Dog Etiquette for the Dog-Friendly Beach

Many dogs enjoy a day at the beach. They love the sand beneath their paws, the waves lapping back and forth, and the ocean water beckoning them. But before you get in your car and head down to your favorite beach, are you sure your favorite pooch will be allowed to join you? And if dogs are allowed, are they allowed to run leash-free, or is the leash law enforced? 

These days it seems tougher and tougher to find beaches that will allow dogs. This can especially be true when trying to find a beach near a large coastal city or metropolitan area, like Miami Beach or Los Angeles. In fact, in Los Angeles County, out of over 70 miles of coastline and beaches, only one smaller beach allows dogs on a regular basis.  

Why Do Some Beaches Ban Dogs?

It seems only natural to think that a dog would be welcome at a beach. So one may ask why there are so many beaches that ban dogs. Beaches, like any other popular or heavily used area, can be a hot spot for conflicts. In search of dog-friendly beaches, we recently called and researched ocean beaches throughout the United States and Canada. While we did find hundreds of beaches that allow dogs, the majority of beaches throughout the U.S. and Canada do not allow pets.

Disregard for Leash Laws

Based on a recent unscientific poll by, the top reason for banning dogs from beaches is the disregard for leash laws. Violation of the leash law is a hot topic and park officials can be very sensitive about this issue. Many popular beaches have banned dogs because there were incidents with a person or even a dog being bothered by someone else’s dog, or park officials were concerned about such conflicts arising. Even beaches that have recently allowed leashed dogs are now banning dogs completely because too many people are choosing to ignore the leash law.  

Dog Waste

The second most popular reason for banning dogs from beaches is because of dog waste left on the beach. Owners should always clean up after their pets out of respect for other beach-goers.

In the town of Jupiter, Florida, government officials were ready to ban dogs from Jupiter Beach for many reasons, including because there was too much dog waste left on the beach. After hearing complaints about dogs on the beach, a local dog group, called “Friends of Jupiter Beach” or FJB, was formed in 1994 to save their dog-friendly beach. The group raised money for poop bags and dispensers.

Once a month, they even call on volunteers to help pick up dog waste that not-so-responsible dog owners fail to pick up. FJB is very active in promoting responsible dog ownership with their “Code of Conduct.” Suggestions include not letting your dog shake water on someone else or invade other people’s areas, removing dog poop (don’t leave it or bury it), only letting dogs run leash-free when you have found a desolate spot on the beach, and bringing your dog to the beach during the morning or evening when it is not too crowded or too hot.

Regardless of what dog-friendly beach you are visiting, always bring a bag or pooper scooper, and be sure to clean up after your doggie. Keep in mind that most beaches can impose a fine on people who do not clean up after their pets.

Public Disturbances

Problems often arise when someone lets their dog off leash, and then either ignore their dog or does not have their dog trained well enough to listen to them. This scenario can lead to the off-leash dog having a confrontation with another person or child, or even another dog. Imagine sunbathers relaxing on the sand, when all of a sudden a dog comes running towards them or even jumps on them, getting the sunbathers dirty, or worse, scared because they do not know if the dog is friendly. 

Another very big problem arises when a family or person with their leashed dog is taking a relaxing stroll down the beach. Unexpectedly, some off-leash dog comes running fast and furious at their dog. Is the dog running to attack them, or is it just an over-friendly pooch? Either way, chances are that this family is not going to welcome this unpleasant or even potentially dangerous experience.

What Are Dog Beaches?

There are also beaches that are specifically for dogs to run leash-free. They are known as “dog beaches” and thanks to many local dog advocates, there are more and more of these beaches opening. At a dog beach, your dog has the freedom to run off-leash, but he or she must still be well-behaved around other dogs and people and must listen to your verbal commands. Remember you will still need to clean up after your pet. 

Dog beaches can be very popular. One of the most frequently visited dog beaches in the country is Dog Beach in San Diego. On any particular day, there can be hundreds of dogs running on the sand or taking a dip in the water. If there is no dog beach in your area, you might be able to start one. Either find or start an off-leash dog group or organization in your area which will promote and organize a dog beach for your region. You can advertise your group on the Internet, or at your local vet’s office, groomers, and pet stores.

Once you have a group together, then you can work with local officials to begin plans for an off-leash area. Chances are good that there are more than just a few people in your area who wish to open an off-leash dog park or dog beach. Many cities and town governments are also willing to assist dog groups in setting up off-leash areas. They may provide land, but local people and local pet-related businesses are typically the ones who actually fund the fencing, grass, and tables for a dog park.

What Can We Do?

In a world where all it takes is one bad experience to ruin it for everyone else, we all need to pay attention to rules and respect other people and other dogs. If a beach says dogs must be on a leash, then please listen and follow the rules. Some park rangers will even issue citations and fines to owners who let their dogs run free on the beach in a leash-required area.

If you prefer to let your dog run leash-free, legally, on a beach, there are some beaches where dogs are not required to be on a leash. However, park officials are usually adamant that your dog must listen to your verbal commands and that you always pay attention to your dog so your pooch will not bother other people or dogs.

Together we can help save our remaining dog-friendly beaches, and maybe even help start some new ones. But in order to do this, we must all be responsible dog owners. Please follow the leash laws and always clean up after your pets. Let us hope that enough dog owners do in fact listen to the rules and regulations, so we and our best friends can continue to play on the beach for generations to come.

The Bottom Line

  • Always keep your dog leashed when there is a leash law
  • Always clean up after your dog by using a poop bag or pooper scooper
  • Do not let your dog visit with other beach-goers or dogs, unless welcomed – If using an official off-leash area, your dog needs to be well-behaved and must listen to your verbal commands.
  • In an off-leash area, always pay attention to your dog.
Author: Macie

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