The Scoop on Why Dogs Dig Berkeley

By Marta Yamamoto, Special to the Planet
Tuesday November 21, 2006

When it’s past time for rising, cold wet noses find their way under the covers. They know all the drills, days set aside for work and non-work, time of day for meals, snacks and play. You’re always their best friend; warm eyes and wagging tail hold nothing back. Dogs can be loving, stubborn, a comfort and a trial and are usually all four.  

Berkeley and its surrounding neighborhoods know the worth of a true companion. Like other family members, they thrive on attention and love to get out of the house. With a number of dog-friendly parks, self-service dog washing establishments and specialty retail stores Fido will feel at home in Berkeley and be anxious to bark the news to all his friends. 

With a number of off-leash parks reside in Berkeley and nearby environs, there’s something to fit every need. Some offer the security of smaller, enclosed spaces while others provide acres of open space for free roaming. Ohlone Dog Park lays claim as the first leash-free dog park in America and has served as a model for its successors. It boasts being in the top ten, according to Novartis Animal Health US, Inc. and Dog Fancy Magazine. For wandering dogs or those who would rather play than walk, the small park is completely fenced and equipped with water, plastic bags and two picnic tables for owner respites. Bark-chip ground cover tends to get kicked around but the dogs don’t much care. 

Cesar Chavez Park occupies seventeen acres of land bordering San Francisco Bay. Left in its natural state, trails crisscross rolling hills through native turf, shrubs and flowers, depending on the season. Dogs romp off-leash investigating intriguing scents while owners hold on to their hats in the stiff bay winds. While the terrain won’t win any prizes for landscaping, the backdrop is stunning—Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and Mt. Tam. Fido will be having too much fun to notice, but the scenery makes for great contemplation while Frisbees soar.  

Several miles north, fronting the same bay and affording a similar golden landscape and spectacular views, is Pt. Isabel Regional Shoreline Park, America’s largest off-leash dog park. Considered by many as the top-dog, the twenty-one acres of flat natural turf is the site of multi-dog interactions, exercises in dog obedience and solitary dog explorations. There’s enough space for everyone and paved pathways make wheelchair and stroller walks a breeze. The Hoffman Canal and rocky shorelines entice swimmers and mud-hogs, depending on the tides, while picnic tables, benches and the Sit & Stay Cafe entice two-legged companions.  

When woodland and creek side experiences beckon, Tilden Regional Park has several possibilities. As part of the East Bay Regional Park District, Tilden and most regional parks allow dogs off-leash in undeveloped areas. One popular trail begins at the Lone Oak Picnic Area from which wide Meadow Canyon Trail climbs into open fields and park views. At Curran Trail you descend steeply through pines, bay and eucalyptus to the canyon floor and Wildcat Creek. Following Wild Gorge Trail, under lush tree canopy and the rippling sounds of the creek, returns you and your happy dog to the starting point, about three miles. 

Our pooch favorite in Tilden Park is the perimeter trail around Lake Anza. With hills for climbing, large rocks for clamoring, both lake and creek water for cooling off and postcard scenery, this walk is a definite five-wag special. Branching creekside trails lead into canyons with fewer visitors and vacation spot appeal. 

After lakeside romps and mud rolls, our best friends require a different type of attention. While some owners choose the home remedy or spring the cash for professional grooming, it’s comforting to know there’s a third alternative. Hands down, you can’t beat a Do It Yourself Dog Wash. Mudpuppy’s Tub & Scrub has a goldmine location, right at Pt. Isabel Park. With chest-high tubs, shampoos, brushes and towels, the muddiest dog is clean before you know it. The best part, besides the low cost, is looking at the mess your dog has left in the tub and surrounding walls and knowing, YOU DON’T HAVE TO CLEAN IT UP! Berkeley’s Pet Food Express and Albany’s Dog’s Best Friend offer similar services including ambient dryers for disposing of extra hair and giving your pooch that final touch. 

Happy after an exhilarating romp and clean, at least for a while, Fido’s ready for treats. Berkeley offers a broad selection of retail establishments ready to supply Canis familiaris with all he needs and then some. The Cadillac of dog shops is George, on Fourth Street. Appealing eye-candy shines from front to back, from window display to open wood shelves, from sweet-shop glass jars to stacks of dog beds in bright, fun fabrics. Who wouldn’t want a shiny orange ceramic dish, a green-and-white gingham collar and leash, a red chili pepper, surreal frosted donut or burger and fries? Fido may be immune but you’ll have a great time. 

Shifting from fantasy to reality, two establishments have all canine needs covered. Animal Farm Discount Pet Food is reminiscent of a friendly country store. There’s merchandise aplenty but it doesn’t feel cluttered. Leashes and collars tend to nylon in bold primary colors as do dog beds. Play toys are well stocked with a full range of air kongs, squeakers, bouncers, dental sticks and stuff balls, as well as gentler soft tosses. Pet health is well covered with products like Happy Hips Beef Liver, Happy Heart and Dental Care Kits. 

At Alan’s Petzeria I was first met by an assortment of Faithful Friends Dog Clocks, an assurance for your favorite pooch that dinner won’t be late. While satisfying a full range of pet necessities, I was impressed by the selection of organic food options. California Natural, Newman’s Own, Organic Canine Form and Nature’s Variety in Lamb/Oatmeal, Beef/Barley and Venison/Millet should please even the most selective palate. The organic theme is carried into dog shampoos, for those who enjoy cleaning a tub of dog hair. Earthbath Totally Naturally offers Orange Peel, Tea Tree Oil and Puppy, all improvements over eau-de-dog. Brushes, combs, slickers and shedding combs help complete the job, and as a final treat for not shaking in your face there’s Simon & Huey’s Doggoned Tasty Treats in White Cheddar, Kickin Chicken and Luscious Liver. 

When you’re filling up your calendar or Blackberry with the day’s jobs, look into those soulful eyes and allocate time for your faithful companion. Exercise, hygiene, treats—Berkeley has so many choices that weeks will pass without a repeat and tails will be wagging happily. 


Ohlone Dog Park: Hearst Ave. west of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, www.ohlonedogpark.org. 


Cesar Chavez Park: 11 Spinnaker Way, North of the west end of University Avenue in the Berkeley Marina, www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Parks.  


Pt. Isabel Regional Shoreline Park: west end of Central Ave, Richmond, www.ebparks.org/parks/ptisable. 


Tilden Regional Park: entrances off Wildcat Canyon Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard, Berkeley, www.ebparks.org/parks/tilden.  


Mudpuppy’s Tub & Scrub and the Sit & Stay Cafe: Pt. Isabel, Richmond, 559-8899, self-service $11, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m., www.mudpuppys.com.  


Dog’s Best Friend and the Cat’s Meow: 525 San Pablo Ave., Albany, 526-7762, self wash $15. 


Pet Food Express: 1101 University Ave., Berkeley, 540-7777, self wash $12 for 25 min. 


George: 1844 Fourth St., Berkeley, 644-1033, www.georgesf.com.  


Animal Farm Discount Pet Food & Supplies: 1531 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 526-2993. 


Alan’s Petzeria: 843 Gilman St., Berkeley, 528-2155.