The Watering Bowl Caters to Humans and Dogs Alike
The dog-friendly bar in South Austin offers roaming space for pets and an extensive beer list for their owners
By Darcie Duttweiler
Photos by Diego Hernandez
Leslie Paetschow greets all of her members by their names — the dogs that is. As the owner of The Watering Bowl, she’s often tasked with checking people into the dog park and bar, and she knows all of the regular pups who come to visit her spacious outdoor dog wonderland.
Opened in the late summer of 2021, the way, way South Austin spot has been a hit with both two-legged and four-legged visitors ever since. Although only open less than a year, The Watering Bowl has been a brainchild of Paetschow since adopting her Old English Bulldog Shiner over eight years ago. When she adopted the dog, he was very young, full of energy and required plenty of time outside running around. So when she wasn’t taking him on six-mile jogs, she would take him to a nearby dog park for several hours to tucker him out.
“I was having to make a choice of whether I have my social life or wear my dog out, and I wanted to do what was right for him,” she says. “So I ended up putting some of my social life on hold so that I could spend time with him at the dog park, and there were a couple of times that I was like, ‘Man, I really would like a beer.’”
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Paetschow kept thinking about the concept of a dog park and bar for several years and took classes on how to start a business. Then, at a birthday party for a foster hospice dog, Paetschow met fellow Austin Bulldog Rescue volunteer Heather Spearman, and the two knew they had to create something together. When Paetschow’s company was acquired in early 2021 and she was given some equity, she felt the timing was right.
The dog park and bar offers more than 20,000 square feet of open roaming space for the doggies and at least 20 different local brews for the people, so everyone can enjoy their stay at The Watering Bowl. Guests check in at the front window and either pay $10 per dog or a monthly membership fee for unlimited visits. Then, they enter through the double gated system so there’s no runaway pups. Small or shy dogs who might not feel comfortable getting their zoomies out in the big yard can visit a smaller area on the right, while the main yard offers plenty to keep both dogs and humans entertained.
There’s the dog costume wall, where people can feel free to dress their dogs up for their stay, a small pirate ship to climb on, and even a splash pad and sprinklers for fidos who love the water. The crew also offers several baskets of balls and other assorted toys. Even better: There are dedicated “Rufferees” who watch over all the dogs. They’re trained to make sure everyone is getting along and having a good time so that all the two-legged guests can just relax and have a good time while their dog plays.
“Enjoy a beer and just watch your dog be silly and crazy because we have people to take care of them while you’re here,” Paetschow says.
In addition to the bar, which is ever-expanding, food truck Brewski’s Grill offers hot dogs and sandwiches to be devoured under the twinkling lights of the yard. The Watering Bowl also hosts monthly Up Dog Yoga classes on the first Sunday of the month and other fun events, like a dog prom, April Drool’s Day, Mardi Paws and more. They also allow space rentals for birthday pawties to make any dog’s special day even more special. Daily doggie daycare is also available.
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As for what makes The Watering Bowl different, Paetschow explains her philosophy on dog behavior, which is that there’s no such thing as a “bad dog.” Whereas several members’ pups may have been kicked out for trying to mount another dog, The Watering Hole is very judicious about expelling a dog from the park.
“How we interact with dogs and how we keep all of the dogs safe is a little unique in the dog park space. We don’t treat any of the dogs here like they’re aggressive because they’re not,” Paetschow says. “If there’s a dog that’s humping another dog, that’s not bad behavior. They’re just being dogs, and they need a little bit of redirection sometimes. They’re just here to have fun!”