Pet Lover’s Guide

From training and pet insurance policies to dog parks and other animal-friendly recreation spots, our comprehensive guide will help you and your four-legged friend navigate NoVA.

Riot, 1.5 years old
Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper

By Cynthia Jessup, Meghan Meier, MacKenzie Reagan, Josh Weiner and Adrienne West
Updated March 2019

Dog Parks
There are numerous dog parks in NoVA, both fenced and not fenced. Most are open from sunrise to sunset, but check individual counties for regulations. Here are several play areas for your pooch to check out:

Baron Cameron Dog Park
A separate fenced area for dogs under 25 pounds, portable restrooms and benches for humans and water spigots for the pups. // 11300 Baron Cameron Ave., Reston


Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper

Benjamin Banneker Dog Park
Fenced area with trees and shade, watering station and stream nearby, human restroom and an area for small dogs. // 1700 N. Sycamore St., Arlington

Blake Lane Dog Park
A grassy fenced field with little shade and no running water. // 10033 Blake Lane, Oakton

Chandon Dog Park
Fenced area with water, benches, a spot for small dogs, shade, waste bags and a restroom for humans. // 900 Palmer Drive, Herndon

Grist Mill Dog Park
Benches and trees surround this fenced park with special landscaping (mud-free!). Has water but no separate space for small dogs. // 4710 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Alexandria

James Hunter Dog Park (formerly Clarendon Dog Park)
Large fenced park with a waterfall, wading pool, a sound wall, solar lighting and benches. // 1299 N. Herndon St., Arlington

Shirlington Dog Park
Fenced area, space for small and special needs dogs and drinking water along paved bike path. // 2601 S. Arlington Mill Drive, Arlington

Eugene Simpson Stadium Dog Park
Drinking water for dogs and humans and a few benches. // 426 E. Monroe Ave., Alexandria

Towers Dog Park
Fenced with separate area for small dogs, water, lights for night use, picnic tables and lots of trees. // 801 S. Scott St., Arlington

Utah Dog Park
Fenced gravel area with pavilion and picnic tables, water and plenty of shade. // 3191 S. Utah St., Arlington



Reader Poll
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Why Do They Do That?
Dr. John Bruzzese, medical director at Caring Hands Animal Hospital, gives insight on odd pet behavior.

Nesting before they lie down.
For some it’s a ritual. Evolutionary-wise, it comes from creating a comfortable spot to sleep in, like pushing down grass and smoothing out the ground. A theory is dogs leave their scent with their paws to mark their spot.

Spinning around three times before going to the bathroom.

Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper

It’s a habit they develop. For some dogs they are preparing the ground. A theory also is marking their spot to go.

Eating their vomit.
From an evolutionary standpoint, they would eat as much as they could at one meal and then vomit to spread it out over time, not knowing when they would be able to find food again. For others, it’s a learned behavior. Mothers would regurgitate their food to feed their babies. If they are sick, they want to clean up evidence to hide they are sick, at least in the wild. A sick dog is a dead dog.

Having a barking conversation.
Trying to get a reaction out of you to pay attention to them, especially younger dogs who want to play.

Staring at you.
They are trying to pick up cues to interpret our behavior. Dogs are constantly active and find it odd that we aren’t moving as much as they do.

Tilting their heads.
From an anatomical standpoint, it depends on the type of ears they have. If they have the standing ears, the tilt exposes their ear to listen to the sound better. With the floppy ear dogs, they are adjusting their ears to they can hear things better. They are trying to hear more intently.

Excessive licking of owner’s face or hands.
It is typically a sign of respect. When licking, it’s a subordinate type of reaction. Sometimes it indicates that they are hungry.

Barking at the doorbell.
Some dogs take this duty very seriously and that is to be the protector. If the bell rings, it indicates to them that someone is trying to come into their territory, and he/she is going to protect their family.

