Dog-friendly fun: 5 ideas for where to take your pooch

Atlantan Matt Matuszewski takes his yellow lab Murphy to play at Fetch Park at Boulevard and DeKalb Avenue. Photo: Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
Atlantan Matt Matuszewski takes his yellow lab Murphy to play at Fetch Park at Boulevard and DeKalb Avenue. Photo: Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Have a spa day, go to a baseball game, grab a bite or go camping with Fido.

When Matt Matuszewski went apartment hunting, it was location, location, location — for his dog. “They say Millennials buy houses for their pets not their kids, and that is pretty much me,” he says. “I was spending so much time with Murphy at Fetch, I moved so I could be close. Most of my time revolves around where I can go to get him out of the apartment. We walk up and down the BeltLine and then to Fetch.”

Matuszewski, a 30-year-old consultant, is not alone. Increasingly people are integrating their pets into their everyday lives, including home purchases. When Millennials who purchased a house were asked what influenced their decision, the third most popular reason was needing space for their dog — above children and marriage, according to GenBiz, a website that educates Millennials on finances. Today, people, but particularly Millennials, want to hang and have fun with their pets. Pets go to work, sporting events, restaurants and shopping as well as the more traditional activities such as hiking in the park and playing fetch in the backyard.

Matt Matuszewski and his yellow lab Murphy play at Fetch Park at Boulevard and DeKalb Ave on Friday,  March 12, 2021.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Matt Matuszewski and his yellow lab Murphy play at Fetch Park at Boulevard and DeKalb Ave on Friday, March 12, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Matt Matuszewski and his yellow lab Murphy play at Fetch Park at Boulevard and DeKalb Ave on Friday,  March 12, 2021.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Matt Matuszewski and his yellow lab Murphy play at Fetch Park at Boulevard and DeKalb Ave on Friday, March 12, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

It’s important for dogs to be socialized and well-behaved. And, just like some parents who consider their child’s behavior “cute,” to others, it’s annoying; same with parents of the four-legged kind.

“My Parent’s Basement in Avondale Estates has a very dog-friendly patio,” says Patti Gheezi, owner of Louis, an English coon hound, and Tadpole, a terrier mix. “I am jealous of how some dogs just calmly sit there while everyone else eats. We took ours, and they just lunged at everyone’s food. It was not such a relaxing outing.”

Such incidences are not uncommon, and doggie parents should make sure their pooch behaves. “The first thing to consider is that there will be other dogs around. If your dog freaks out every time they see another dog or lunges at people, you will need some training before you go to a dog park,” says Jeanne Flaim, canine trainer and behavior specialist manager for Golden Retriever Rescue Atlanta. Other things to look out for are how the dog reacts to loud sudden noises (such as machines at The Home Depot) or to certain types of people. Some dogs are afraid of men, people with hats, children — and masks aren’t helping (dogs read people’s faces). “Expose your dog to different situations before letting them off the leash.”

Metro Atlanta has a wealth of activities that provide lots of fun for both parent and pooch. Here are a few suggestions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Parks

Hiking is a popular activity, and on any day there will be scores of people hiking at state parks such as Sweetwater Creek State Park, Panola Mountain State Park and Stone Mountain Park (except on the attractions and certain parts of the park). Local parks are another great place to picnic, people watch and enjoy your dog. Murphy Candler Park in Brookhaven, Piedmont Park, Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Lewis Park and Wildwood Park in Marietta are also well-known to pups and parents alike.

Isaac Castaneda takes his almost two-year-old Wooly Siberian Husky, Akuma (AKA Bubby), hiking at Kennesaw Mountain or on five-mile treks around the neighborhood. “He’s not trained enough to go to the park, but I try to play with him and tire him out,” he says. Of course, the trails along the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area are considered the granddaddy of all dog-friendly parks. It’s a great place to walk, greet others along the trail and throw a stick into the river for your dog to retrieve.

Social spots

Perk-N-Pooch is a dog grooming and coffee café in Sandy Springs that was started eight years ago so pet owners can sit and enjoy a gourmet cup of coffee while their dog is groomed. Many clients spend the day at Morgan Falls or a nearby dog park and then go to the cafe for an afternoon spa date. “They go, have a blast, get dirty and then come to us to get pampered and spiffed up,” says Joe Guerrisi, owner. While the dog owner can enjoy an iced mocha or Americano, their four-legged friends can snack on a d’lites ice cream cone, milkshake or fruit smoothie after being pampered.

The café fosters a community atmosphere by hosting rescue events, parties and writing a blog. “Especially with COVID, people are getting dogs and want them taken care of,” he says. “With us, they can come, sit in our glass soundproof cafe, have coffee and do some work while we groom their dogs. Before COVID, we had do-it-yourself stations, and we’ll start that up again, maybe in May.”

Joe Guerrisi and his 6-year-old Great Dane Chole are outside the coffee shop at the Perk-N-Pooch in Sandy Springs where dogs are bathed and groomed on Friday, March 14, 2021.  Guerrisi owns the business and has not had to close during the pandemic.  The coffee shop is closed to the public but dogs can be dropped off curbside for safe grooming and washing.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Joe Guerrisi and his 6-year-old Great Dane Chole are outside the coffee shop at the Perk-N-Pooch in Sandy Springs where dogs are bathed and groomed on Friday, March 14, 2021. Guerrisi owns the business and has not had to close during the pandemic. The coffee shop is closed to the public but dogs can be dropped off curbside for safe grooming and washing. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Fetch Park ATL is the area’s first full-service dog park bar, although at least two more are being developed. Located minutes from the BeltLine in the Old Fourth Ward, Fetch features outdoor televisions, Wi-Fi, cooling stations, a dog bath area and Bark Ranger attendants who make sure all the dogs play nice. Pup owners can grab a cocktail and relax; even those without dogs come and socialize.

