog Area has access to the Dog Beach on Lake Washington. The paths are well maintained and safe for dogs. With enough coffee, the views from the beach are not too shabby to wake up to.

Grab a biscuit in Belltown & walk to the Space Needle

We headed to the famous “Buiscuit Bitch” in Belltown for breakfast. This place was POPULAR! We waited nearly 30 minutes for our food once we ordered, but luckily the neighborhood is wonderful to explore. The Biscuit Bitch is a 10 minute walk to Space Needle Park and a 15 minute walk to the water front Olympic Sculpture Park. For those who like dog parks, there is also a dog park right in front of the restaurant for dogs to blow off some steam while the humans wait for breakfast.

We chose to enjoy a coffee while waiting for our food and managed to grab a table right outside. Afterwards, we waked to the Space Needle Park. Pets are allowed in the park, but not in the Space Needle itself. We were relatively underwhelmed by the Space Needle, but still had a great walk through the park (and another coffee).

biscuit bitch belltown menu

biscuit bitch belltown menu

seattle space needle

dog in front of the seattle space needle

dog in front of the seattle space needle

Stroll through the quiet Washington Park Arboretum

We love strolling through parks whenever we visit a new city. If that isn’t your jam, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post to get some more ideas for activities to do in Seattle. The Washington Park Arboretum is a well manicured green space in the heart of the city. Most of the paths are paved and the park was quiet and away from the crowds. The park is probably more breathtaking when the leaves start to change color for fall.

dog standing in the seattle arboreteum while wearing a bandana

dog standing behind a rock in front of autumn foliage

Bring your Dog to the Seattle Waterfalls or Rattlesnake Ledge

Off Leash Hiking Trails in Seattle are easy to find. If you are willing to travel 45 minutes outside the city, there are plenty of trails to choose from. We chose the off-leash Rattlesnake Ledge trail as a final stop before heading to the airport. The best time to hike Rattlesnake Ledge is at sunrise – we went midday and it was CROWDED all the way up. This 5.1 mile out and back trail is about 1500 ft uphill to the peak but worth the views. Afternoon was the only time that we could fit in this hike but our experience suffered from the crowds on the narrow (and steep) trail. It was impossible to get a peaceful view from the ledge but we got a bit of a view by squeezing ourselves in between the crowds.

Some of the other trails in the area that we didn’t get to try out are the Snow Lake Trail. The 6.4 mile out and back trail leads to a breathtaking lake at the Snoqualmie Pass. Dogs must be kept on leash.

The pet friendly waterfalls near Seattle are also worth checking out:

  • Twin Falls (3.6 miles out and back)
  • Snoqualmie Falls (1.3 miles out and back)
  • Panther Creek Falls (.3 miles out and back)

rattlesnake ledge view of mountains and forests

rattlesnake ledge lake view at the top

golden retriever at the top of rattlesnake ledge hike

dog sitting at the top of rattlesnake ledge

More Pet Friendly activities in Seattle for next time

  • Fremont Sunday Ice Cream Cruise – The Seattle Ice Cream Cruise departs on the house from 11am to 4pm on Sundays year round.
  • Boat rentals at Green Lake Park – The Green Lake Boat Rentals allow humans to rent out Kayaks, SUP, or rowboats with their pets.
  • Kennmore Air Flightseeing Tours – Seaplane tours on Kennmore Air are pet friendly! See their website for routes and prices. Pets are allowed for a fee as long as they are friendly and trained.
  • University Village Outdoor Shopping Center – If you want to shop, the University Village outdoor shopping center is a great place to visit with your dog.
  • Seattle Bakery Treat Truck – Check out a food truck just for your dog! See here for their most current location.


The PNW is Calling, 
-Your Pal Cal

Flying with a Dog in Cabin: Airplane Travel With A Dog

service dog in cabin on airplane

Everything You Need to Know About Traveling on a Plane with Your Dog

So how do you bring your dog on the plane? Traveling on a plane with your dog doesn’t have to be painful. Bringing a dog in cabin is something that you can prepare for to have a successful flight. Review all the required paperwork for traveling with your dog on a plane and make sure you are fully ready. Hopefully this page will answer most of the frequently asked questions.

