Let’s start with Fido Factor (Ketu Patel/Fido Factor), because it’s free and that’s always a nice feature. Like its closest competitors, Fido Friendly lists nearby dog resources (in this case, dog-friendly restaurants, bars and hotels; dog parks; dog stores; vets, groomers, and boarding facilities; “attractions;” and “transportation”) using your current location. Unlike them, however, it does not offer you the option of typing in a zip code to look up resources in another location. That’s annoying, particularly since the site does have that feature.
I do like a lot of things about this app. It has a clean, attractive appearance and it’s easy to navigate. When you’ve found a interesting destination, the app will give you a Google map and driving directions to it. The “Fido Factors” feature highlights particularly dog-friendly details of a destination. And I know, from many hours spent tweeting, that the Fido Factor team is actively collecting fresh data and reaching out to their audience. While the Seattle data is sketchy, I understand that the Bay Area data is excellent (Fido Factor’s HQ is in San Francisco). The app has a lot of promise, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this motivated company takes it.
I ponied up the $2.99 for PawTrotter (App Inspire, LLC), because I have your best interests at heart. Although free always gets my vote, I have to say that this app is a pleasure to use. One of its strengths is its simplicity: It only offers you dog parks, vets, pet stores, groomers, boarding and day care facilities, and pet-friendly hotels. (I do miss, and for this price would like to see, dog-friendly restaurants.)
The results for Seattle are good, and the app allows you to enter an alternative location (via zip code or city name) if, for example, you want to search for pet resources in a place you’ll be visiting in a few days. When you find a resource you like, you can access Google Maps for its location and driving directions. The app also lets you sort through and narrow down search results. My only gripe is a mild one: A thin band across the bottom of the screen indicates which city is currently being searched — I like the feature, but it’s so discreet that it’s easily overlooked.
While I was tossing money around, I also paid $4.99 for Dog Parks Bay Area (Apptika Inc.). I have never been more irritated by an app. To begin with, after charging top dollar for a pet resources app, Apptika has the gall to run ads across the top of each page you see. I would be speechless with indignation, except that I have more things to complain about.
To find a dog park, you can “Browse” (that is, scroll down an alphabetical list of all the parks) or you can use the map. If you press the “Map” button, you can either use your current location (not much help when you’re currently located in Seattle) or not, in which case, you have to manually scoot the map of California up to the Bay Area from somewhere near the Mexican border. When you arrive in the Bay Area, you’re met with a vast number of green pins, and have to zoom and re-zoom to have a hope of figuring out which pin is in the area you’re interested in. There is a “Search” button, but it appears only to retrieve names of parks (you cannot type in the name of a Bay Area town, or input a Bay Area zip code, and get a list of parks in that neighborhood).
When you do find a park you’re interested in, you’re given a lot of information (via icons and text) about its characteristics, but you’re not given any opportunity to submit a review or comment of your own. The quick-reference icons include one for nighttime lighting (mildly interesting) but not one for whether a park has a small-dog area. That information may be provided in a memo, but it’s important enough that it needs an icon of its own for quick reference.
Hear a flushing sound? That was my $4.99, down the toilet. (Looking more closely at the App Store, it appears that Apptika has free versions of this app for Los Angeles, NYC and Orange County, and a $1.99 version for San Diego.)
In a belligerent mood, I turned next to Dog Park Finder (Tech Wanderings), which is, blessedly, free. Although it has some annoying features (you’re repeatedly offered maps stuck with closely-packed pins to sort out, and the app does not sort parks by distance from you), it gives you two separate ways to search for parks outside your current location. Under “Search,” you can type in the city/state or zip code you’re interested in, and under “Browse,” you can tap on the state and then the town you care about. The data for Seattle was very good.
Once you’ve identified a dog park you’re interested in, you’re given one icon (fenced or unfenced) and a fair amount of written information. The reviews are located on the site, so getting them is time-consuming (and posting a review is, presumably, best done on the site). The app sends you to Google Maps for driving directions, which I always appreciate (it’s normal now, but it wasn’t a year ago, when pet resources apps first started appearing).
This is a bare-bones app, but it gets the job done. If I weren’t so vexed by Dog Parks Bay Area, I’d gripe a bit more about Dog Park Finder (future versions should really have the option of telling users which parks are closest to them). Right now, though, it gets my hearty approval.