How Pet-Friendly is Austin Texas, Really?

There’s no bones about it: People are flocking to the city of Austin in droves, and bringing along their four-legged friends with them.

Austin fetched the No. 6 spot in a study by Realtor.com on the Top 10 Cities for Dog Lovers, with dogs snuggling up to their human companions in an estimated 61 percent of households here. That’s higher than the national average, which is about 47 percent, according to the ASPCA.

What makes the capitol of Texas so dog-friendly? Here are four reasons why it’s a great day to be a dog in ATX.

Dog-friendly restaurants and bars

The temperate climate and overall chill vibe of Austin means you’re more likely to find patio dining for your pooch, along with readily available dishes filled with water for their lapping pleasure. In fact, the Realtor.com study found that the city is home to 265 dog-friendly restaurants. Here are a few local faves: Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden on Rainey Street makes no secret about the fact that they love dogs. Grab a tasty brew and order up a specialty doggy sausage for your friend. There’s an off-leash dog park here, too. In the land of food trucks, perhaps it’s no surprise there’s also a truck dedicated just to dogs, too. Bow-Wow Bones creates locally baked pet treats free of preservatives, and also makes doggie ice cream. Opal Divine’s has a secret menu that pups can slurp down, with froyo “yappetizers” in flavors such as Elvis Pupsley and Fido’s Fudge. Dog lovers rave about the amenities at Yard Bar, which is not merely a shady place to enjoy beer and apps, but it also offers an off-leash dog park with agility equipment and “bark rangers” to police the pooches. Their dog food menu serves up drool-worthy beef sliders and house-made ice cream.

Parks

 

One of your first indications that Austin is indeed dog-friendly is no plainer than the lush, sprawling 350 acres of publicly owned land that makes up Zilker Park, located just south of downtown. Here you’ll see dozens of dogs and their humans picnicking, playing and enjoying the trails together. The off-leash area is located north of Barton Springs Road, and dogs are welcome elsewhere on leash. On a hot summer day, take your furry friend for a dip in “Barking Springs,” the designated dog-friendly area downstream near Barton Springs Pool, a natural, spring-fed pool.

Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park also has a fantastic off-leash dog area, which spans most of its 293 acres of wilderness in north Austin. In fact, a lot of people consider this park dog paradise. Fifteen miles of trails mean plenty of ways to wear out your dog, with the occasional dip in the river to cool off, too. 

Unique events

The dog-themed boutique Lofty Dog regularly hosts a “Poochinis and Pedicures” event, a fundraiser to benefit local rescue organizations, which includes a Poochini Martini from Tito’s Vodka and a nail trim. While you’re there, pick up some specialty dog treats–there’s even doggy sushi.

Barkitecture Austin is another fundraiser for local animal groups that showcases innovative dog house designs in a contest and silent auction. Don’t miss the always entertaining Dogstume Contest.

Do you wish your dog had a little less bark and a little more zen? Bring him to Doga (that’s yoga for both you and your four-legged friend) for a little centering for both of you in either a private or group setting.

Pet-friendly lodging

It’s hard to tell who gets more pampered at the Westin Austin Downtown: dogs or their humans. Starting with check-in, guest dogs’ names are prominently listed on a VIP Pup welcome board. They may be welcomed with a special treat and even a doggy beer. And don’t worry about packing the supplies. You’ll be supplied with a plush Heavenly Dog Bed, a food/water dish and dog waste bags for your strolls to nearby parks (dog-friendly trail maps are also available at the concierge). There is no charge to bring your friend.

The historic Driskill Hotel, built in 1886, calls itself “one of the nation’s most pet-friendly hotels.” For a $100 fee per pet, your dog will enjoy designer dishes and a custom pet bed with the hotel logo, gourmet treats, a chew toy and even bottled water to quench her thirst. Life’s definitely a little ruff here.

Cynthia Drake