How do you travel with a dog?
Until late 2018, Calvin was an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) but his role eventually changed. After task training, public access testing (although not required), and doctor recommendation, Calvin became a fully trained Medical Response Service Dog. Over time, it became clearer that Calvin is better suited for other activities. He loves to work and continues to do so at home, but his energy levels have not been as well suited for public work. The standards for a service dog are exceptionally high and so we introduced Samson as a new potential helper. Samson has since taken over Calvin’s role and spent the first year of his life training with professionals to be a great helper. His training will continue but he has done an amazing job so far. Services dogs are covered by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) but ESAs are not. Unlike a service animal, an Emotional Support Animal is not granted access to places of public accommodation. Read about the difference between a Service Dog and ESA here.  Because many ESA handlers are unsure of their rights, this post is written to help ESA handlers. We believe that dogs have a wonderful healing effect and hope that our ESA friends can find this page useful and travel responsibly. It is assumed that trained service dogs have received some sort of more formal training so this page will not be as helpful for that use case.

How often do you travel?
We fly about twice a month, sometimes more. Our dogs have flown on short flights, cross country flights, and international flights. Our flight counter is up to over 75 planes…

What does ESA cover? Can Emotional Support Animals fly in the plane cabin?
ESA covers housing accommodations even in “no pets” buildings.  Emotional Support Animals are also generally accepted to fly in cabin with their handler as long as they do not take more than the footprint of the seat. You are also permitted to buy an extra seat for your ESA but the ESA is not allowed on the seat (only the floor). It is important to check the regulations for each particular airline.  Different airlines have different policies. ESA status does NOT grant public access rights and cannot “go everywhere”. Emotional Support Animals can fly in cabin with their handler.

Does an ESA (Emotional Support Animals) need special training?
The short answer is no – however, we feel strongly that it is important for ESAs to be well trained especially if they will be traveling. A poorly trained dog is more stressful than therapeutic.

If your dog can’t walk at a polite heel, stay in place, listen to commands….it has no place being in an airport. People who bring untrained dogs into the airport just make it more difficult for those who take the time to train their dogs – having a particular illness also does not automatically excuse a dog from behaving poorly. Even if you do have a diagnosed illness that would benefit from a dog, your dog does not (and should not) get automatic rights to come with you when you travel. We recommend getting the Canine Good Citizen title as a way to gauge whether they can listen to commands and handle distractions. If your ESA misbehaves or causes destruction, airlines can ask you to leave. It is up to the handlers discretion whether their dog can handle flying.

What ESA documentation needs to be provided? Do Emotional Support Dogs require doctor’s notes?
A formal letter from a physician or mental health professional must be provided.  Always check with the airlines before hand to understand their regulations – each airline has a different process. The letter must:

  • Not be over a year old
  • Be from a physician or mental health professional who is currently treating you
  • Must be on the doctor’s official letterhead (include doctor’s license numbers)
  • State the reason for prescribing an Emotional Support Animal and why it is necessary

Almost all airlines have updated their requirements to include proof of training, a filled in form from a physician who must state they are currently treating the traveler, and a letter of health from the vet. These forms must be submitted at least 48 hours before the flight. We respect this and think it would be a great idea for more airlines to require additional documentation to ensure legitimate ESAs! These additional requirements help ensure the legitimacy of ESA animals and the function they perform.

Where does the dog sit in the plane?
The dog sits between your legs or under the seat in front of you. We recommend extra leg room for a better fit. Your dog must be able to remain in a down stay for the duration of the flight.

Where does the dog relieve itself? Can a dog go to the bathroom in the airport?
Most airports have signs to a pet relief area but they can be hard to find.  Ask a staff member or look up the map in advance. For a cross country flight, your pet will be expected to hold it for about 9-12 hours. We did not find pet relief areas in international airports so we gave Calvin the option of relieving himself on a potty pad in the human bathroom.

Taking a dog through the airport? What is the airport process?
Check with the airline you are flying to learn their ESA rules – each airline is different. Most airlines require documentation 48 hours before. Others require a fax from the doctor. Always call the airline beforehand so they know to put the animal on the ticket and make arrangements – you can sometimes get upgraded to extra leg room or bulkhead if it is available.

