On Friday, Tel Aviv is celebrating its first-ever city-sponsored Dog Day. There will be pawsidential spa treats for the city’s four-legged residents, an adoption booth, gourmet morsels on sale including dog sushi, pooch fashion, and enough stalls and events to keep dogs and owners amused for hours.

It’s just the latest in a long line of special events in Tel Aviv for man’s best friend.

In July, the city hosted a sold-out special screening of hit movie The Secret Life of Pets, where pet owners were invited to bring a canine date. And in 2013, the city held a four-legged Doggie Run for pet owners and their dogs.

Israelis took their dogs to the movies on a rooftop at the Azrieli Center in Tel-Aviv on July 11, 2016. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90
Israelis took their dogs to the movies on a rooftop at the Azrieli Center in Tel-Aviv on July 11, 2016. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90

While dogs are greatly loved all over Israel, Tel Aviv takes it to a different level. There are 25,000 registered hounds in Tel Aviv – that’s one pooch to every 17 human city-dwellers. The city claims it is the highest per-capita ratio of dogs to people in the world.

“Tel Aviv is very accessible, flat and small. People walk everywhere and spend a lot of their time outdoors. This translates into a city where it is easy to have a dog that joins you for walks and your routine outdoors activities,” says Mira Marcus, international press director for Tel Aviv Global. “For anyone roaming the streets of Tel Aviv it is obvious that dogs are a big part of the city.”

And with 318 days of sunshine on average per year, Tel Aviv has “perfect dog-walking weather,” Marcus tells ISRAEL21c.

There are 70 off-leash dog parks in Tel Aviv-Yafo; that’s 1.3 dog parks for every square kilometer. Dogs have designated beaches where they can roam freely, nearly every eatery has a water bowl outside for Fido to refresh, and the shopping malls have dog-food vending machines.

The municipality prioritizes doggie welfare with a no-kill shelter, a 24/7 vet service for homeless animals, and a city animal patrol that checks complaints regarding animal abuse. The city also runs a unique project enabling animal lovers to adopt abandoned dogs.

Next year, the city will issue DigiDog, a digital card that will alert dog-owning residents to dog activities in the city, remind them about annual rabies shots and offer discounts at pet stores.

Lots of reasons to love dogs in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is famous as a mouthwatering culinary destination, a street-art haven, a world vegetarian food capital, a smart city, and the world’s best gay city.

Now City Hall is working hard on grooming Tel Aviv-Yafo to be known as the friendliest dog city in the world.

Marcus points out that five percent of the city’s residents are vegan, preferring animals as pets rather than food.

Another reason Tel Aviv residents favor dogs may be age-related. Out of 420,000 city residents, 33% are 18 to 35. Many of them are newcomers who have left everything and everyone familiar behind.

“For people who didn’t grow up in Tel Aviv and can’t visit their families on a day-to-day basis, having a dog can ease loneliness,” says psychologist Sigal Abbatovi Shamir, a relationship and family therapist in Tel Aviv.

She adds that dogs are “definitely a conversation-starter. Relationships – not just romantic relationships — can start like this, talking about the dog you’re with,” she tells ISRAEL21c.

Friendships blossom among dog-owners at the Tel Aviv Port. Photo by Nati Shohat/FLASH90
Friendships blossom among dog-owners at the Tel Aviv Port. Photo by Nati Shohat/FLASH90

Studies have shown that people find it easier to talk to one another when dogs take the focus of the conversation.

Psychotherapist Daphna Shalem says that for people who have difficulty connecting with others, “the bond with a dog, psychologically, is much easier and the reward is superior – unconditional love,” she tells ISRAEL21c.

Kelaviv

Entrepreneur and pet parent Tal Holander, 32, came up with the initial idea for Friday’s Dog Day, known in Hebrew as Kelaviv – a play on the words kelev (dog) and “Tel Aviv.” He found eager partners in the municipality, at the parks authority and among sponsors.

“People are on their phones all day and there isn’t a place for people to actually talk to one another and get to know each other. At a dog park or at the dog beach, you play with your dog and not your phone and you talk to other people,” Holander, cofounder of AreYouIn app, tells ISRAEL21c.

Many Tel Aviv residents own more than one dog. Photo by Kfir Sivan
Many Tel Aviv residents own more than one dog. Photo by Kfir Sivan

Dog Day will take place on August 26 at the Bnei Dan Dog Park Park across from 10 Bnei Dan Street, from noon to 7pm. Holander, who calls dogs “pure happiness,” is expecting at least 3,000 dogs and their owners. He hopes many attendees will also adopt dogs needing a loving home.

This pooch party in the startup capital of Israel will include a display of items from dog bakeries, dog fashion designers and developers of pet technologies.

It’s sure to be a doggone good time.