Running backward.
It is a sign of retreating to give the person in front of them room to move around. It also allows them to focus on the situation better. If intimidated, they will hunch over and back away slowly to warn the offender not to entice them to attack.


Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper

Dog-Friendly Sailing
The warmer weather brings more chances to enjoy the outdoors with your pet in the form of dog-friendly sailing cruises.  

1. Potomac Riverboat Company holds its first Canine Cruise of the year (2019) on April 27. Your leashed dog will love accompanying you on the hourlong tour of the Alexandria seaport. // Cameron and Union Streets, Alexandria

2. Lake Accotink Park holds canine cruises. Dogs must be leashed at all times, and cruises last about 30 minutes. // 7500 Accotink Park Road, Springfield



Sniff and Wag Your Way to NoVA’s Pet-Friendly Locales
In NoVA the options to find pet-friendly places are limitless. Regardless if it is dining or shopping, there is always a patio or entrance that welcomes your favorite furry friend. Here are a few:

Places to eat
Foxfire Grill
If it is American cuisine that everyone is craving, then head to Foxfire Grill. But don’t forget Fido. While you enjoy your own meal, all four-legged friends can chow down on biscuits and puppy pops provided by the restaurant. Pets are welcomed year-round at the side patio. // 6550 Little River Turnpike, Alexandria

Cinnamon and Ginger, 7 months old
Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper

Dogwood Tavern
If you are torn between brunch and one of its components, look no further. Dogwood Tavern has all your standard menu items from Belgian waffles to pecan-crusted trout. If you are looking to share this outing with your furry companion, dogs are welcome to join you during the spring and summer on the patio. Water bowls are also provided. // 132 W. Broad St., Falls Church

Coyote Grille
Looking to add a little sizzle to your meal? Coyote Grille is the place where all your favorite Southwestern flavors, including gluten-free items, are under one roof. Pets can also join the fun on the front patio during the spring and summer. Water bowls are provided. // 10266 Main St., Fairfax

Bagel Cafe
Don’t think you have to miss your morning pick-me-up if your canine friend is with you. While you enjoy your favorite brew and bagel spread, pets are welcome to join you on the front patio and can enjoy their own water bowl on request. // 300 Elden St., Herndon

Reston Town Center can spruce up anyone’s night of entertainment. But if you are looking to dine without missing a beat, Clyde’s is the place to be. If you happen to bring your dog, they are allowed to join you outside on the patio. // 11905 Market St., Reston

Places to shop
Bishop Boutique
Spending quality shopping time with your dog is an option on every corner in Old Town. But for ladies looking to update their wardrobes and wanting to take their pets along for the outing, this boutique allows you to bring your pets inside while you shop. But don’t think this place is just for human indulgence—dogs can also enjoy a tasty biscuits and water by the entrance. // 815-B King St., Alexandria

It would make sense for pets to be banned from inside commercial shopping malls. However at Bloomingdale’s, pets are allowed indoors while their human companions shop. // 8100 Tysons Corner Center, McLean

The Bike Lane
Shopping with your pet is no issue at Reston Town Center. For those outdoor enthusiasts who are looking to gear up on the latest bike equipment, this is your one-stop shop. Dogs are also welcome to come indoors at any time to help you shop. // 11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 110, Reston

Vineyard Vines
Leashed dogs are allowed to accompany their human companions at the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets. But when doing a little shopping for the whole family, Vineyard Vines is a pet-friendly place where dogs are welcome indoors. A water bowl is also provided at the entrance. // 241 Fort Evans Road NE, Leesburg

Sugar House Day Spa
If you’re the owner of a small pup and you’re out and about in Alexandria and want to get your hair or nails done, you can stop in Sugar House Day Spa. They welcome well-behaved small dogs (read: small enough that they can sit in your lap) on the first floor of the spa. // 111 N. Alfred St., Alexandria



Animals Giving Back
Being around a pet reduces stress levels and improves health, and the pets get some extra lovin’. If your dog is an easygoing pet that loves to meet new people and get out of the house, there are a number of programs that you and your pet can get involved in to give back to your community.


