I’ve written about Oliver, my poodle, a number of times on this blog. Most of you know him as the neurotic, adorable, asshole that he’s matured into over the years. I really like him, despite the fact that he’s taken a dump on. my. bed. recently as an act of biological warfare in retaliation for being left alone for a few hours. I love dogs and I enjoy writing about them; deep down (or not so deep, really) I’m a crazy dog lady. I know that a lot of you (especially you, Sid) are crazy dog people, too, and since a lot of my readers have just moved to Italy or are planning on it one day, you could probably use a dog guide of sorts AND our dog sitter in Florence wanted to sponsor a dog guide so everyone wins (and I get approximately 5 bottles of wine). So, ta-da! Here is a mini guide to having a dog in Florence, Italy. Please share all of your favorite dog-related info in the comments below and I’ll add it to this guide. I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of things.
Let’s start with housing. “Do most apartments allow dogs?” is one of the most common questions people ask me here. From my experience, finding an apartment that allows dogs is fairly easy. We’ve lived in four different places with Oliver and nobody so much as batted an eye at him. Not even the psycho landlord who lived below us while going through a divorce who often screamed, “I’m going to kill you!” into the phone at all hours of the day and night. If he allowed dogs, probably everyone does. It’s a good idea to tell your potential landlord up front that you have a dog before you sign any papers. It’s also a good idea to say things like, “He’s extremely good and mentally stable,” which is a lie in our case but it works.
As I’ve mentioned in posts like, A Table For 2 1/2, Sir, or Growing Up In Italy: A Dog’s Story, Florence is extremely dog-friendly. They can go most places with you. A few exceptions of places they can’t go: grocery store, movie theatre, hospital or the Farmacia. Just look for a sign. No sign? They can probably go in then. So, it’s pretty unlimited in the fun things you can do with Fido. One of our favorite things to do with Oliver is to take a nice stroll through the city center, some shopping, and maybe a coffee or some lunch/dinner. Most of the retail assistants know his name and allow him to run chaotically through the store to play because Florentines are for the most part super dog-crazy. There are always the exceptional assholes but they usually live in the country with the scary Italian hillbillies (yes, those exist, it’s like The Hills Have Eyes meets La Dolce Vita).
If you want something more dog-specific, there are a number of dog parks in the city. Most of them have separate areas for large and small dogs. Keep in mind that a lot of people don’t fix their dogs so if you have an intact male, you might want to avoid other intact males. Intact males can be more territorial than their neutered counterparts. People will often scream to you when you enter the park, “IS IT A BOY OR A GIRL!?” in an attempt to segregate the area. I’m waiting for the dogs to catch on and start a movement.
Our favorite is a fenced dog area in Campo Di Marte right next to the stadium. There is also a park for children which is nice if you have kids. Oh, and they totally also have outdoor workout equipment that is badass so you can get all hot and sexy while your dog acquires real estate with his pee.
- Here is a list of Green Areas For Dogs in Italiano. If you don’t speak Italian just translate it via google.
- Here are a list of other dog parks according to DogCoach.it: Areas For Dogs In Florence
Pick up your dog shit, guys. Don’t be nasty! In the summer make sure your dog has plenty of water. Many businesses will have water bowls out for public use (but there’s always a chance of your dog catching a cold or respiratory infection with public drinking bowls).
Any dog parks that have been left out here that you love? Tell everyone in the comments below!
Adopting A Dog:
If you’re interested in getting a dog I’d recommend first asking yourself these five questions (FRANCESCO!):
1) Can I afford a vet emergency that might cost me hundreds of euros (and happens at least once in your dog’s life)? Can I afford HeartGuard every month and preventative for leishmaniasis (it’s eventually fatal but can be treated for a long time. It’s common in Italy). Can I afford vaccinations, training classes, and a pet deposit for apartments? Dog sitting, boarding, or air travel? What if your dog has skin allergies, develops diabetes, or goes blind?
2) Can you devote 15 years to a pet? Dogs live for a long time. Small dogs live for a REALLY long time. Oliver is like the Noah of canines and will probably outlive me just to really be a dick.
3) Do I have TIME for a dog every day? They need training, playing, toilet breaks, walks, and professional grooming? Some breeds must have professional grooming monthly (aka poodles) and require hair trims, nail trims, ear waxing, anal gland expressing, etc. What about when you have children? Will you still have time to balance a needy infant and your Terrier who has skin allergies and separation anxiety?
4) What if your dog develops behavioral issues? Do you have the patience to spend one hour every day toward fixing his/her issue? Many dogs will regress if there is a change in their environment. Can you re-potty train if for some reason your dog decides at three that going outside is no longer cool? What if the suddenly develop a weird thing with vomit and they bite you every time you get too drunk and barf? This sounds like I’m making a joke, but it happened with Oliver. What if your dog is like a Bonobo Chimp and humps things constantly in response to everything that happens in his life? Can you handle the constant embarrassment of your dog raping stuffed animals during dinner parties?
5) Do you know anything about dogs? How to train them (positive reinforcement is the most affective and professionally recommended but also the most time-consuming), how to keep them healthy and mentally engaged? Do you have the time and willingness to learn all of these things which can take hours, and hours, and hours, and weeks, and months? I adopted Oliver after working with dogs for like 10 years and he still exhausts me.