Once you get to the airport, bring the dog to the ticket counter to have your documentation verified by an agent.  Then, you head to security and pass through as usual. Security may ask you to remove all collars and harnesses. It is important for the sake of not making a fool of yourself that your dog has a very solid stay, come, and heel. With the dog, you will be able to pre-board and get settled before other passengers.  This gives you some time to get the dog settled and down between your legs on the flight.

Best airlines for dogs: Favorite airlines with dogs?
Our favorites are Delta, United, JetBlue, Alaska, Virgin, Air France, and Southwest. We’ve never had any issues. Always check the airline pet policies before flying.  It is also a good idea to call ahead to see what the airline dog requirements are.

What are some good things to teach an ESA (or an SD)?
When you fly, we make sure that your dog is on their best behavior.  The commands we use most often when flying are “park,” “scoot,” “leave it,” “under,” “sit/down,” “wait/go” or “heel, “go potty.”  Obviously, the dog must be also be friendly and not aggressive.  We have Calvin “park” himself between our legs when we are waiting on lines.  When the lines move forwards, he is able to “scoot” forward so that he remains between our legs and sits back down when we stop.  “Leave it” is an important one because there are many new smells (and other dogs) at airports.  It is important to be able to command your dog to look away from any distractions. We use “wait/go” when passing through security..  Generally, the handler walks through first and leaves the dog in a “wait” or “stay” on the other side of the metal detectors.  You also have the option to walk through with your dog – in which case you need to keep it at a “heel.”  Once through, the dog is commanded to pass through the metal detectors and patted down by TSA.   We use “under” when sitting in front of the gate waiting to board.  “Under” means the dog must put itself in a down under your legs (under the seats).  This keeps him away from foot traffic and out of the way.  There are designated areas where your dog can relieve him/herself, so make sure they know what “go potty” means so they can do it on command.

Flying with a Dog in Cabin: Airplane Travel With A Dog
Tips & Tricks for taking a dog on a plane?

We no longer need any training tools during flights but here is what helped us during training:

  • Bring A LOT of long lasting treats and chews.  This means bully sticks, marrow bones, tracheas ect. Also, be sure to bring many high value treats in case you are having trouble keeping your dog’s attention.  Eventually, your pup will get used to flying and treats won’t be necessary during flights.
  • Make sure the dog is fully tired out before boarding.  A tired dog will be well behaved on a flight.
  • Refrain from feeding or watering your dog for about 5 hours before the flight.

Does an ESA wear a vest? Does a Service Dog have to wear a vest?
ESAs do not have to wear a vest (neither do service dogs) but many choose to.

Landing & Takeoff with a dog?
Treats are your friend.  Reward good behavior while on the plane, on escalators (we opt for elevators to protect the toes), in the security line.

Any Notable Experiences?

  • Reactive Dogs:  We had one experience where someone had a smaller but reactive dog with them in the security line.  The dog immediately lost its mind when it saw Calvin, and began barking and growling.  Its handler was clearly embarrassed and part of me felt very bad for him.  The man was asked to leave the line until his dog was under control. Make sure that your dog does not react back.  Work on the “leave it” command – When dogs bark at Calvin, he will look at them and then we say “leave it” so that he turns his attention back to us.
  • Dog Haters: Some people hate dogs – it happens.  We were once sitting in our seat with Calvin sleeping (not even moving) under the seat.  A woman walked by and SCREAMED at the top of her lungs.  Calvin stirred, looked at her blankly, and went back to bed.  It is important to be aware that situations like this will happen and that many people at the airport do not want a dog coming to sniff them (or even look at them).  Try to keep your dog fully attentive to you while in the airport.
  • Children:  Children are great but they do not know how to approach dogs.  We do not see this as an issue because we know that Calvin will someday have to learn to adapt with our children.  We will obviously try to teach them to behave appropriately but we know that mistakes will be made and we want Calvin to be reliable and patient around them.  We were once approached by a family with 4 very young children – they were mesmerized by Calvin.  The situation ended with one of the girls sticking a lollipop up Calvin’s nose, pulling his ears, and trying to ride him like a horse.  We quickly rectified the situation and luckily Calvin did not seem to care (not even a little bit).
  • Human Bathroom:  When traveling alone, the bathroom situation is tricky. The stalls are small and take time for pups to get used to, don’t expect them to be ok walking right in.
  • Full Body Pat Downs: If you get stopped at security for a full pat down and investigation of your bags, don’t panic but this does make it more difficult to control your dog.  It is helpful to get out of the way of foot traffic and try to find a quiet spot. This will make it more likely that the dog will not get distracted.  When this happens, we put Calvin in a down stay and talk to him with cooing noises so that he does not lose focus.  Make sure to reward after a success!
  • Escalators: Most dogs are not naturally inclined towards escalators or moving walkways.  Acclimate your dog to these before heading to the airport. You do not want them holding up other passengers because they don’t want to get on the escalator. Alternatively, you can opt for the elevator. We choose to use the elevators because we do not want Calvin’s paws getting stuck in the escalators.
  • Bad Days: Everyone has a bad day – especially puppies and teenage dogs. Here are a few lessons learned…