Arin, 8 months old
Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper

You can look into getting your dog certified as a therapy dog. VITAS Paw Pals Club welcomes you and your dog, cat or bird to visit local hospice facilities to bring friendship and love to their patients. // Manassas and Vienna

Reading Buddies
Your child can go to your local library and read to a therapy dog. Different libraries call their programs something else, like Herndon’s Dog Tales and Falls Church’s Paws to Read. Go to this site and search event type “read to the dog” for a list of participating libraries and detailed information. Reading sessions typically last 15 minutes and are for children ages 5-12.

Pets on Wheels
Fairfax Pets On Wheels reaches out to the community and finds pets that enjoy people and trains them to be volunteer therapy dogs. Proven to improve the health of patients and residents, your dog could bring joy to a local nursing home.



Beyond the Dog
Man’s best friend doesn’t top the list for pets in area.

Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper

Despite the evident popularity of dogs in Virginia, it appears cats may have the upper hand. Americans house about 5 million more cats than dogs, and The Washington Post shows that Virginia, like all but three East Coast states, is more cat-friendly than dog-friendly. “We definitely see more cats than dogs,” Corey Swanson of Home Veterinary Care of Northern Virginia says of his veterinary service, which makes sense because densely populated regions almost invariably favor cats over dogs. Some of the breeds available for adoption at local shelters—such as Virginia Cat Rescue and the Animal Welfare Leagues of Arlington and Alexandria—include Maine coons, tortoiseshells, calicoes, siamese and many types of tabby cats.

Plenty of other pets are welcome in Virginia—aside from piranhas, prairie dogs, mongooses and further varieties that state law prohibits without a special permit. Netherland dwarf rabbits, umbrella cockatoos and Christmas ferrets are among the many interesting varieties in Virginia available for adoption. Rachel Ray, director of marketing at Caring Hands Animal Hospital of Arlington, cites bearded dragons, iguanas, sugar gliders and chinchillas as some of the unusual pets her hospital has received. Stahl Exotic Veterinary Services, located in Fairfax, has treated a wide variety of less-than-traditional pets from around the world, including tree frogs (South America), sulcata tortoises (Africa), leopard geckos and frilled lizards (Asia), rainbow lorikeets (Australia) and hedgehogs (common around the world).

Who knows what other animals Virginia’s pet lovers may choose to adopt next.



Say yes to fun, no to punishment, while training dogs
Dogs have always been inseparable from humans and have rightfully earned the label man’s best friend. However being best friends, as we all know, doesn’t always mean seeing eye-to-eye. It often takes a considerable level of training and discipline before dogs are ready to display the tricks, obedience and proper manners their owners expect of them.

Thankfully, plenty of dog-training services are available to help owners reach that goal. Unfortunately, training dogs can present many pitfalls, particularly when dealing with breeds known to be predatory or territorial at times, such as the German shepherd, Siberian husky and pit bull terrier.

Tito, 7 years old
Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper

Steve Dale, a certified animal behavior consultant, stresses the importance of having pets attend training sessions with plenty of other pets and people in attendance, if possible, to best facilitate their transition into their new homes.

“Training is exceedingly important, particularly for puppies,” he says. “We need our puppies socialized; otherwise, they end up with behavior problems.”

Dale stresses that it is particularly important to train dogs to come toward their owners when instructed to do so, which could be a life-saving ability in certain situations, and recommends that dogs initially be trained to do this indoors, where there are fewer distractions. Dale says dogs should be rewarded with a treat when they successfully rejoin their owners from a few feet away, and the distance they must come in order to earn their treat should gradually be increased.

Eventually, this training exercise can shift outdoors, and owners are advised to attach their dogs to extra-long leashes so they can pull the dog back on track if it starts chasing squirrels or other enticements. Owners should gradually dish out treats less and less often so that the dogs do not come to take them for granted.

