Tips for Dog Owners New to Living in Florida's Expanding City Centers: Life's a Bark in the Park in the Sunshine State

Kathy LaFollett
Dog friendly parks are abundant in Florida. Leash laws are, as well.Photo byAdobe Express Pro

City living in Florida, we’re growing fast. As a dog owner, navigating a city life and caring for our dogs in the Florida weather and environment is relative. If you’re a new arrival, welcome! Here are some valuable tips for living with a dog in the Sunshine State as our cities grow exponentially because of all that sunshine. If you are a Floridian by birth or arrival already, you may find a few thoughts you hadn't thought about.
Off-leach dog parks for both small and large dogs. Be kind to the big dogs, take little dogs into the little dog park. We know who's boss.Photo byAdobe Express Pro

City dog parks. What’s everyone’s dog really saying in there?

Wagging tails and panting faces. A wagging tail isn’t always happy. A hard wagging tail left to right, level with a dog’s back, says, “Hi, I’m dog. Glad to meet you. What’s going on?” A slow and low wag below a dog’s back can mean fear or insecurity. “Hey. Not sure about you. Don’t look at me too closely, don’t move too fast, and give me a minute to think about this.” Wagging high and fast can signify fear or aggression in some dogs. “GAH! Wait! I can’t think straight. Where’s my human? What’s going on? I didn’t want to come here today.”

Find your Floridian lifestyle dog park here.

City dog etiquette, safety, and admitting not all folk like dogs, and not all dogs like folks.

  • Let the dogs do the introductions. Sticking your hand out toward them to smell means nothing to a dog, except a human they don’t know has invaded their personal space. Instead, wait for the dog to approach you or better yet, ask the human at the end of the leash how their dog likes to say hello, if at all.
  • Walking a dog in the city requires a higher level of awareness. Put your phone away, take out the ear buds, and walk your dog. They need you to lead, not the other way around. Long leads and retractable leads for city walking can allow your pup to end up where he shouldn’t end up. Not to mention six to nine feet of lead can trip other sidewalk travelers.
  • Poop bags are a dog walking fashion must. Pick up after your dog. And any good dog Samaritan will pick up other’s rudeness. Dog poop is a health hazard, and we all need to work together to keep a city clean. Particularly a fast-growing city that can’t keep up with itself in the municipality sense.
  • Florida sun is mean. Pavement, roads, and sidewalks gain heat fast in Florida’s summer sun. Be mindful of how long your path has been roasting in the direct sun. If you can’t hold your hand against the pavement for the heat, your dog shouldn’t be walking on it. (As our cities grow into the sky blocking the sunshine, this isn’t as important in surrounding neighborhoods.
  • If your dog isn’t fixed, the dog park should be nixed. Dog parks are already a mix of personalities, hormones will add unreliable personalities. And fixed dogs recognize those personalities.
  • Your pup should be on flea and tick meds. (Garlic is not a natural flea and tick cure and is toxic to dogs.) Vaccinate, to include the vaccine for Leptospirosis. While the leptospirosis vaccine is not currently a required immunization for dogs, it is recommended for any dog that commonly goes outside, even just to go to the bathroom in the backyard. Fleas in Florida are militant. Our sub tropical weather creates all versions of water. In dog parks, the dog water drinking bowl, and area is a bacterial oasis.

Florida Heat. It’s a different sneaky for humans and companions.

Heat index, humidity, winds, sand and surf, sun index, and feels like. There are many ways to describe Florida’s heat. The one truth to all the descriptions is dehydration sneaks up on you.

  • Make sure your dog always has access to fresh water.
  • Keep a portable water bowl/jug handy during walks, dog parks, or outdoor activities.
  • Look for shade and opportunities for rest when outside.
  • Avoid walking your dog during the hottest parts of the day. Opt for early morning or late evening walks instead. If high noon is your only option, keep to the shade, and off hot baked surfaces. Shorten the time out.
  • Learn the signs of heatstroke in dogs: excessive panting, drooling, vomiting, or lethargy. If you suspect heatstroke, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • Keep an eye on your dog’s tongue. A hanging tongue is a tool for cooling. If your dog’s tongue is bright pink to deepening red, and dripping. Your dog is overheating fast. Time to call it a day.

Florida’s weather is sneaky, too. (Although, things being what they are, weather anywhere is sneaky anymore.)

Florida’s weather can be a cornucopia of oddball action. Being a giant limestone and oyster bar sticking out to divide the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic sets up some wild local and state level weather action. Even on the quiet days, it’s not quiet somewhere. Check your local forecast for the immediate about to happen knowledge while you’re out and check a wide format like NOAA’s Storm Prediction Page to see what the potentials look like.
Dog beaches bring a new experience for both dogs and their humans. They're worth the trip.Photo byAdobe Express Pro

Florida weather. It has its own personality. Like our dogs. And our fellow Floridians. The best Florida lifestyles have kindness, concern, care, and awareness.

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Florida author, speaker, and wildlife/companion animal advocate writing about life in the Sunshine State from my cityscape, St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg, FL

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