All dogs go to Huntington Beach, especially Sept. 25, when the Surf City Surf Dog tournament splashes to life and California’s best water dogs hang 20 as they compete for barking rights and trophies.
The tournament is a premier event for pets and their people — a chance to watch the action and play at Huntington Dog Beach, one of the best-known canine play parks in the nation.
The event is a top entry in our guide to the Southland’s coolest pup-friendly activities, beaches, doggone-fun classes and luxe hotels. We think every dog should have its day, especially pandemic pups new to our lives.
Among the things you’ll find are opportunities for you and your four-legged pal to get your sea legs on mini cruises or aboard kayaks, gondolas or submarines. How about a pet-parent-and-me class that trains you and your dog to use its dazzling sense of smell to play games? Or a relaxing massage for Fido at a luxury hotel spa after a tough day at the park?
Los Angeles isn’t as dog-friendly as Huntington Beach, unfortunately; few of its beaches allow pets. But sandy shorelines to the north and south put out the welcome mat. Below are many other ways to take advantage of our proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
Long Beach: Rosie’s Dog Beach, a sandy off-leash park in the pooch-friendly city, is the only L.A. County beach that allows unleashed dogs. The 4.2-acre waterfront area is in the Belmont Shore neighborhood and is named after the late English bulldog Rosie. There are waste bags, a dog-size water fountain and a rinse station. Info: 5000 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach (between Roycroft and Granada avenues) Open 6 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
Malibu: Leo Carrillo State Park offers a picturesque 1.5-mile stretch of beach with reefs, tide pools, caves, fishing, surfing and a dog-friendly area where leashed pups can roam. Stay on the northern end of the beach (north of Lifeguard Tower 3). Info: 35000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. Parking, $3 for one hour, $12 for the day.
Huntington Beach: The city’s excellent dog beach has cliffs, waves and a 1.5-mile stretch of scenic, sandy shoreline along Pacific Coast Highway between Goldenwest and Seapoint streets. Info: Off-leash optional; metered parking, in lots along the highway, requires a credit card. Open 5 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
Join the pack: Does your pooch need to improve its manners? The American Kennel Club can help it become a good citizen with private lessons, classes or virtual home training. The group’s Canine Good Citizen program helps dogs and owners master 10 skills that instill confidence and good manners. It also lays the foundation for other sports and activities such as obedience, agility, tracking, and performance events. Classes are held by dog clubs in seven Southern California cities. The AKC website lists how to find a private trainer or set up an in-home video-training program.
Nosing around: Looking for a challenge for you and your pup? You’ll both love Fun Nose Work, a game that turns your pal into a canine detective. The course, offered by spcaLA, offers physical and mental exercise using methods developed for search-and-rescue dogs. Any pup can play: small, large, disabled, old. You don’t need a big yard. Each dog works alone, without competition from other dogs. Classes are taught in Burbank; six sessions, $150. Private classes also available. Info: (562) 216-2559, training@spcaLA.com
Running the gamut: Agility is another fun activity from spcaLA. It’s a lively sport in which you direct your dog through an obstacle course. According to spcaLA, agility classes are a terrific way to bond with your dog while having fun. Classes are available for all dogs, including novices and those involved in advanced competition. Info: Six-week classes offered in Long Beach, $150-$180.
Surfur dogs: Jill Nakano’s dog Carson has his own website, which tells of his rescue and eventual success as a champion surfing pup. Nakano, who teaches humans to surf, also teaches canines like Carson.
“Some dogs love the water. Maybe there’s a pool at home and they like floating on a boogie board,” she said. “If they like the water, we start with a one-hour lesson ($75).” She’s enthusiastic about her job. “I love it, and the dogs love it.” Info: (562) 505-7396, firstname.lastname@example.org
Paddle pups: If you’d like to try stand-up paddleboarding with your dog, SUP Pups in San Diego’s Point Loma neighborhood offers private courses from $60 per hour. The school advertises that “every dog deserves to live the ultimate Cali dream of getting salty, having fun and living their best life.” The class includes basics, technique and terminology. Info: 2592 Laning Road, San Diego; (619) 365-4225, sandiegosuprentals.com/sup-pups
Wet and wild fun
Only a handful of charter services allow dogs on board. Be sure to call ahead and let them know you’ll have a pooch in tow. There may be size restrictions.
Salty dogs: Take a mini cruise with Bowser on the 65-foot Navegante, operated by Redondo Beach Sportfishing. You’ll explore the harbor, check out barkers on the sea lion barge, enjoy picturesque views and unstress as you slip into the open sea for a 45-minute tour. Adult tickets $25. Info: 140 International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach; (310) 372-2111.
Through the looking glass: Imagine your dog’s surprise when a school of fish swims past its nose. It could happen on the Looking Glass, a semi-submarine with glass windows that allow passengers to see marine life up close. Adults $20. The company also rents stand-up paddleboards, but you’ll need to equip your pup with a doggy life jacket. Info: 181 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach; (310) 909-3179.
Get in the swim: Do you and your fur ball like to dog paddle together? Marina del Rey’s Calico Yacht Charter can take you on a harbor sail, a coastal sail or even a swimming excursion in the waters off Playa del Rey. Bring a vest for your dog, then jump in. A two-hour charter costs $650 for a group of six (your pup sails for free). Info: 13701 Fiji Way, Dock 55, Marina del Rey; (310) 619-4491.
That’s amore: Pups are welcome to join you on an imaginary trip through the canals of Venice, Italy, on a Gondola Getaway cruise. The company emulates the old-world charm found in Venetian neighborhoods, complete with gondoliers who serenade with Italian ballads. You’ll wind through Los Alamitos Bay and the canals of Naples Island. $100 per couple. Info: 5437 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; (562) 433-9595,GondolaGetawayInc.com.