Vivian Leven, dog training director at the Fur-Get Me Not pet clinic, says that it is important to break the training process into small steps and to continually reward and encourage dogs whenever they meet a goal. This process is known as clicker training, which she describes as “a very educational thing for a person who wants to understand their dog better and who wants to have the most effective way to communicate with their dog.”

Joe Zitzelberger, manager of Off-Leash K-9 Training in Springfield, says that the 10,000 dogs his company has trained had all developed bad habits over the years but mostly learned to change their ways through being instructed solid obedience. “It’s all about structure and getting the dogs to realize where they belong in the pack,” he says.

Zitzelberger also advises pet owners to take the training process seriously. “Do your research before picking a trainer,” he says. “Don’t always pick the cheapest. Make sure they’re reputable.”

According to Leven, the easiest way to do this is to make sure that the chosen dog trainer is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. “Make sure they’re training positively,” she says. “Don’t use punitive methods.”

“Absolutely make sure that the trainer is using positive reinforcement methods,” Dale says. “Punishment-based training, we know through science, doesn’t work, and I don’t believe it’s the most humane way we can meet our best friends, either.

“Training a dog should be fun,” he adds. “Fun for you and fun for the dog.”



Simple solutions for your pet’s survival
Should you ever be in a situation where your pet is having health issues or is injured, here are some short-term remedies to aid them before consulting a veterinarian. We spoke with Dr. Scott Moore at Hope Advanced Veterinary Center in Vienna for tips in an emergency.


Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper

Possible poisoning
Depending on the suspected poison, many people will call animal control to see if they should induce vomiting. Calling animal control allows them to create a case to reference if a pet eventually needs to go to the vet. Vomiting helps reduce exposure. Hydrogen peroxide can be administered to induce vomiting: 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds. Don’t give more than two doses total. Look for signs of additional stress such as vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Vets can administer apomorphine, which is more effective and for dogs with sensitive stomachs. It is given intravenously.

Ingestion of raw foods/non-food item
Decontaminate them—the same idea for poisoning. Xylitol, found in sugar-free gum, is a toxin to pets. In this case, there is no point in inducing vomiting because the sugar is already in their bloodstream. Induced vomiting is rare for raw food. Unless you are concerned for bacterial ingestion, do call your vet for confirmation.

Possible bone injury
For an open fracture, try to take the cleanest bandage material or T-shirt to cover the broken skin. Do not splint or support wrap an open fracture. For any further suspected trauma like organ damage, move your pet as little as possible to get them to the vet hospital. Also keep your pet as calm as you can.

For heatstroke, start cooling measures, like a hose or water over the animal. Don’t cool too quickly—don’t pour ice cold water on them—but if it’s in significant distress, do a room temperature water bath. Be careful to protect the airway. Don’t force them to drink water. Icepacks work by placing them in the armpits or leg pits. Make sure the ice packs are in direct contact with the skin.



Do you need an insurance paw-licy?
Pet insurance is on the rise.

In 1982, Nationwide sold the first pet insurance policy in the U.S., covering the celebrity pooch Lassie. Today, pet owners spend millions in coverage for a range of pet ailments as well as routine vet checkups.

Human-insurance companies like Nationwide and Progressive and pet-centered associations like the ASPCA offer plans with varying coverage, setting owners back a few hundred dollars a year on average.

But is it worth it?

Dr. Travis Taylor, veterinarian at Centreville Animal Hospital, thinks so.

“From a medical standpoint, it is trending towards allowing us to provide better levels of care for the patients that are using plans,” Taylor says. Insurance takes away some of the financial constraints and allows policyholders to do more without worrying about paying out-of-pocket. “For the vast majority, it’s something we’d encourage [them] to look into,” he says.

In general, there are two types of plans: those designed to cover hospitalizations for things like surgery and acute illnesses and those that cover general wellness care like checkups. Some providers allow clients to have a combination of the two.

