Dog-Friendly San Diego – Complete Travel Guide

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dog is feeling happy in san diego

San Diego is one of the top 10 destinations for vacationers all over the world. It has more than 60 beaches, over 200 parks, and a variety of five-star attractions like the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and SeaWorld San Diego. Running along the California coastline all the way to the Mexican border, the city is also renowned for its sunny and warm climate all year long so it is a wonderful spot for any kind of outdoor activities from A (airboating) to Z (ziplining). 

Also, the city is number 2 out of 100 dog-friendly places to take your pooch. With 5 dog beaches, 525 pooch popular restaurants, and 23 off-leash dog parks, you and your canine companion will have plenty to keep you occupied in this southern California city. And there are over 950 vacation rentals, too so you will have no trouble finding a place to stay. We have listed the important laws and safety items, hotels, parks, and restaurants here for you to know before you go as well as some important pet services you may need.

Things dog parents need to know about San Diego

Every city has its own laws about whether your dog has to be leashed, where they are allowed, and whether it is a law to pick up after them. San Diego is a dog-friendly city but it has its own laws as well about leashes, vaccines, and licenses. Here are the most important laws you need to know when visiting San Diego with your fur buddy.

  • In San Diego, dogs have to be kept on a leash no longer than eight feet long at all times unless you are in an off-leash area or a residence. These requirements are also in effect in city parks and on trails. 
  • Your pooch should have all his vaccinations and a current license from the Humane Society of San Diego. This include an annual rabies vaccine as well as distemper-parvovirus-adenovirus-2-parainfluenza vaccine, also known as DAPP, DHPP, or DA2PP. They also recommend bordetella bronchisepticia (kennel cough), H3N2/H3N8 (canine flu), borrelia burgdorferi (lyme disease), and leptospira vaccines.
  • Law 62.670 requires that all dog owners clean up after their pup. This means you have to keep your own property clean, try not to let your dog pee or poop in others’ yards, immediately pick up any poop, and dispose of it in a proper container. 
  • Although individual stores have their own laws, it is generally illegal to bring your dog into any business unless it is specified. For example, many pet stores and farm stores allow dogs to join you. But they must be on a leash. However, some stores allow small dogs to enter as long as their owner is holding them or they are secured in a carrier.
  • The MTS (Metropolitan Transit System) of San Diego County provides trolley and bus services to the public. According to their website, small dogs are allowed on the bus or trolley as long as they are completely contained in a carrier that you can hold on your lap. Service animals are always welcome. 

Dog friendly Hotels in San Diego

Before heading to San Diego, you have to find the best dog-friendly hotels in the city for you and your cuddly canine companion. There are many hotels and motels that allow dogs but then there are some that really love dogs enough to offer special benefits like free treats, beds, and dishes. It is also nice to know the ones that do not charge a huge fee to bring your pup. Here are a few of our choices.

  • The Dana on Mission Bay gives dogs their own custom bowls, treats, and a list of local attractions and restaurants that are dog-friendly. They also welcome your pooch into their restaurant, where he will be treated to his own water and treats. If you get the Dana for Dogs package, dogs stay free, and you get credit for food and drinks. However, he has to be 80 pounds or lighter.
  • Kimpton Alma San Diego is another one who loves pooches, offering them plush doggie beds, water bowls, and treats. What’s more, they allow dogs of all sizes and breeds and there is no fee. Guests are treated like royalty with a rooftop pool, 24-hour gym, several restaurants, and social hour. 
  • If you have a little pooch under 20 pounds and want a luxurious place to stay, The Pendry has a deluxe suite with 1,500 square feet, a stocked bar, pillow-topped mattresses, and marble counters. They also give your pooch a dog bed, bowls, and treats as well as a grassy spot to do his business. 

If you are a nature lover or just want more freedom and less rules, you may want to check out one of the awesome dog-loving campgrounds in San Diego. They are allowed at state campgrounds in general except for a few, like historic parks or preserves. Campland on the Bay on the shore of Mission Bay is one of the most pup popular with over 580 campsites. Santa Fe RV Resort is another great choice with their gorgeous views and heated pool. And San Diego KOA is another one to consider, with its pool, hot tub, cable TV, basketball, and a dog park.   

San Diego Dog Parks

Almost every city in the United States has at least one dog park, and San Diego does not disappoint with more than 20. From small patches of grass to huge parks with some acreage, the city provides a lot of choices for pups and their pup parents. Here are a few that we like.