If you haven’t given up on ever owning a dog after this list then yay! You’re ready for a dog! Please consider adopting a homeless dog. Italy has a problem with dog abandonment. Come August every year a number of selfish assholes just let their dogs go on the street. The owner wants to go on vacation and realizes stupidly that they didn’t make arrangements for someone to watch their dog. So, they just throw them out for the city and private sanctuaries to deal with. Rescue dogs are perfectly good dogs, they’re usually already potty-trained, and they are waiting for a second chance at an awesome life with someone who isn’t a total jackass. If you’d like to adopt a totally badass dog who is homeless or abused because some people are terrible people, here are some sites you can check out. In Italy there are hundreds of thousands of dogs in shelters and Italians rarely adopt these dogs. Most of them live their entire lives in the shelters that are understaffed, and “for profit.” I’ve read some disturbing articles on the horrible conditions of these shelters. So, really, consider adoption if you’re open to an adult dog.
If you’d prefer a puppy then you’re a bad person who definitely won’t get into heaven. Just kidding. If you’re going to go the puppy route, be prepared for teething, potty training, and hours upon hours of training and patience galore. Please, avoid pet stores or puppy mills for both genetic reasons and to avoid contributing money to shitheads. If possible, find a nice family who just happen to have a litter and isn’t breeding their poor dog to death. I’ve had both rescues and Oliver who we got as a puppy from a friend who responsibly bred his bitch, Sheena, (by bitch I mean she’s a huge jerk) and while puppies are PUPPIES (amazing and smell like heaven), my rescue dogs were easier (no potty training!) and I loved them every bit as much. Plus, I got to relay their depressing stories at the dog park, note how I saved them, then bask in the glory of being such a good person. Oliver, on the other hand, is more embarrassing because I accidentally created the monster that he’s become. The only card I can play is, “his mom is named Sheena, she has a bang-scrunchy, it’s obviously genetic.”
Have you adopted a dog or cat in Italy? Share your story here and please tell people where you found your little fuzzy sidekick.
Dog Boarding And Daycare In Florence, Italy
One of our largest struggles with having a dog in Florence is that there is not the plethora of dog sitting services that I was accustomed to in ‘Merca. Sure, you can find random ads taped to walls in the laundry matt, “Dog Sitter!” with little phone numbers you can tear off in the bottom, but I’m not really a fan of leaving Oliver with people who don’t have a legitimate business. I tried, once, and not only was I anxious the entire time but the person we left him with was not at all experienced with dogs which became more and more apparent when we picked Oliver up and she said, “He didn’t like to be left without you. He whined a lot. I can’t watch him if he whines.” Of course he whined, he didn’t know you AND your house smells like Turtle. He knows a serial killer when he sees one.
We found Florence Pet Sitting randomly online in like 2012 after suffering a torturous year without someone to watch Oliver. We filled out the contact page on their website and waited to hear from them. Later that day the owner, MaryAnne called me to learn more about Oliver. She asked a ton of questions. It was nice to have such a lengthy conversation with her because I felt like she actually cared about understanding my dog more than just landing a client. The chat was also a nice opportunity to get to know both MaryAnne and her super sweet Italian boyfriend who co-runs the business with her. MaryAnne was a vet tech in the US before relocating to Florence which is awesome because she knows what to do if for any reason Oliver ingests something weird, and I was super excited that she spoke English because all of Oliver’s commands are in English. Watching our groomer scream, “basta! BASTA!” to our clueless dog was painful enough, I didn’t want to leave him for hours with someone he couldn’t understand. We used MaryAnne a number of times, he was always happy to see her, and always came home in tip-top shape. Many of my friends use her, too, and they all love her.
MaryAnne began Florence Pet Sitting in Florence years ago. She was originally based out of her apartment in Santo Spirito, doing in-home sitting, dog walking, house visits, and all that. She recently expanded and opened a new facility that I’ve heard is totally badass (sadly, I haven’t had the chance to see it yet, but soon!). The new place is in a renovated workshop located in the historical district of S. Spirito, in the Oltrarno. The entire facility is open to pets, no cages, no dog runs, with 24/7 supervision. They can nap on beds and couches or hop around with their newfound fuzzy friends. Every dog gets a locker for their own food, toys, whatever, which is super cool. Florence Pet Sitting also offers relocation services, walking, in-home visits, daycare and boarding. The rates are very fair, especially for Florence where I’m convinced most of the pet sitters are actually leprechauns and will pretty much charge you your first born and a pot of gold. One thing that I really love about MaryAnne is that she sends photos and updates constantly which I need because I’m a worst-case-scenario panicky person when it comes to my dog. Also, when we pick up Oliver she gives a full rundown of his entire stay which is fun and nice to hear. My one complaint is that she gets booked up super fast and Francesco and I are terrible planners. Try to book as far in advance as possible (I’ve found that at least five days is best) but for holidays play it safe and book a few months out if you can.
If you’re looking for a professional, English-speaking pet sitter with over a decade of dog experience, who also has a website (magical in Italy), and who will keep you constantly updated via email, text or Whatsapp, contact MaryAnne.
Our vet was located in the Statuto area and it was one of the 24/7 places that have a bunch of vets working all the time. Their service was good, and convenient, but I didn’t love that there was always a different vet and at every visit we had to spend 20 minutes going over Oliver’s history. However, it is awesome that they are always open and they’re not that expensive. We took him to a few different vets for specific issues but were never insanely blown- away with anyone so I’m kind of useless in this area. Who would you recommend?
Other Useful Pet Information:
*This mini-guide in progress was brought to you by Florence Pet Sitting.
Have a business that’s totally badass? Interested in advertising on Surviving In Italy? Shoot me an email and we can chat.