Lessons Learned?

  • Tire Out Your Puppy: A tired (exhausted!) puppy, is a well behaved puppy.  Make sure your dog is tired before you attempt flying.  Try daycare leading up to the flight or a long hike.
  • Chews: Bring lots of your pup’s favorite chews.  This means the most delicious bully sticks, tracheas, pig ears ect.
  • Prevent Accidents: Limit water and food intake before the flight.  This will minimize the chances of an accident especially after a long flight.  Thanks to this advice from friends we have prevented accidents at the airport! One of our travel days was 16 hours without a potty break (we do not recommend this)
  • Lots of treats: Use high value treats to keep his/her attention on you and not the surroundings.
  • Stay Calm: Everyone who has raised a puppy or dog knows that some days are better than others.  Stay consistent – Keep trying and don’t give up.
  • Be Honest: If your dog is anxious at the airport, unable to keep its cool in new situations, or reactive/loud (potentially disruptive to trained service dogs) skip the plane and leave them with the puppy sitter!
  • Apologize: If something goes wrong, apologize and take responsibility for it.  If it becomes a trend, you may need to reevaluate your decision to bring your pet along.

Happy flying!

-Your Pal Cal

What to Expect at the Airport with your Dog

service dog on airplane

Taking a dog on an Airplane: What to Expect at the Airport

Every wonder what you need to know to bring your dog on a plane? Wonder how to succeed at airplane dog travel? What kind of paperwork do you need to bring your dog in cabin? As we sit on yet another cross country flight, we figured we would take the time to discuss all the challenges, processes, and people that you may face when traveling with your Service Dog or ESA. We would also like to include some tips for training your dog to succeed in such a busy and hectic place.  For more information about flying with a dog please see our post about it here. Enjoy this full list of things to prepare for at the airport. But first….

Emotional Support Dog vs. Service Animal

We would like to make clear that there is an important distinction between a Service Animal and an ESA (Emotional Support Animal). A Service Animal is defined by the ADA here. This means that the dog is individually trained to perform certain tasks that directly mitigate its handler’s disability.  A disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Having a particular diagnosis does not make you automatically “qualified” to have a Service Dog or defined as disabled.  You can be suffering from a similar diagnosis (Panic Disorder, Anxiety, PTSD) as someone with a Service Dog and it can have some impact on your life, BUT this does not mean that you are disabled. These diagnoses impact people in different ways and have different implications in daily life. Only a trained psychiatrist or physician who knows you diagnoses well can determine if you are disabled and require a Service Dog .A well trained ESA is NOT a Service Dog. It is our personal opinion that it is important for ESAs to be trained – worrying that your animal is going to misbehave on a plane or bark all day in your no-pets allowed apartment, lunge at other dogs ect, is definitely not comforting and very disrespectful to those around you.

What is Calvin? What is Samson?