Shore fun: Some kayak rental companies won’t allow pets on board, but it’s OK with Kayaks on the Water. The Long Beach rental kiosk, on the sands next to Los Alamitos Bay charges $12 an hour. You’ll be able to kayak on calm waters on the bay or on the canals of Naples Island. Bring a flotation device for your pup. Info: 5411 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach (next to Bayshore Playground); (562) 434-0999.
Sad but sweet: Not all doggy activities are fun and games. Los Angeles Yacht Charter, for instance, will let your pet accompany you on a funeral service at sea. “We’re a family business,” said Britt Emery. “We know people here have connections to the sea. It’s where your marriage proposal was or where your dad taught you to surf. And some people want their dog to come along.” The charter service sails out of Marina del Rey, San Pedro and Long Beach and will arrange happier-occasion cruises that sail to Catalina or Malibu.
Info: (424) 328-1417. Smaller boats hold six to 12 passengers, others take groups up to 100. The basic charge is $390 for three hours.
Restaurant options for pups have improved with the pandemic-induced increase in patio dining. Here are a few dog-friendly standouts.
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The Fat Dog: We love the name, the canine-happy decor and the $4 side of chicken, cooked to order without spices or salt for Rover. This North Hollywood gastropub, named for bulldogs Luther and Lucy, serves creative cocktails, tap beers and a lively menu of burgers, sandwiches, cheese boards and small bites. You can also get a four-legged flight (any four beers or wines) for $14or a Fat Dog, a humongous grilled hot dog, for $13. Most of the staff are dog owners and happily cater to the canines that breeze in with their families. Info: 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; (818) 985-3644,thefatdogla.com.
Wet Dog Tavern: Another pub with a perfect name, especially when you consider it’s near Huntington Beach’s dog beach. No one minds if you wander in with your sandy pooch as a dining companion. The restaurant, which has a small indoor space, expands outside with a large patio on Main Street. But if you and your pet want to dine inside, it’s OK with the crew. Breakfast available all day; sandwiches from $12. There’s even a pet menu. My pup loved the 2-ounce slider patty ($2). Info: 221 Main St., Huntington Beach; (714) 536-2234, wetdogindustries.com.
These trips will take you to priceless places, and our pro tips will help you dig deeper.
Chuck’s Coffee Shop: As long as we’re talking about convenient restaurants, we should mention Chuck’s, which is within walking distance of Rosie’s Dog Beach in Long Beach. There are tables outside this low-key, cash-only breakfast-lunch cafe, which advertises that it’s “Locally World Famous.” Try the banana-nut pancakes or the Weasel, eggs topped with chili. Another good bet: You’ll find LaunderPet, a do-it-yourself dog washing salon, next door. Info: 4120 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; (562) 433-9317.
Boozehounds: “Where Dogs Bring Their Humans” is the slogan of this new desert restaurant. It’s so dog-oriented that it even has an 11-item menu for pups that lists turkey gizzards, beef kidneys and other delicacies. And there are special $8-$12 bowls, with combos such as chicken and cauliflower or skirt steak and sweet potatoes. My favorite pooch menu item, though, is the weenie-tini, with chicken broth, chicken whipped cream and doggy biscuit crumble. For two-legged customers, the restaurant serves dinner and brunch (weekends only), with entrees from $14. Info: 2080 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; (760) 656-0067, boozehoundsps.com.
Maybourne Terrace: If your pampered pooch wouldn’t be caught dead in a tavern or beach coffee shop, try the Terrace at the Maybourne hotel, which has a swanky outdoor dining room a block east of Rodeo Drive. Last known as the Montage Beverly Hills, the Maybourne is now operated by a British group that runs Claridge’s and the Connaught hotels in London. The Terrace restaurant, surrounded by beautiful gardens and lawns, has always been an elegant place to dine, and nothing has changed. Your dog — and you —will be in heaven here. Lunch entrees from $23. Info: 225 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 860-7800, maybournebeverlyhills.com.
Don’t ruff it
Travels with Charley — or Buddy or Bella— have changed in the last decade. About 75% of the hotels in the U.S. now accept pets, according to the American Kennel Club, with many rolling out the red carpet. Of course, some hotels do a better job than others. Here are three Southland favorites.
Paséa Hotel & Spa: Let your favorite pup join the pack at this Huntington Beach hotel, which has a 1,100-square-foot pup play area outfitted with a lifeguard dog house. Paséa has introduced a pet package that features a three-course doggy meal, take-home toys, a reflective leash and collapsible water and food bowls. Another perk: Paséa is less than two miles from Huntington Dog Beach. Info: 21080 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach; (714) 698-6100. From $350 per night; $150 per stay for one or two dogs. Fee waived with two-night package.
La Quinta Resort & Club: This desert resort has five golf courses, 17 tennis courts and dozens of pools. With more than 80 years of experience serving guests, it knows how to cater to humans and their four-legged friends. Among perks are pooch-friendly rooms with plush oversize dog beds, casitas with walled outdoor spaces, hiking and jogging trails and 45 acres of lawns and landscaped area to roam.
Info: From $378 per night; $150 per stay for pets. Info: 49-499 Eisenhower Drive, La Quinta, Calif.; (760) 564-4111.
Peninsula Beverly Hills: Where can you go to get your pup a massage? This super-luxe hotel will set up a 45-minute session for your dog. Other hotel perks include a signature Pampered Puppy menu that features Brody’s steak and eggs and Tilly’s arroz con pollo, a walk by one of the hotel’s Peninsula pages or special puppy robes available for purchase. Rates from $635 per night; dog fee is $35 per night. Info: 9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 551-2888.
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