Beers and Barks Abound at Hair of the Dog Park Bar
One evening in Tampa, Fla., Todd Goldfarb and his wife were at a neighborhood pub with their miniature schnauzer, Frida, and all was going well—the couple sat sipping their beers with Frida quietly chewing on her bone—until another dog appeared on the patio. Frida started barking, as schnauzers do, and they couldn't quiet her down.
Goldfarb's wife mused, "Wouldn't it be nice to take her someplace she can run off leash and we could have a beer?"
The idea for Hair of the Dog Park and Bar was born.
Four years later, after lots of planning, legal challenges, cutting through reams of red tape, and building out the parcel of land, Hair of the Dog Park opened on February 12, 2020, in Seminole Heights, a buzzing neighborhood just north of downtown Tampa.
"There wasn't too much of a blueprint," Goldfarb says of the park bar. "We dreamed up what we wanted. We're 17,000 square feet of fenced in dog park with beer and wine," Goldfarb says.
Aside from a shed in the middle where bartenders serve wine and locally brewed craft beers through large windows, Hair of the Dog is designed like a traditional dog park: the space, shaded by arching oak trees, is divided into two sides, one for small dogs, the other for big, with a trap at the entrance. Those familiar with dog parks will recognize the trap as the small square space with two gates—one from the street, the other into the park—to help ensure the safety of the dogs entering and leaving.
"It's very important to me that the dogs are safe here," Goldfarb says. "The trap is important, and the safety of the dogs is paramount."
He takes additional measures to ensure the dogs' safety so that everyone can have a good time; he employs "park rangers" dedicated to supervising the dogs to make sure everyone's playing nice in addition to following park rules:
- All dogs must be registered with their current vaccinations (rabies, DHLPP, and bordetella) recorded before entering
- All dogs must be spayed or neutered
- No outside food, treats, or toys are permitted
- Owners must be onsite and watching over their dogs
Facilitating Human (and Dog) Friendships
As dogs run off leash and frolic about amongst their own, their owners sit on the picnic tables or in the chairs dotted across the lawns and enjoy themselves, too. Goldfarb says that he watches as groups of people become close friends through their dogs, pointing to one group in particular that will go off for a day's excursion with their dogs and stop by the park for a nightcap on their way home—whether that nightcap be beer, wine, or water bowl.
That sentiment is echoed by members of the park, too.
"Hair of the Dog is a great place to meet members of the community and for your pup to find a friend in a safe and clean environment," says Courtney Barber, a Seminole Heights neighbor. "It is the best part of my dog's day, and it's so easy to lose track of time as you have a couple of rounds with great people!"
Ellie Baggett, a Seminole Heights neighbor, whose dog Charlie is a park member, agrees.
"I love Hair of the Dog for my pup because I get to relax and see my friends while he gets to play and explore," she says. "It's really the absolute ideal dog park situation—beers, friends, and an extra set of eyes helping you watch your pup.
"We've been members for a year and it's absolutely worth every penny," Baggett continues. "In fact, I keep telling the owner to raise the price—you get so much for a super reasonable membership price."
A day pass to Hair of the Dog Park and Bar is $5, and an annual membership runs $50 for one dog or $75 for two or more dogs with unlimited access to the park. Goldfarb says that plenty of members use the space solely as a park, no need to imbibe.
Not All Dogs Are Party Animals
As fun as dog parks can be, it's important to realize that they may not be fun for everyone.
"Not every dog is a candidate to go to dog parks," says Amy Weeks, a dog behaviorist and trainer who owns Amy's Canine Kindergarten in Tampa. "There are party animals, and then there are loners, like people. They either love to go to a party with lots of people, or go for a coffee with you, one on one."
Weeks suggests five things to think about while testing the waters at your local dog park:
- Does your dog like to play with other dogs?
- Do the dogs at the park have the same play styles as your dog?
- Choose a slower time at the park to introduce your dog.
- Start with short periods of time at the park, and leave on a good note.
And, finally, "Get really good at reading canine body language and signs of stress," she says. "If you're dog's not having a good time—excessive yawning, tongue flipping, shake offs, coming to you for help—it's time to go."
The age of your dog can be a big factor in determining whether or not she's up for a visit to a dog park. "She may have a great time when she's an adolescent," Weeks says. "As she grows older, she may still like to go, but maybe without as many dogs. You should be constantly reevaluating your dog throughout her life."
In the end, Weeks says, "It's all about the dog's joy and not our joy. Is the dog enjoying it? We want happy exhaustion, not stressed exhaustion."
So even if a trip to Hair of the Dog Park sounds like the perfect afternoon for you, make sure it will be your dog's perfect afternoon, too.