At It’s a Dog’s World (www.itsadogsworld.biz), we promote the importance of socialization, especially during the first 16 weeks of a dog’s life. Dr Ian Dunbar, author of several best selling dog books including “Before and After You Get Your Puppy,” suggests that a new pup should meet 100 people by the age of 16 weeks.
All the places in my top 10 allow your dog to be become well-adjusted and socialized to commotion, people, kids, animals and the great outdoors. We teach socialization techniques in our group classes, in which we expose your dog to other dogs, trainers, staff and owners. However, socializing your dog in many different atmospheres, especially at a young age is very important. In addition, these places are just downright fun places to visit with your furry companion!
1. Tom’s Farms—located off the 15 Freeway and Temescal Canyon Road in Corona. A great place to socialize your dog as there are always plenty of people, and there is a pond with ducks to get your dog used to the feathered kind. There are a few different shops although dogs are not allowed to go in them. If you come with a friend, spouse or significant other, you can rotate going in the stores and the other staying out with the dog. The Wine & Cheese Shop has a great selection along with meats and bread to prepare for a picnic in the lawn area. Tom’s Old Fashioned Burgers, Senior Frogs and some of the “best pizza” from the wine and cheese shop are all great choices to enjoy at any of the outdoor tables. Last time I visited with Bentley, my Standard Poodle, my family and I enjoyed some of the best carne asada, beans and rice burritos from Senor Frogs. On weekends there are bands playing outdoors. During October, they have a great pumpkin patch, plus a pony ride for kids. For more info on live entertainment and restaurants visit http://www.tomsfarms.com.
2. Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga—located off the 15 Freeway and Foothill Blvd. Tons of people on weekends and weekdays. There are a few spots to enjoy a meal with your pooch. The Yard House will allow dogs to eat on the patio area, just enter through the patio area, so someone will have to wait with your dog while you check in with the host through the main doors. You’ll also have to keep your dog tethered or tied to the patio with your dog on the exterior side of the patio gates or fence. Your dog should be very comfortable with being tethered and with people coming up and petting him or her on a frequent basis. If your dog does not have this comfort level, I do not recommend trying to eat at one of these establishments. Instead try Johnny Rockets or the food court where you can dine at the outdoor tables and still stay in control of your dog. Johnny Rockets promotes themselves as being pet friendly and allows guests to dine with their dogs on the patio area just in front of the restaurant, although this isn’t the best spot on a hot day because there is minimal shade. There are plenty of outdoor seats right outside the food court, which includes a Quizno’s Sub, Sbarro’s Pizza and Hot Dog on a Stick. Separate from the food court, there is a Jamba Juice and Starbucks; grab a latte or smoothie and sit down with your pooch at the tables just outside each establishment or the tables outside the food court. Sitting outside the kid’s outdoor play area is an excellent opportunity to socialize a young puppy to children playing, while enjoying your favorite drink. The green belt area in the middle of the outdoor mall, outside Yardhouse, is also a great spot to watch the kids play and have your dog practice a down stay or just get used to lots of foot traffic. The nearby fountain is a great monument to check out due to the high level of activity around it, but dogs are not allowed to play in it. There is also a horse and carriage to socialize and introduce your dog to another animal. Of course, don’t let the dog go up to the horse, but from a distance let the dog see the horse. If the dog is getting reactive/excitable, move a further distance away where the dog is not quite so reactive then work on stay or watch me commands. For a mall directory and map visit http://www.victoriagardensie.com/go/dirListing.cfm.
3. Chino Hills Spectrum—located off the 71 Freeway and Grand Ave. This shopping mall is less crowded and a better place for dogs that are shy. There are lots of places to shop and plenty of outdoor places to grab a bite to eat or a sweet treat and sit outside with your dog. Stores include Target, Dick’ Sporting Goods and Petco (which is the only pet friendly store). Another plus is the weekend bands, which play outdoors for all to enjoy. There is also a great Asian bakery called JJ Sweets; it’s a must to try their pastries. I especially like the Red Bean Buns! Yum! Louie’s Chicken is a great place to get a healthy bite to eat, where everything is prepared fresh and there’s an outdoor area to enjoy your meal. There’s also an Applebee’s Bar and Grill and a Mimi’s Café with patio seating, which allow dogs.
4. The Shoppes at Chino Hills—also located off the 71 Freeway and Grand Ave. One of the newest, local outdoor malls and a near mini version of Victoria Gardens. This mall isn’t nearly as crowded as Victoria Gardens, but that depends on when you go as it is much less crowded on week days, during the day. Chipotle Mexican Grill and Johnny Rockets brand themselves as pet friendly. Like most outdoor shopping center there is outdoor seating and a Subway and coffee house to grab a quick bite to eat outside. There is an outdoor fountain, which kids play in, although dogs are not allowed to partake in the fun. Avoid this mall on hot days as there are no shady areas at all.
5. Oak Glen—located in Yucaipa off Oak Glen Road. Right now is a great time to pick Raspberries, although they’re almost gone, so hurry. Rapberry shakes from Rileys Farm are delicious. If you miss the Raspberries, Apple season starts in September and by October that place is booming with people. You can go to pick Apples, pumpkins, press your own cider, or pick up an apple pie. Riley’s has a farm store and an outdoor area for picnicking where you can enjoy barbecue items or even pack your own lunch or snack to enjoy. Mom’s Country Orchards is pet friendly throughout its produce store; they even have biscuits for visiting pups and dogs. The Oak Glen area can get really packed in October and November so if your dog is really shy this may not be the best place to go. Make sure and go early to get a parking spot. Lots of people will bring wine, food and snacks. Bring blankets, or even chairs to be comfortable. Again, if your dog is extremely reactive, try to go when it’s less crowded during the off season or during the week. However, weekdays have lots of visitors from various schools for field trips, so if you are looking to socialize your dog to children this would be a great opportunity. However, I would not recommend doing this if your dog is extremely reactive to kids, has nipped, tried to bite, or has bitten a child! Visit http://www.oakglen.net/index.shtml for more info about the Oak Glen area.