  • Balboa Park has three dog parks in downtown San Diego. The largest is Grape Street Dog Park, with five acres to explore. However, it is not completely fenced so if your dog is not voice-controlled you may not want to use Nate’s Point instead. It has 2.4 acres and is open 24 hours a day. The other, Morley Field, is also open 24 hours but is not fenced. 
  • Civita Dog Park is another great pup park that has two sections. The small dog section has a fountain, weave poles, and a fire hydrant and the large dog area has a ramp, hydrant, and water fountain. There is also plenty of room for a game of fetch and seating for pup parents. 
  • Little Italy Dog Park is special because it has K9Grass, which is a soft turf that dogs love and pup parents love it too because their dogs stay clean. There is also a coffee cart that serves snacks and beverages to you and your cuddle buddy. They also have free doggie bags to pick up after your pup and a water fountain. 

Dog Friendly Restaurants and Dining

No matter where you go, you have to eat. And so does your dog. So, why not find a dog-friendly restaurant where you can both chow down? Some restaurants have outdoor tables where you and your pup are welcome to dine while others welcome you both inside with open arms. For example, Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar loves dogs so much, they even have a dog menu, and the whole place is canine-themed. He can have a grilled burger or chicken breast with brown rice while you enjoy something from the pup parent menu. 

The Dog Society is a sports bar with a dog park as well as boarding and grooming. You do not need a membership, and the outdoor game area is fantastic. Your pooch is welcome inside and out here, and so are you. Stone Brewing is another great place for you and Fido. They have all sorts of beer and other adult beverages as well as food, an outdoor cinema, a garden, and bocce ball court. 

If you are not a beer person, The Wine Pub is a pup popular winery with a dog-friendly patio with a dog menu that is enclosed so your fur puppy can mingle. And they serve food too from antipasto bites to full entrees. But if you need some caffeine to get you going, check out Communal Coffee. Pets are welcome at any of their 10 outdoor tables, and he can go in with you to place your order, too. 

Things to do in San Diego with a dog

Whether you want to take a hike, paddle out onto the water, rent a sailboat, hit the beach, or go for a hike, San Diego has you covered. You and your pup can rent a boat from Seaforth Boat Rentals. Or hit up Adventure Water Sports at Mission Bay for a kayak, paddleboard, or canoe. They are all dog-friendly. 

The city also has several dog-friendly beaches, including The Original Dog Beach, where fur puppies can run around in the sand and surf without a leash. Or the Coronado Dog Beach is another great choice for leash-free ocean fun. Always make sure to pack plenty of doggie bags and extra water for you and your cuddle buddy. 

San Diego is full of fun trails that your dog can join you on, like the 68-acre Sunset Cliffs Natural Park trails, where you can see whales migrating as you walk along the coast and enjoy the sunset to see why it got its name. The city is also a perfect place for events because of the great weather. They have the Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon and DogFest San Diego in September, as well as the Oktoberfest and Fur Ball Gala in October. 

Daycare and Boarding

If you want to visit some spots that do not allow dogs, you can always get a sitter. The Lovable Pet Sitter will do in-home (or hotel) pet sitting and dog walking, or you can call Best Friends Forever Pet Care for everything from pet boarding to in-home sitting. If your canine companion needs some exercise, call Unleashed Dog Fitness, and they will take him for a walk, hike, swim, or run. 

Dog Care and Safety

You never know when something can happen, so it is best to be prepared for anything when you are traveling with your cuddly canine companion. Just like with children, you have to know where the closest medical or emergent treatment is no matter where you go. But finding a hospital and finding a vet are two different things. San Diego has a lot of both. In fact, there are over 175 veterinary clinics and hospitals in the area. Here are a few good choices. 

The Veterinary Center of America (VCA) has six sites in San Diego where you can take your pooch in an emergency. The closest one is VCA Market Street Animal Hospital, which is less than a half-mile from the city center. They offer 24-hour emergency service as well as primary and preventive care. You can also get your pup’s prescription filled there. 

One thing about San Diego you have to worry about with your fur baby is the heat. High temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which can lead to death if not treated. Anything above 89 degrees F is too hot for your pooch, and some breeds, like brachycephalic dogs (flat-faced) and those with thick coats, cannot take anything over 75 degrees. The average summer temp in San Diego is 78 degrees F, but the highs typically get into the upper 80s in some areas. 

