Hound Heaven: Pet-friendly places in Sarasota

From the moment she realizes that we’re approaching a paw park, my 10-month-old pug, Cali, has trouble holding still. By the time we hit the parking lot, she is whining impatiently and attempting to claw her way out of the car window. We live in a downtown Sarasota apartment and while we take Cali on numerous long, interesting walks every day, she’s always on a leash. At the paw parks, Cali runs wild. She bonds with her four-legged friends through traditional body sniffing. She has so much fun that she often sleeps the whole ride home.

Sarasota County is home to four well-maintained and state-of-the-art parks especially designed for dogs. One even includes a beach for dogs, which is as pretty and clean a beach as any in the area. The paw parks attract visitors and regulars alike. They are great places for both dogs and humans to socialize. While the canine visitors run and swim, the owners relax, certain that their beloved pets are in a setting designed for their enjoyment.

The parks listed below all feature shaded or covered picnic tables and benches, degradable “mutt mitts” for picking up after dogs and plenty of trash cans. There are “watering holes” where dogs can quench their thirst and separate fenced-off areas just for small dogs, complete with mini watering stations. No aggressive dogs are allowed in the paw parks.

17th Street Paw Park

In north Sarasota, the expansive 17th Street Paw Park features acres of grassy and wood-chip-strewn play space for pooches. There’s a bright-red fire hydrant, which the male dogs appreciate, and a box labeled “donated toys.”

At this park, even the small dog area is large enough to tire out the most energized puppy. Groups of clustered trees provide breaks from the sun and the dog shower is great for cooling off your dog if he overheats. Hours are dawn to dusk. Adjacent to the paw park are softball and soccer fields, a snack bar and restrooms.

4570 17th St., Sarasota, 941-861-7275

Lakeview Paw Park

Lakeview Paw Park, located next to Lakeview Elementary School off Proctor Road, is a shady, cool oasis on hot summer days. The huge Spanish moss-draped oaks and palms block out the sizzling sun, so dogs can enjoy hours of play. This park features a “time out” area for dogs in need of an obedience reminder, as well as a dog shower and a toy box. It’s open from dawn to dusk. Adjacent to the paw park is an area with a jogging and fitness trail, restrooms and picnic tables.

7150 Lago St., Sarasota, 941-861-7275

Brohard Paw Park and Dog Beach

For a break from the summer heat, treat your dog to a day at the beach. At Brohard Paw Park and Dog Beach on the island of Venice, a wooden boardwalk leads from the small, grassy paw park out to the beach, where dogs can play in the sand, swim, chase balls into the surf or hang out under umbrellas enjoying the salty air. This park features a dog shower, and many visitors rinse and even wash their dogs before piling back into the car. Bring your own shampoo.

Before hitting the beach, check for water quality warnings (some natural algae blooms are harmful to dogs) and heed signs regarding wildlife in the area.

The park is open from dawn to dusk. Nearby are a fishing pier, bait shop and restrooms.

1600 Harbor Dr. S., Venice, 941-861-7275

Woodmere Paw Park

Woodmere Paw Park in south Venice was Cali’s first dog park and has remained her favorite. It’s a shady and peaceful dog playground. Besides the wide expanses good for chasing other dogs and fetching sticks, the plentiful shrubs and trees hide the fencing, making visitors feel like they’re in the middle of a nature preserve.

Your dog will welcome the varied places to explore, as well as the shade from the trees on hot days.

The park is open from dawn to dusk. A community center, playground, tennis courts, basketball hoops, restrooms and a short nature trail are all adjacent to the paw park.

3951 Woodmere Park Blvd., Venice, 941-861-7275

Thinking of vacationing in Sarasota County? Check out our pet-friendly accommodations.