• Downtown Naples. A great place to stroll with your pet while embracing tropical Florida, downtown Naples has lots of outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants where you can dine al fresco with your dog. Several stores specialize in upscale pet accessories, clothing and food. www.naplesdowntown.com/.
• Lincoln Road, Miami Beach.This pedestrian-friendly shopping area is the place to watch the beautiful people and their designer dogs. Outdoor restaurants and tropical drinks abound. www.lincolnroadmall.info/.
• Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound. This sprawling park on Florida’s East Coast, north of tony Palm Beach, offers miles of trails that showcase how Florida looked before development. Dogs must be leashed. Admission is $6 per vehicle. www.floridastateparks.org/jonathandickinson/.
• Panama City Beach dog playground. This Florida Panhandle spring break favorite offers 400 feet of beachfront for leashed dogs and the Panama City Beach Conservation Park with 12 trails (dogs must be leashed there). www.visitpanamacitybeach.com/do/for-dog-lovers/.
• Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway, Tallahassee. This park in the state’s capitol is popular with local dog owners because of its beautiful trails and secluded grassy areas. www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/regions/panhandleeast/trails/miccosukee_canopy_rd.htm.
• Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, Lake Buena Vista. Located on 750 acres near the theme parks, this campground allows RVs with full hookups and tent camping. Some spaces allow pets, but those spaces are limited and should be reserved well in advance. Leashed dogs are allowed on some trails near the campground. There is also an off-leash dog park, Waggin’ Tails Dog Park, within the campground. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/campsites-at-fort-wilderness-resort/.
• Best Friends Pet Resort, Lake Buena Vista. Best Friends provides day and overnight care for pets (not just dogs) in the Orlando area. Discounts are available for Disney World Resort guests, but anyone can use the service, which starts at $27 for doggie daycare. www.bestfriendspetcare.com.
• Loews hotels at Universal Orlando Resort. All three are pet-friendly: www.loewshotels.com/Royal-Pacific-Resort; www.loewshotels.com/Portofino-Bay-Hotel; www.loewshotels.com/Hard-Rock-Hotel.
• La Quinta. This ubiquitous and affordable chain, found throughout Florida, is probably the best-known pet-friendly chain, with free stays for dogs. www.lq.com.
• Aloft Hotels. This Starwood boutique hotel chain offers hip decor and sophisticated style and it’s also pet-friendly. Aloft offers two locations in Jacksonville (one not far from Dog Wood Park), one in Tallahassee, two in greater Miami and other opening this year and next. Aloft policies vary regarding weight restrictions for dogs, fees and deposits. www.starwoodhotels.com.
• Luxury hotels. Pampered people have pampered pooches. For small dogs who need luxury (under 25 pounds) try Ritz Carlton hotels in Sarasota, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Miami Beach. Non-refundable pet fees vary, but hover in the $250 range. www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Default.htm. The Mandarin Oriental in Miami — a swanky hotel frequented by celebrities like Jennifer Anniston — also accepts pets up to 25 pounds. The Mandarin sells dog T-shirts bedazzled with Swarovski crystals in its gift shop and the concierge can book doggie boot camp appointments and dog massages. www.mandarinoriental.com/miami/.
While it might seem like you are in a remote area as you hike through jungle-like trails or play on deserted beaches with your dog, you’re actually never far from civilization in Florida. There’s usually a veterinarian, big-box pet store and pet-friendly hotel within a short drive. A quick Google search or sites like www.bringfido.com or www.dogfriendly.com can help locate them.
Most of the theme parks offer kennel services; make sure to bring your pet’s vaccination record along.
Other essentials for a Florida vacation with your dog: Drinking water, heartworm medicine and even sunscreen. With temperatures in the 90s in many Florida locations, dogs (and people) can easily become dehydrated. Specially-formulated sunscreen for dogs isn’t a bad idea, especially if your furry friend has a short, fair coat and pink skin.
Take shady breaks, put ice cubes in the water dish and let dogs sprawl on cool tiles. Never, ever, leave your dog in a car in Florida, even for a few minutes. Temperatures inside cars can heat up to 120 degrees and kill animals quickly.
Many beaches in Florida allow leashed dogs on the sand, but check first. In some places, you can receive a heavy fine. Dogs are welcome in many places at outdoor cafes and along pedestrian malls.
Another resource: The Dog Lover’s Companion to Florida: The Inside Scoop on Where to Take Your Dog by Sally Deneen and Robert McClure.