Wild animals are another concern in San Diego. Rattlesnakes are the only venomous snake and there are several types, including Southern Pacific, Western Diamondback, Sidewinder, Speckled, and Red Diamond. Stay out of the tall grass, keep your dog on a short leash, and do not let your pooch dig under rocks and bushes. You should also watch for coyotes, cougars, black bears, and scorpions. 

Best time to visit San Diego with your dog.

San Diego is a dog-friendly destination with consistent weather and sunshine year-round. However, you should avoid certain times of the year depending on your dog’s breed, health, and age.

  • Shoulder Season: (March – May and September – November): The best time to visit San Diego with your pooch is during the shoulder months from March to May and September to November. The temps are usually in the 60s, and your dog can enjoy warm days and mild nights.
  • High Season (June – August): The high season is from June to August. This is the best time for those who want to enjoy the beach and other water activities. San Diego has some fantastic beaches (about 60 of them) to explore and enjoy. But remember to bring extra water for your pooch and use special sunscreen for those that need it. Avoid the hottest time of the day between noon and 5:00. 
  • Low Season (December – February): Low season is from December to February. It is not cold but it does not usually get hot enough for swimming either. The highs are usually in the 60s during the day and drop to the 50s at night. This may be the ideal time for you and your canine companion to visit because there are less crowds. 

Monthly highlights

  • January: With cool days and cold nights, your pup will love taking an evening walk.
  • February: Great for cold-weather activities like hiking and running. Make sure your fur buddy stays warm with a doggie coat or jacket. 
  • March: Spring is coming, so the weather is getting warmer, but it can still be chilly at night.
  • April: Everything is blooming, and the temperatures are rising to the upper 60s. This is the ideal month for Fido.
  • May: The days are getting hot enough to swim but not too hot for your dog to play at the beach.
  • June: Evening and night activities are best for your pupster now. Take in a drive-in movie or enjoy dinner on the beach.
  • July: Great weather in the mornings and evenings, but it can be too hot for some dogs during the noon to 5:00 times.
  • August: Daytime activities are okay in the mornings and evenings, but avoid the hot time of day. 
  • September: The temps are cooling down, and it is the perfect time to enjoy a hike or a romp in the park. 
  • October: Cooler temps but no cold means October is a wonderful time for any outdoor activities.
  • November: When all the tourists have gone home, you and your pooch can play outside during the day when it is warm enough. 
  • December: It can be chilly at night, so have your fun at the dog parks in the afternoons.

San Diego Neighborhoods

San Diego has more than two dozen individual neighborhoods and all of them are dog-friendly. However, some are clearly more geared toward pup parents and their fur babies than others. Here are the most pup popular communities in San Diego and a bit about what makes them so special. 

  • Ocean Beach: Home to the original dog beach, which is open 24 hours and lets your pup romp around leash-free any day of the year. It is also one of the most laid-back communities in San Diego.
  • Encinitas: Whether you want to hit the beach, let your pup play off the leash, or dine with your dog at a great restaurant, Encinitas has all of that and more. You will also find over 100 vacation rentals, several pet stores, and numerous doggie daycares and dog walkers. 
  • Kensington: This pooch-friendly community has everything you need, including vets, dog parks, pet shops, pup pal play dates.
  • Balboa Park: This park has two awesome dog parks, including Nate’s Point Dog Park, which is completely fenced and has picnic tables.
  • La Jolla: This is a pup popular spot in San Diego that loves fur babies as much as we do! Even though it is a small community, it has several dog-friendly parks and trails, more than 60 restaurants that allow pups, and over a dozen pup-friendly hotels. 
  • Fiesta Island: This island is located in Mission Bay Park and allows dogs outside of the fenced areas.
  • Hillcrest/North Park: Your fur baby will have several parks to pick from, including Grape Street Dog Park and Nate’s Point Dog Park for off-leash fun.  

No matter where you take your cuddle buddy in San Diego, make sure you bring plenty of doggie bags to pick up after him and extra water for both of you. While some parks have water fountains, some do not, and you definitely want to keep your pal hydrated. Also, make sure your poochie does not drink any saltwater because it can cause stomach upset and may even be fatal. 

The Final Woof

With so much to do and so many great hotels, motels, and other vacation places to stay, you will love bringing your best furry friend to San Diego. We listed several of our favorite hotels, dog parks, pup-friendly restaurants, and some fun things to do with your cuddle buddy while you are in town. We also have the best times to go to San Diego, some services you may need, like vets and animal hospitals, and the most pup popular neighborhoods. In addition, we highlighted some important laws and things to watch out for while visiting the city with your pooch. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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