Guest Author - Debra Kelly
Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching, and while opinions on this holiday vary from nothing more than a Hallmark holiday to a reason to take the opportunity to spend time with a significant other, there's no reason your dog should be left out of the fun. There are plenty of date ideas that are not only suitable for animal lovers, but for their dogs as well.
Bypass the fancy hotels for a weekend camping trip. Many state parks allow dogs, as long as they are properly vaccinated and leashed at all times. Rent a cabin for the weekend, and have your pup accompany you on long hikes, trips to the lakefront beach, or simply hang out with you by the campfire. If you don't have the time for a weekend trip, consider just taking the day to go hiking. Pack a picnic lunch for the two of you, along with a bag for your pup, and check out a local park that's in your own backyard. (Before taking your dog hiking, be sure he is vaccinated for lyme disease -- it's a vaccination he may not already have if he's usually in a less wooded environment.)
Head off to a national site of historic interest for an educational and fun date. Depending on your area, this can mean exploring old forts, plantations, battlegrounds, and monuments. Stroll through the historic district of your local area or of a nearby city; call ahead to see what gift shops, coffee shops and even museums will allow your dog to join you. Many guided tours of places like Civil War battlefields will welcome a well-behaved pup.
Some areas have restaurants that allow dogs to join their companions at dinner. Dining out isn't just for humans anymore, and there are a growing number of restaurants that will allow you to bring your dog along. From coffee houses to now fine dining establishments, restaurants are making dining truly a family affair. Do a quick internet search of your area to find dog-friendly restaurants, and call ahead to check on changes to any policies they might have in place. Remember that only the best-behaved dogs should be taken to a place like this; one bad experience can ruin it for others.
Outdoor events can present great date opportunities to take well-behaved dogs. Street fairs, art shows, festivals, car shows and carnivals can be great places to take your dog as well as your date, as long as your canine companion isn't going to be overwhelmed by the crowds and the chaos. (This can also serve as a great way to socialize a young puppy.) Pack a picnic lunch and a bottle of wine to share while you watch an outdoor theatre company, head off to an outdoor concert or even a local fundraiser. Many animal shelters have pet-friendly events where you and your significant other can enjoy games, food and other pet-centric activities, all for a good cause.
For less stressful and more secluded date activities, try apple-picking in a dog-friendly orchard, or head outdoors to pick your own pumpkins. Many orchards will have other activities as well, from craft shops to working ciders mills where you can press the apples you just picked. During the late summer and fall months, a corn maze can be a fun date spot to take an adventurous, athletic pup. Some vineyards will also allow dogs to accompany their owners on tours and in the tasting room.
Finally, some reminders on how to make your dog-friendly date pleasant for everyone. Be sure your dog is calm and socialized enough to handle whatever environment you're taking him to. Clean up after your pet, and keep him restrained and under control at all times. Remember that he's going to be exposed to all sorts of people out on a public date, so be courteous of those who aren't dog people or might have less friendly pets of their own.