Where the Dogs Are

Here are the most popular desert destinations for canines and their people.

Linda Jolly’s standard poodle proves the agility course brings out the best in dogs at Barkingham Palace in Palm Desert.


Dogs love to socialize with other dogs, run and play in wide-open spaces, and experience new adventures in the great outdoors. Palm Springs Life sought out the hot spots where dogs are in their element, enjoying quality time with each other and with their beloved people. We saw a pure-bred champion win a conformation prize at the Kennel Club of Palm Springs Dog Show in Indio, canine athletes training for agility competition in Palm Desert, spirited pets chasing balls in dog parks throughout the Coachella Valley, and perfectly obedient dogs hanging out in the popular courtyard at Koffi in Palm Springs. We also met great dogs waiting patiently for new human companions at shelters in Thousand Palms and Palm Springs.


People love to give their dogs a little off-leash socializing and exercise in the sunshine and fresh air. Behind Palm Springs City Hall, the 1.6-acre Palm Springs Dog Park features a grassy lawn with trees and awnings for shade, drinking fountains for dogs (and people), antique fire hydrants, solar-powered lighting, a designated area for small dogs, pooper-scoopers, and picnic tables. Other area dog parks include the following:

Civic Center Dog Park, Palm Desert. Fenced and green, this 3/4-acre park offers plenty of shade, picnic tables, separate areas for small and large dogs, and pooper-scoopers.

University Dog Park, Palm Desert. This 2.5-acre, fenced park has benches, shade, and separate areas for large and small dogs.

Freedom Dog Park, Palm Desert. Part of a 26-acre, amenity-rich neighborhood park, this is a great place for the whole family. It offers a creek for dogs to splash in and separate areas for large and small dogs.

Joe Mann Dog Park, Palm Desert. This is a small but well-maintained park.


Bodhi, a toy-sized mixed-breed dog, enjoys a coffee break as much as anybody. The dog, abandoned on Highway 111 and rescued earlier this year by Seth Arsenault of Palm Springs, prefers to be held, but will sit quietly while Arsenault enjoys a cup o’ joe at Koffi, a popular meeting place at The Corridor on North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. Koffi’s outdoor courtyard, shared with several other businesses, welcomes well-mannered dogs to enjoy the fresh air and good company.

“It doesn’t get much better than a visit to Koffi with my four-legged friend, Bodhi,” Arsenault says. “A cup of coffee, pastry, conversation with my human friends, and the beautiful courtyard surroundings make for a perfect mini getaway.”

Although health regulations preclude canine patrons from going inside Koffi, the proprietors offer them bowls of water and plenty of stimulation in the courtyard, which features meticulously manicured flowerbeds and breathtaking mountain vistas.


Enthusiasts would be hard pressed to find dogs happier than those practicing and competing in agility and flyball at Barkingham Palace in Palm Desert.

In a carefully executed dance between dog and handler, the handler leads and the dog follows with dexterity and precision, overcoming challenging obstacles such as jumping hurdles and weaving through poles at increasing levels of difficulty.

Barkingham, which also offers conformation and obedience training, draws canine athletes for flyball, a relay race with four dogs to a team. The course consists of a starting line, four hurdles spaced 10 feet apart, and a spring-loaded box that shoots tennis balls. Each dog catches a ball and runs back over the four hurdles. When the dog crosses the starting line, the next dog goes. The first team to have all four dogs finish the course without errors wins.

The Pet Hotel at Barkingham Palace boasts the amenities of a five-star spa property, including massage and warm-water therapies, the Klay-9 Ultra Luxury Treatment, treadmills, designer dog furniture, deluxe overnight suites, Nature’s Variety raw food, wellness supplements, and posh daycare. To ensure safety, Barkingham maintains 24-hour staff and cameras throughout the facility.


Champion show dogs from all over North America converge on Empire Polo Club in Indio each January to compete in the Kennel Club of Palm Springs Dog Show, where breed experts judge their coat, color, gait, overall beauty, and specific features outlined in stringent American Kennel Club breed standards.

One of the country’s largest conformation shows, the competition draws about 3,500 dogs each year. The beautiful surroundings set an appropriate stage for the event (Jan. 5-6, 2013), which offers an excellent opportunity to see and learn about more than 150 dog breeds and shop for canine accoutrements in the marketplace.

Show dogs demonstrate desirable qualities, ranging from poise and personality to obedience and athleticism. A winner from each breed category advances to group competition, from which a judge crowns the Best in Show.


The dogs at Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Orphan Pet Oasis, and Animal Samaritans SPCA’s Thousand Palms facility await human companions. The nonprofit Animal Samaritans (www.animalsamaritans.org) offers low-cost spay, neuter, vaccination, microchipping, and shelter, as well as a volunteer-based pet therapy program.

Orphan Pet Oasis (www.orphanpet.com) in Palm Springs provides a safe haven for the homeless, abandoned, and abused pets.

Palm Springs Animal Shelter (www.palmspringsanimalfriends.ning.com) offers counselors to ensure pet seekers find the best match.

Volunteer to help walk dogs, greet visitors, photograph pets to post as available for adoption, and more. 

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