SoCal dog-lovers unite!
You don’t need to brave the “off-leash” area of Runyon Canyon or tiptoe through the landmine-filled city dog parks in order to indulge your passion for pooches. In fact, you don’t even need a dog of your own.
Those who are crazy for canines have plenty of opportunity in the L.A. area and beyond to smoosh the faces, boop the noses and rub the bellies of some very good boys (and girls) of the four-legged variety.
Or, simply watch them show off their talents, their pedigrees and their personalities at one of the many events that cater to dog-lovers of all kinds.
No matter what your favorite breed is, here are the six best pop-up events where you can pursue a love for pups, get to know a very different kind of “best in show,” and help some rescues, too.
1. So Cal Corgi Nation’s Corgi Beach Days, Huntington Beach
So Cal Corgi Nation started in 2012 as a grassroots movement of owners of the low-riding dog breed known as the corgi. Originally used as herding animals, these “dwarf dogs” have captured the hearts of dog-lovers all over, thousands of them now starring in Orange County beach takeovers three times a year. Meet the corgis, watch them do the limbo and even pose for photos. Bring your own corgi, or learn how to adopt one from several participating rescue organizations.
In 2020, So Cal Corgi Nation will host its third annual Corgi Nationals – a racing program at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. And every December, you can join them to celebrate a Merry Corgimas, with a free “howliday pawty” and hundreds of corgis marching in the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade in Long Beach.
2. Wiener Dog Races, Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach
Another low-to-the-ground doggo is the dachshund – with its short little legs and long (usually brown) body, it's aptly nicknamed the “sausage dog,” “hot dog” or “wiener dog.” While they were originally bred in Germany to hunt badgers ("dachs") – and, later, foxes and hares – wiener racing didn't start in Germany. Rather, it was in 1970s-era Australia, where one of the largest ethnic groups is comprised of Australians of German heritage. It’s only really been rising in popularity, at least here in the States, since the 1990s.
To witness the ultimate in the “running of the wieners,” visit Los Alamitos Race Course, which hosts the annual Wiener Nationals to determine the fastest frankfurters in the West. Proceeds from advance ticket sales benefit the Seal Beach Animal Care Center.
For a more intimate experience spectating these dashing hounds, head to Old World Village in Huntington Beach for its annual running of the weenies during Oktoberfest. This adorable tradition takes place every Sunday during the celebration – which begins not in October, but September! And the snout-to-snout competition is as exciting for the spectators as it is for the “doxie” participants (and their humans).
3. Bulldog Beauty Contest, Long Beach
Billed as the largest gathering of English bulldogs in the world, the Bulldog Beauty Contest employs the help of real-life beauty queens to determine which of the entries will be the “Bull of the Ball.” The pageant is among 19 other contests that day – including National Mutt Show, Best in Show, best large dog, best small dog, best tail, best legs, best smile and best butt – and it all helps raise money for the non-profit Community Action Team (C.A.T.), whose main purpose is to “promote social well-being among the general public,” and animal welfare causes.
Hosted by Justin Rudd (creator of other Long Beach doggie events like the Haute Dog Howl'oween Parade and Haute Dogs on the Beach), the beauty contest also features a cat and dog adoption fair, food trucks and vendors. It’s free to attend, and $10 per dog to enter. The 16th annual event will take place at Marine Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
4. Basset Hound Picnic, Arcadia
Another low-set hunting dog is the basset hound, a breed that dates back at least to the Middle Ages in France but managed to find its way to England and, eventually, Southern California. And now they’ve got their very own dog show! Hosted by the non-profit Basset Hound Club of Southern California (a licensed Club of the American Kennel Club and a member club of the Basset Hound Club of America), the annual Basset Hound Picnic supports basset hound rescue and relief efforts in Southern California and unwanted bassets in need.
To experience those floppy ears and flapping jowls of these beloved “hound dogs” yourself, the 66th annual picnic will take place in October 2020 (exact date TBD) at Arcadia Community Regional Park, at the intersection of S. Santa Anita Avenue and Huntington Drive. In addition to a costume contest, the picnic’s past competitions have included Best Howling, Longest Ears, Biggest Paws, Saddest Face and a cookie toss. You’ll be drooling over their cuteness, and they might just drool all over you.
5. Surf Dog Events, Huntington Beach and Imperial Beach
“Surf Dog,” the premier competition on the dog surfing circuit, is held annually in the fall right here in Southern California – in not one but two different beach locations. Witness dozens of “surFUR” dogs hang 20 – either individually or in tandem (with other dogs or their humans) – as live scoring determines the rankings and which canine shredders will receive the coveted awards. In addition to surfing, the Huntington Beach location also includes stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). The next events will take place August 8, 2020 in Imperial Beach (the original location since 2009, benefiting the San Diego Humane Society) and September 26, 2020 in Huntington Beach, a.k.a. “Surf City.” There’s a registration fee to participate, but both are free to attend as a spectator.
If you want to teach your own pup how to ride the waves, the Helen Woodward Animal Center offers surfing lessons at Del Mar Dog Beach. Once your fur baby gets the “hang” of it, show off their newfound skills at the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon – an annual fundraiser for the animal center, also at Del Mar Beach, 14 years and running.
6. Blessing of the Animals, Downtown Los Angeles
You might be inclined to attend the Beverly Hills Dog Show (now at Fairplex Pomona) or some other officially sanctioned showcase of purebred show dogs, but you’ll be far more entertained by the dogs on parade at the Blessing of the Animals at El Pueblo Historical Monument, co-sponsored by the Olvera Street Merchants Association Foundation. A tradition of Olvera Street since it was founded in 1930, today’s ceremony expands upon the original practice of ensuring the health and fertility of livestock (cows, horses, goats, etc.) and bestows blessings upon any animal you can bring, whether it’s a pet snake or your guardian llama. Archbishop Jose Gomez welcomes all creatures that bring us joy. And you don’t have to be Catholic to be blessed, because he’s got plenty of holy water for everybody – and a strong pitching arm.
That means a lot of dogs attend, be it leashed, in the arms of their humans, or pushed around in a baby carriage. It’s free to attend, so bring your pup and be prepared to stand in line outside Pico House, or simply show up and admire others’ canine companions as you stroll down the line. While some churches offer this type of blessing in October on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi (the patron saint of animals), this event always takes place the Saturday before Easter Sunday. In 2020, Easter falls on Sunday, April 12, which means the Blessing of the Animals will take place on Saturday, April 11. Procession starts at 2:00 p.m., but you may start lining up as early as 1:00 p.m.
Bonus: For more opportunities to help animals in need – and hang out with man’s best friend – check out Wiggle Waggle Walk at Brookside Park at the Rose Bowl (now in its 22nd year) and Best Friends Animal Society’s Strut Your Mutt dog walk and festival.