Does San Diego Hate Dogs?

“You’re bringing your dogs along to San Diego?”

My So Cal-dwelling relative seemed surprised. He told us that San Diego isn’t the most dog-friendly city, something I hadn’t realized. But I was soon to find out.

Anxious to get away from the renovation happening at home, we had booked a house about half a block from San Diego’s Mission Beach at the very last minute for Thanksgiving break. We had never been to this area, which flanks the old fashioned Belmont Park amusement park, but it had always looked attractive in photos. Besides, after our previous VRBO reservation got canceled at the last minute, this was practically the last available unit anywhere in California that would accept two dogs over Thanksgiving. Mission Beach it is!

In the passenger seat of the car on the way down, I started reading. Huh. Turns out, we wouldn’t be able to bring our dogs — even on leash — onto the sand Mission Beach except for early mornings and late afternoons. And even during those hours, leashes were strictly enforced.

OK, but there was a dog beach really close to our house. Squinting at Google Maps, I realized that there was one hitch: Our house was almost at the end of the spit of land known as South Mission Beach, but the dog park was at Ocean Beach, separated from us by the channel that leads to Sea World.

So, even though we’d be able to see the dog beach from the no-dogs beach, we’d have to drive four miles to get there. Oh well. We noticed there was also the grassy Mission Point Park near our rental house, so we figured the dogs could always potty there during the no-no beach hours.

The only good thing about limited beach access was that it got us to watch the sunset nearly every night.

Upon arrival, we realized the situation was more challenging than that. First of all, there are no park strips or front lawns in the Mission Beach neighborhood. We had read a negative review from a previous renter at our rental complaining that a neighbor let their dog pee on the plantings in their yard, and it left a smell. This made me realize that letting the dogs urinate on the landscaping pebbles around our small patio would not be acceptable. The first day, we arrived from our long drive after 5 p.m., so there was no problem bringing the dogs down to the beach to play in the surf and relieve themselves while we watched the sun set. And since dogs are allowed on Mission Beach until 9 a.m., we were fine in the morning too.

But by late morning the next day, we realized that these poor dogs had zero options in the neighborhood between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mission Point Park, as well as all grassy patches around the beach parking lot, and even the sidewalk adjacent to the beach, all had No Dogs 9-4 signs. I was pretty floored by that. I can’t remember ever seeing a grassy public park that just flat out banned dogs. We did see other dog owners flauting this rule, but San Diego issues about 600 tickets for this kind of infraction every year, and half of those are issued at Mission Beach.

So, for the rest of our weeklong stay, we had two choices: Potty the dogs right before 9 a.m. and right before 4 and hope they could make it all day, or take them to a dog-friendly location in the car with us. The problem with the latter approach was that, of course, we didn’t want to spend the entire day at a dog beach or park; we wanted to visit some of the many scenic locations that bans dogs as well. So on some days, we crated the dogs and went out without them, while on other days, we limited other tourism to half a day and spent the other part taking them to a dog beach.

The dog beach on Coronado was so nice, we just didn’t to leave, even when the sun sank this low.

Actually, we only ended up checking out one dog beach: Coronado Dog Beach, which is right next to and alongside the Naval base there. Friends advised us that this beach was nicer than the one close to Mission Beach or the one on Fiesta Island, and I think they were right. It’s a spectacularly gorgeous beach, with a distant view of the Hotel del Coronado. The parking is on the street, and we were able to find a close spot. As a plus, the Naval base there is actually an air station, so we were treated to the entertainment of Navy helicopters flying out and back over our heads.

Staying out of trouble at the Point Loma Tidepools

The other place we brought the dogs in San Diego was the Point Loma Tidepools, since, being a National Park and not a city park, this place allows dogs on the paths. We didn’t let the dogs splash around in the tidepools, of course. It was more like taking them for a walk and then taking turns holding their leashes off to the side while other family members explored the pools. Still, it was an OK outing with dogs.

Would I take our dogs to San Diego again? Well, definitely not to the Mission Beach neighborhood. To be honest, we’re too old for that neighborhood anyway by about 20 years. If we go back with them, we’ll rent a house with its own fenced in yard, probably somewhere outside the city that’s near a dog-friendly beach.

If you know of dog-friendly spots we missed in San Diego, I’d love to hear about them!

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