6. Dos Lagos – Off the 15 freeway and Cajalco. This is a much smaller shopping area, which makes it great for the shy dog or dogs just starting out with socialization. There is a beautiful, man made lake at one end of the shopping area where you can sit and enjoy the sounds of water, watch the baby ducklings play in the water and of course people watch! There is also a grassy area if you would like to sit and relax with your dog there. Concerts and special events are frequent on the weekends. Most of the retail stores are pet friendly and indicate being so with a “Pet Friendly” Sticker on their outside window. This is one of the few places to shop where dogs are allowed inside retails shops.
7. Your local farmer’s market-My city, Riverside has one in downtown, on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It’s located at the Main Street Pedestrian Mall between 5th & 6th, in the arts and culture district of downtown Riverside and on Friday mornings in the Sears parking lot. The City of Claremont’s Farmer’s Market, which takes place on Indian Hill and 2nd on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. features fresh flowers, fruits, vegetables and other organic items and produce. Anyone can bring their dogs as the event takes place outdoors; although dogs must be leashed. You can call any city to find out more info about your local farmer’s market and if they are dog friendly.
8. San Bernardino Mountains- If cooler weather and fresher air is calling your name this is the place to go. Big Bear Lake area and Arrowhead Lake are the main attractions. The downtown Big Bear area, AKA “The Village,” is known for its unique shops and restaurants. There’s even a pet supplies store, Kenai’s Korner. Aside from the pet store, the retail shops are not pet friendly, so make sure you visit with a partner so one can watch the dog while the other goes inside the shops. While you’re in town you can visit Big Bear or Arrowhead Lake. Both lake areas are pet friendly, although dogs are not allowed inside the water. At Big Bear dogs are allowed on boats and pontoons; just don’t forget to bring a life jacket for your dog. There are some great hiking trails near Big Bear with spots to have a picnic or relax in the shade with your pooch. Lake Arrowhead has several great spots for camping including Dogwood Campground, which has a great hiking trail; Dogwood Trail. For more Lake Arrowhead visitor info visit http://www.lakearrowhead.net.Visit http://www.bigbearinfo.com/index.php for more info on Big Bear activities.
9. Newport Fashion Island –located off Newport Center Drive in Newport. Again I took my Argentine Dogo there when she was a pup. Also known as Fashion Island; there are plenty of places to shop, although you need a partner to hold your dog while you browse in the stores. This mall has higher end stores such as Bebe and BCBG. The weather is nicer and cooler even during the hot summer months and there is a lot of open space so you don’t feel as confined. Visit http://www.shopfashionisland.com/Search.aspx, for more info about the shopping and stores. While in Newport, go down to the pier or walk around the shops in Newport Beach. There are plenty of restaurants, take-out places and smoothie shops to grab and enjoy while people watching. Rockin’ Baja Coastal Cantina had an outdoor dining area in which you can tether your dog to the outside of the fence. Great food and great service! While by the beach or pier, take a nice long walk with your athletic dog, or go for a bike ride along the boardwalk.
10. Any beaches/board walk area- Dana Point is one of the best to go to! Dana Point is very pet friendly with lots of areas to walk at and get exercise. My family and I love to have picnics there and relax all day, then do a bit of shopping. Again, you’ll need a partner to go into the shops. Dogs are allowed on the boardwalk area and the nearby restaurants allow dogs, as well as some local hotels. Jon’s Fish Market, Harbor Deli and BBQ, and Beach Cities Pizza all have pet friendly patios. While eating, have your dog practice a down stay, especially while being approached by strangers. To look up more boardwalks and beach areas in the OC which are pet friendly, visit http://www.ocdogfriendly.com/danapoint.html.
Remember, the best time to circumvent future behavioral problems is to start socialization EARLY!
A Word of Caution: If you have a slightly fearful/shy dog you should use caution and not overdo it when going to these places. Always work at your dog’s own comfort level (at It’s a Dog’s World, we use the term “below threshold” which simply means you work with the dog right at its comfort level and do not stress the dog out with too much stimuli).
Some indicators that your dog is getting too stressed is rigid body movement, stiffness, tenseness, rapid and repetitive eye blinking, rapid and repetitive lip licking where the tongue is darting in/out, excessive/repetitive yawning, the tail is down or in between legs, hair on back standing up (piloerectile), whites of eyes showing (this actually means a dog is about to be aggressive), or ears back if it is not normal for your dog’s ears to be carried that way. If your dog is exhibiting any of these signs, you should take it a bit slower: move away from the stimulus that is causing the reaction. For instance, you may need to move away from crowds of people, instruct people to not pet your dog, place your dog in a down stay giving treats to the dog for calm behavior, use the “watch me” command to break off eye contact, or even use a “touch” command where your dog touches the fearful object with their nose; thereby giving the dog a sense of control that they can touch something and retreat. (If you are not aware of this command contact It’s a Dog’s World on how to teach it to your dog). If your dog is more than slightly fearful, phobic, or even exhibiting aggression, such as lunging, snapping, growling or biting, then do not attempt to go to these places without a professional dog trainer’s guidance.