Until late 2018, Calvin was an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) but his role eventually changed. After task training, public access testing (although not required), and doctor recommendation, Calvin became a fully trained Medical Response Service Dog. Over time, it became clearer that Calvin is better suited for other activities. He loves to work and continues to do so at home, but his energy levels have not been as well suited for public work. Samson has since taken over Calvin’s role and spent the first year of his life training with professionals to be a great helper. His training will continue but he has done an amazing job so far.

We keep our private life private and do not center our social media presence on the boys working. We included a little bit more information about the dog’s roles in our other airport guide and will therefore not go into detail here.

Airport processes with a dog:

  • Check In Line
  • Security Line
  • Waiting at the gate
  • Boarding
  • Exiting Plane

service dog in airplane cabin under seat

Sounds and Stimuli to Expect: If your dog comfortable around loud sounds? 

The best way to prepare for flights is to find similar stimuli outside of the airport and then work your way up to practicing in the airport without a flight booked (before security).  Stand in lines, sit at baggage claim, ect.

Moving walkways and escalators
Dogs are not naturally inclined to walk on escalators and moving walkways. Watch out for their toes! Practice at dog friendly outdoor places (if you have an ESA).  Try over and over until your dog gets used to the moving platform. When Calvin is afraid of something, we walk by it over and over until he can do so without darting away.

Nothing much to say here – business as usual.

Large trolleys
Trolleys carrying baggage, people, garbage ect are all things to expect.  They have big wheels and make a lot of noise.

 Hand dryer in bathrooms
If your dog is afraid of blow dryers, the bathroom is going to be a challenge. Practice at home when you dry your hair by keeping your dog in the bathroom with you.  Do this every morning until they seem comfortable with the sound.

Rolling suitcases
Just another thing to get used to. No biggie here.

Metal detectors/Security Equipment
Be prepared for a lot of commotion at the security line – it’s a good idea to place the dog into a down-stay while you are unloading your bag, taking off shoes, ect.  Down-stay is also useful when going through the metal detectors.  Some TSA agents make the dog go through fully naked while others allow them to keep on their vest (I think Service Dogs are allowed to keep their vests on but do not quote me on that).

Dealing with Reactive dogs
We do not believe that a legitimate ESA or Service Dog should be reactive on leash.  Airlines have clearly defined rules that reactive dogs cannot be allowed on planes, but there has not been any crack down on it. We have had reactive dog situations more times than we can count.  One woman’s small dog freaked out at a sleeping Calvin at the gate, looked us straight in the eye and said “sorry, she doesn’t like big dogs.” We weren’t sure what to make of this other than….wtf?! (excuse the language).  Part of us felt badly for her, but then we realized that dog training is entirely up to the owner and leash reactivity is not appropriate for working dogs. We have many more stories including a miniature pinscher “service dog” fighting with a Chihuahua “service dog” at the gate.  We like to think that Calvin (while watching and holding his down-stay) was silently laughing. Don’t even get us started on the Frenchie that we watched wiggle its way through security while its owner chased it. Establish a reliable “leave it” when walking by other dogs and use treats if needed to reinforce the command. Please note, that we believe ANY breed CAN be a Service Dog or ESA, we are just describing these particular experiences which have nothing to do with the dog’s breed, just their training.

service dog on airplane cabin

Types of people you will meet while traveling with your dog:

The REALLY Rude People
If you are an introvert (like me) having everyone watching your every move is already really intimidating.  Now, add in the rude people who think they have the right to hoot at you, throw things (yes this happened), make mean comments really loudly, squeak things in your dogs face while laughing (this literally just happened).  The list goes on and on. Most people are already in a bad mood because they hate flying, and you have to be ready for them. When situations arise, we have found it is best to keep our cool and just let Calvin sit politely while they are being rude so that they look like FOOLs. Some people are rude for no reason – let’s hope they’re just having a bad day.

The Curious People
These people mean no harm, they are just unfamiliar with the process and are understandably curious at how a 60 pound dog fits under a seat (he does!). They will ask questions, and it is up to you if you want to answer.

The Children
Children love dogs. They’ll want to say hi. Calvin also loves children…and wants to say hi. Sticky fingers, nose boops, ear pulling….his kryptonite.  For this reason, we tend to keep him under our seat at the gate so that he is seen by as few people as possible.  It is up to you whether or not you want to engage with the children.  We used to let children pet Calvin more when we were still socializing him but now we keep him tucked under our seats wherever we are.

