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Finding Dog-friendly Hangouts in O.C.

Here are some tips for finding the right venue to spend time with your pet in OC.

Roger's Gardens has been dog friendly since they opened in 1970. Photo courtesy of Roger's Gardens/Marisa Pinette

Pet owners looking for a place to hang out with their furry children do have plenty of options in Orange County. But it’s important to find the right place for your dog’s needs and comfort level.

“Orange County definitely loves its pets, but the pet-loving culture does not always support the pets' needs. Dogs are often brought to places they can't handle and people often force their dogs to greet others when they truly don't want to,” said certified professional dog trainer Kate Uruchurtu, who owns Calmer Canines in Santa Ana.

Uruchurtu said it’s important to socialize puppies carefully from the very beginning under a trainer and veterinarian's guidance in order to prepare them for the kinds of places you want to bring them as an adult. It’s also key to recognize when your dog's personality may not be suitable for certain locations — even if they are considered dog-friendly.

Take Active Dogs On a Hike

Taking a local hike can make a great outing for dogs and owners. Dog trainer and behaviorist Ash Miner, who owns Intuitive Choice in Foothill Ranch, recommends O'Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon.

“They have a large portion of the park available to dogs, though the wilderness sections are off-limits,” she said. “There is a fabulous forest area in the first parking lot when you enter the park and turn right. All my clients get sent there to let their dogs do what is referred to as a decompression walk."

Miner said these walks are when the dog's nose leads the excursion. When they sniff, they follow wherever their tracking instincts want to take them.

“This is fabulous enrichment for any breed, at any age (post puppy shots being completed), with any level of drive,” Miner said. “It helps overly excited dogs, reactive dogs, nervous dogs and even generally well-mannered pets really boost their perception of their quality of life.”

According to the park rules for O’Neill:

  • Dogs are not permitted on trails in wilderness areas, including the Arroyo Trabuco Wilderness, Vedanta Wilderness, Tijeras Creek and Eagle Grove area.

  • Dogs are allowed in campgrounds, all paved roads and the following trails: Mesa, Arroyo Mesa, Twisted Tire and Pawfoot (within campground only). They must be on a leash at all times (six foot maximum).

Miner also recommends Irvine Regional Park in Orange. This park is larger, dog-accessible, has more human activity going on and is also generally busier.

“I see large groups of dogs being walked regularly on weekday mornings by dog walkers, and I really appreciate the paved loop for my clients with physical disabilities,” she said. “It's perfect for their wheelchairs. While this park is more manicured than O'Neill, it features several places where squirrel chasing has prime accessibility.”

Irvine Regional Park is a great place to explore nature with your dog. Photo courtesy of Ash Miner

Shopping and Dining for Laid-Back Dogs

Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar has developed a reputation for hosting dogs in its patios. Dogs can eat with their families off of dog-friendly menus on the patios at all OC locations. They have a dog menu with fresh grilled chicken or grilled hamburger patty on rice with veggies. They also have free bowls of water available.

But make sure first that your dog is ready for all the hustle and bustle of a dog-friendly patio.

“In my experience, the dogs who do well at places like Lazy Dog Cafe or pet stores are more mature, laid back and ready to relax,” Miner said. “The dogs who are all wound up and ready to go really need to do some decompression walking and/or growing up first .… Mat training can be a great gateway into enjoying a well-mannered dog at more public venues.”

(Mat training involves teaching a dog to lay on its mat to settle down.)

Uruchurtu said many stores and shopping centers allow dogs, but not all dogs are comfortable being brought into these places.

“The LAB Anti-Mall, Irvine Spectrum and Fashion Island are all known for allowing dogs to join their owners in shopping and outdoor dining (especially Fashion Island), but these locations are typically best for dogs who are outgoing and relaxed around a variety of people and dogs, and have been trained to walk on leash without pulling,” she said. “Since there is a lot of foot traffic and plenty of narrow passageways and blind corners, if your dog can be shy, fearful or reactive, it's best to take them on a nature walk or hike instead.”

She said most garden centers and hardware stores are also pet-friendly, but it is critical that your dog can walk on leash without pulling as well as resist munching on plants or peeing on them.

“For dogs who are noise-sensitive, it may be best to avoid large hardware stores since key copy machines, wood sawing and large carts can be quite loud, and the sounds echo between the high metal ceilings and concrete floors,” she said.

Nava Rezvan, director of marketing and public relations for Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar, said the gardens have been dog-friendly since they opened in 1970.

“Allowing dogs on the premises enhances the shopping experience by encouraging dog owners to explore the store more thoroughly,” she said. “The pet-friendly policy also fosters a community of dog lovers, generating a loyal customer base that values this inclusive approach.”

Various dogs and their owners visiting Rogers's Gardens. Photos courtesy of Roger's Gardens/Marisa Pinette

She said many customers bring their dogs to shop at Roger’s Gardens and are very appreciative that they are dog-friendly. Team lead cashier Nancy Clifton even took the initiative to create a "dog board" near the front registers by taking photos of dogs, cats and even birds that visit Roger’s Gardens. She posts their photos on the board with their names for all to enjoy.

But if you do want to bring your pet to Roger’s Gardens, there are a few rules. It must be leashed, current on vaccines and have a city or county license. Aggressive dogs aren’t permitted.

“Having a dog is like (having) a child and dog owners like the opportunity to spend quality time with their pets in theirs and their dogs’ happy place,” Rezvan said. “They love bringing in their dogs to walk throughout the beautiful gardens and get treats and some love (from) our staff members.”


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