Owner Stephen Ochs came up with the idea while tailgating at Florida State University. “I saw people sitting around drinking, and they had their dogs. Who doesn’t want to hang out with their friends and let their dogs run wild?” Five years later (and after 86 rejections from banks), he opened Fetch. Dogs are off leash, freeing up parents from, well, parenting. Each dog has a behavioral profile; three strikes result in a ban.

“Before COVID, we had a ton of events with live music every Friday, stand-up comedy once a week,” he says. “We did a ton of family movie nights, Halloween parties, lots of events, including singles nights. So far, we’ve had five engagements.”

Dominique Davidson met her roommate, Laura Semmel, at Fetch. Davidson, a brand ambassador for a liquor company, went with her two Dobermans and talked to the owner of a small pit bull. “We would see each other. We lived close to each other and ended up moving in together. It’s a go-to spot for a drink after work with a great community of people.”

Matuszewski enjoys the peace of mind that Fetch offers. “If I take Murphy to a regular dog park, I don’t know if the dogs have had their shots or are socialized. I’m pretty confident that Murphy will have a good safe time at Fetch because they have the patrol that keeps the dogs in line. He loves the staff, and there’s always balls to play with. As soon as we get there, he’s gone.”

Restaurants and breweries

Although Europeans have allowed dogs inside restaurants for years, Americans are warming up to the idea. Perhaps the restaurant most committed to integrating dogs into its culture is Lucky’s Burger and Brew, which was named for owners Ernie and Diane Geyer’s golden retriever. Established in 2010 as a place for dog-lovers, the burgers are named after dog breeds, and usually, there are plenty of pooches on the patios at their locations in Marietta, Sandy Springs and Roswell.

“People want to go places with their dogs,” says Diane Geyer. “People are bonded over their dogs. We have book clubs meet here as well as lots of events for nonprofits.”

The Geyers recently created a two-and-a-half acre dog play area with artificial turf, lots of toys and picnic tables. They feature music on the weekends as well as other special events. “We’ve booked three weddings in June because people want to include their dogs!”

Some restaurants, such as ParkGrounds on Flat Shoals Road, have mini-fenced-in dog parks next to the restaurant. Newly opened Botica in Midtown has a large Peachtree Road facing patio with a “little island” for dogs on the side. “Our space outside is big so people can really enjoy the patio. People love their pets, and our dog area makes it easier for them not to be anxious,” says Chef Mimmo Alboumeh. His “little island” allows neighborhood residents to walk their dogs and then meet for drinks or dinner, sometimes on the spur of the moment, without having to bring their dogs home.

Leon’s Full Service and Brick Store Pub in Decatur, have been dog friendly for a long time. “Our community is walking and biking friendly, and we welcome dogs as part of our family, just like children. If someone feels a place isn’t welcoming to their kids, they probably won’t go back; same with pets,” says Owner Mike Gallagher.

A happy dog is having fun at the Tucker Brewing Co. 
Courtesy of Tucker Brewing Co./ Photo credit Jonathan Phillips.
Caption
A happy dog is having fun at the Tucker Brewing Co. Courtesy of Tucker Brewing Co./ Photo credit Jonathan Phillips.

Credit: Jonathan Phillips

Credit: Jonathan Phillips

Staycations and travel

Many hotels allow pets, and in fact, pamper them as much as their owners. Among the pet-friendly hotels are the Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt Regency Buckhead, the Indigo hotels, Loews and Le Meridien Atlanta. The Omni Hotel at The Battery Atlanta is pet friendly as is the Battery. In fact, you can even take your dog to see the Braves.

sCAMPer Van offers camper rentals and concierge services so that those wanting to hit the road can easily take their pets. “One of our biggest draws is that we’re pet friendly,” says Eric Van De Steeg, COO. “People can take a quick trip anywhere, and you can bring your dog, really any pet, and have enough room to bring all your stuff as well as a crate, if you need it. You don’t get that amount of space in an SUV. There are lots of pet-friendly beaches like in Amelia Island, where you can go, camp and enjoy the beach with your dog.”

The concept really took hold during the pandemic. “We were very close to being out of business, but during the pandemic, people really wanted to get away and safely be in nature with their family, including pets. At least 50% of our business involves families taking their pets. And, that’s conservative.”

Honorable mentions

Pre COVID-19, many walking tours, such as those done by the Atlanta Preservation Center, allowed dogs. They are still welcomed at Oakland Cemetery tours.

Also, many major retailers, such as The Home Depot and HomeGoods, allow pets. Others, such as Barnes & Nobles, allow pets in strollers.

WHERE TO GO

Fetch Park. 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday: 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, Saturday. $10 per day; $30 monthly; $275 yearly. 520 Daniel St. SE, Atlanta. fetchpark.com

Perk-N-Pooch. 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday- Thursday; 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Sunday, Friday; 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., Saturday. Various prices. 6690 Roswell Road, # 360, Sandy Springs. 678-500-9237, perk-n-pooch.com

Lucky’s Burger & Brew. Hours vary with location. 770-518-5695, luckysburgerandbrew.com.

Botica. 1820 Peachtree Road, NW, Atlanta. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Friday; 10 a.m. -11 p.m. Saturday. 404-228-6358, eatbotica.com

Tucker Brewing Co. 3-7 p.m. Monday-Tuesday; 4 p.m.-9 p.m., Wednesday-Thursday; 4-10 p.m., Friday; Noon-10 p.m. Saturday; 12:30-7 p.m., Sunday. 2003 S. Bibb Dr., Tucker. 833-752-2400, tuckerbrewing.com.