Like human insurance, most pet plans don’t cover preexisting conditions. Taylor suggests using sites like Pet Insurance Review to compare plans and determine what’s right for your budget. Just like human insurance, rates vary depending on the health and age of the four-legged client.

“There are certain small groups of pets where it’s cost-prohibitive—maybe [the pets are] at an age where it’s hard to start getting the insurance [or] perhaps they have a lot of preexisting conditions, but for the vast majority of our pet population, it is helpful,” says Taylor.

But how much will it cost?
We talked with Leigh Greenfelder of Whitespace Creative, which represents Hartville Pet Insurance Group, to get the average monthly price of pet insurance for a golden retriever puppy, adult and senior in good health as well as a mixed-breed dog and a cat. Prices vary with factors like preexisting conditions, age and breed. Numbers represent Hartville’s Level Two plan, which covers accidents and illnesses, with a 90 percent reimbursement and a $100 annual deductible. Costs listed here reflect only Hartville’s policies.

Insurance Cost
(click image to enlarge)



Pure or mixed, that is the question
Is one better than the other when it comes to finding your family’s furry friend?

When you decide to take that big step and get a pet, there are many factors that come into play. What size can you handle? What aesthetic do you prefer? Another big decision is whether you are going to get a pure breed or a mixed breed. Some people like knowing exactly what they are going to get with a purebred dog, but it requires a lot more money and research. Others prefer to save some money and rescue a mutt from the pound. Both choices are fine and mean different things.
Dr. Jody Clarke, medical director at Pender Veterinary Centres in Fairfax and Chantilly, encourages future pet parents to consider all factors before deciding one way or the other. “Often people that grow up with a pure breed dog prefer to stick with that, and [likewise] for those that grew up with a mutt. If you decide to go with a pure breed, make sure you find a reputable breeder [who has paperwork] to show the dog’s champion bloodline. And if you go to the pound, remember that the puppy that should only get to 30 pounds could end up being a 60-pound dog.”


Pure Breed vs. Mixed Breed
(click image to enlarge)



Boutique Offerings

Boutique Offerings
Photos by Mike Ram (Dogma, Hare, collar, Bare Bites); courtesy of Syndee Cooper (necklace); PetMac (horn); DogGone Natural (No Hide); Wylie Wagg (treats, raincoats); PetSage (Pop’s). Click image to enlarge.

Hare of the Dog treats / Earth Animal No-Hide Chicken Chews / Fresh-baked treats
Collars by Up Country / Bare Bites / Icelandic sheep horns
Pop’s Organics Flea, Tick and Insect Repellent /
Caru Bites treats / Raincoats


Resource Guide
Some of our area shops geared toward pets.

Ally & Indy | Alexandria
Barkley Square Gourmet Dog Bakery and Boutique | Alexandria
Dog Day Afternoon | Leesburg
Canine Carousel Professional Pet Salon & Boutique | Multiple NoVA locations
Chase Your Tail Bakery | Leesburg
Dogma Gourmet Dog Bakery & Boutique | Arlington
Fuzzy Paws Bakery | Alexandria
VIP Pet | Alexandria
Woof Gang Bakery | Alexandria

Food Stores
Chico’s Pet Depot | Falls Church
DogGone Natural | Multiple NoVA locations
Felix & Oscar | Springfield
For Pets’ Sake | Alexandria
Great Dogs of Great Falls | Great Falls
Happy Hound | Leesburg
Just Fur Pets | Springfield
Nature’s Nibbles | Alexandria
Olde Towne School for Dogs | Alexandria
One Good Tern | Alexandria
Pet Nutrition Center | Multiple NoVA locations
PetSage | Alexandria
Pet Supplies Plus | Centerville
The Dog Park | Alexandria
Weber’s Pet Supermarket | Multiple NoVA locations
Kriser’s Natural Pet | Multiple NoVA locations
Whole Pet Central | Herndon and Ashburn

(May 2016)

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