The Dog Haters
Some people have had bad experiences with dogs, which is unfortunate.  They have also seen the news of untrained dogs causing havoc at airports or people trying to get their peacocks onto flights.  All of these things make them cringe when they see a dog, even well trained, walking through the terminal.  Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do but ignore them. If your dog isn’t bothering them and is tucked away under your seat, there really isn’t anything they should be upset about.

The Allergic to Dogs
This happened to us on a flight once and it was important for us to respect the woman’s allergy. She did pet Calvin at the gate (while sitting next to us) and was sitting three rows behind us (but let’s not talk about that).  Some people ARE severely allergic to dogs which leads to a more tricky situation that should be respected.  When this happened, the attendant came to let us know and we told her we were open to relocating to the very back of the plane to accommodate the woman’s request.  I am unsure what the protocol is if this happens with a trained Service Dog team and how they weigh the two requests so I cannot say what would happen in that situation.

The pilot and staff
They are generally friendly if you fly on the more “dog friendly” airlines.  We have noticed that airlines are inconsistent with how friendly their staff are so it’s just depends on who is checking you in. Many times, the pilots will want to say hi.  Of course, this is entirely up to you and they always ask for permission and understand your preferences. We generally let Calvin give them a BOOP for good luck.

Your dog can generally keep its gear on when going through security.  You will put him in a down stay and then walk through the metal detector with your back to him.  Then you call him to you.  TSA will test your hands and often will pat down your dog (Calvin’s favorite part).  They are generally very friendly but you should expect more scrutiny in terms of bag checking and pat downs. Also, if you bring canned food, they’ll let you by but it will set off the alarm. We set it off every time and they like to play a “what set off the alarm game?” – someone always wins with the dog food guess.

What does the dog do on the plane? How to prepare your dog for plane travel:

Jet bridge sound
You know when you get onto the jet bridge and walk down that long hallway to the plane entrance?  The air is stuffy, and it sounds like you are heading straight for a big vacuum. It took Calvin about 4 flights to finally get used to this sound. We had a great crew on one flight that let us practice Calvin (since we pre-board).

Treats and comfort are your friend. If your dog is used to being in the car, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Limited leg room
There is going to be a leg room shortage if your dog weighs anything more than 30lbs.  To pre-empt this, it always helps to ask at check in if there are any available seats on the plane.  If so, they can move you to a row with an empty seat or bulkhead.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a very common situation.  To prepare for less leg room, travel light and get your dog situated before other passengers get on the plane.  The best way to fit them is to push their behind all the way under the seat in front of you.  This fits a 60lb lab even though it is uncomfortable. If you are traveling with another person, the leg room is not an issue.  We have found that the comfortable amount of leg space for a big dog is 1.5 seats.  We rarely travel solo so Calvin’s head will often invade a bit of his dad’s legroom.

We do not want to sugar coat – the first flight will be stressful! especially if you are dealing with anxieties. It is totally normal for the handler AND dog to feel a little bit nervous on their first flight.  One thing that we used to settle Calvin immediately is one of our sweatshirts.  We always place a sweatshirt that smells like our home on the ground before we set him into a down-stay.  He feels more at home and immediately snuggles into it

Take off and landing
A Boeing weighs about 970,000 lbs. As a human, even I am shocked when they catapult into the air carrying 200 passengers and a full cargo of luggage. Because your dog will be at your feet, they will get the brunt of the engine rumbling.  Have your treats ready and you may need to hold them down for the split second that the plane takes off (again this will likely only be for your first flight).  They’ll likely settle down once you reach 10,000 feet.

Narrow aisles
Aisles are not large enough to fit a dog and human side by side.  Either have your dog follow in a heel, or walk between your legs (we call this “scoot”).  We aren’t really sure why but have noticed that we tend to use the heel when getting on the plane and scoot when exiting.

A reliable “back” command is useful if you are dealing with the narrow aisles and leg space.  If your dog ends up facing the windows, it will need to back out of the row to exit the plane.

Happy Flying (LOL),
Your Pal Cal