When you hear the name San Francisco, you probably picture the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Alcatraz, and the Painted Ladies. But this northern California city is much more than that. It is also home to some of the biggest companies in the world, including Twitter, Uber, and Lyft. The city is also a popular tourist spot with more than 3 million visitors a year. San Francisco is also the number one most pup popular dog-friendly city in the US, with one dog per every three people.
The city also has 220 parks and recreational areas, many of them are dog-friendly. This includes off-leash dog parks from the Golden Gate Park to Jefferson Square. Overall, San Francisco lauds hundreds of pooch-friendly rental properties, almost 200 restaurants, 48 dog parks, and 5 dog beaches.
You will also find many stores that allow you to bring in your pooch to shop, lots of hiking trails, and even more activities that your canine companion can enjoy with you. There are more than 20 pet stores, over a dozen doggie daycares, and dozens of veterinarians. We listed a few of these in our guide, as well as the important dog laws, certain risks to watch out for, the best times to visit, and the most pooch popular neighborhoods.
Things dog parents need to know about San Francisco
Before packing your bags, make sure you know all the important laws and regulations about having a dog in San Francisco. Even if you are just visiting, you have to follow the rules like everyone else. Here are some of the most important ones to know before you go.
- All dogs over four months old must be licensed and have an up-to-date rabies tag on their collar.
- Also, your pooch must be on a leash six feet long or shorter when you are out in public unless you are in a designated off-leash area.
- You must have proof that your dog has all of his vaccinations to show if asked.
- Dogs are only allowed in certain pet-friendly stores like Petco and PetSmart, but they should be leashed.
- It is illegal for any dog to be inside any restaurant or other facility that prepares and serves food.
- Pets are allowed on the MUNI (San Francisco Municipal Railway) and the (BART) Bay Area Rapid Transit. On the MUNI, they must be leashed and muzzled or in a carrier, and you have to pay an adult price for him. Your pup is free on the BART, but they have to be in a carrier on your lap.
Dog friendly Hotels in San Francisco
The city of San Francisco has a couple hundred vacation rentals, including hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and Airbnbs. It is good to know which places are dog-friendly so you do not spend too much time searching for the best place only to find out dogs are not allowed. Here are a few of our favorites.
- San Francisco Proper Hotel is one of our top choices because it donates part of their pet fee to Best Friends Animal Society. They also hand out dog treats at the front desk and provide pet bowls for your fur puppy. But they also have a rooftop restaurant where you can get the best views of the city.
- Hotel Nikko is another favorite because it has its own private dog park, and they have their own floor called the (VIP) Very Important Pup floor. The hotel also gives out doggie gift bags, and if you join the Pet Pride Package, he can pick out a toy from the tail-wagging wagon, and your pup is free.
- DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Berkeley Marina has a dog-friendly restaurant, the Bay Grille & Lounge, where he can join you on the patio. They also have a dog run nearby at Cesar Chavez Park, where he can run around without his leash..
San Francisco Dog parks
With almost 50 pup-popular parks in San Francisco, you and your cuddle buddy will have plenty to do while you are in town. Choose from a cozy park with water features, a huge off-leash area where your pup can run around on a bunch of acres or a park with a lake. Here are our top three choices.
- Golden Gate Park actually has four different dog play areas. One of them is all sand with lots of shade. Another one is small and cozy, with room to run but not too far. The one in the northeast corner is the largest and has lots of seating. But the agility park is the favorite, with several agility stations.
- Lake Merced Dog Park features a 600-acre lake where your fur puppy can play in the water. The fenced area also has lots of agility equipment, including ramps, hoops, tunnels, and jumps.
- McLaren Park has two dog parks, one of which is the largest in the city, featuring 60 acres of off-leash space. It also has a pond where your canine companion can play in the water. The smaller park is just a grassy area without a fence next to the Crocker Amazon Playground.
Dog Friendly Restaurants and Dining
With close to 200 dog-friendly restaurants in San Francisco, you will be able to pick from a variety of cuisines and types. Whether you just want a taco off the taco truck, a burger from the local fast food joint, or a fancy French restaurant, you will find all that and then some in this foodie city. They also have lots of pooch popular bars, breweries, wineries, and coffee shops to enjoy.
North Beach Restaurant has been the number one Italian eatery in San Francisco since they opened many years ago. You and your fur buddy can enjoy a meal on the patio with choices like pizza, pasta, antipasti, and even t-bone steaks! Or, take your canine compadre to Toronado Pub for a brew where you can choose from 40 craft beers that are always different and 70 bottled and canned drinks.
If you want to see how they brew it, Black Hammer Brewing is a dog-friendly brewery that makes small batches of craft brews like Belgian, English, and German lagers. Are you more of a wine person? The Canela Bistro & Wine Bar welcomes pups to join their pup parents on the patio for wine and a good meal. Or go get a cup of coffee at Philz Coffee with your own mug to get a discount. There are 17 locations in the city to pick from.
Things to do in San Francisco with a dog
Even if you do not count the dog parks, there is still a ton to do in San Francisco with your favorite cuddle buddy. From seeing the Palace of Fine Arts to riding on the MUNI and taking a cruise on the San Francisco Bay Ferry to paddling through the water on a kayak, there is something for everyone.
Your leashed pooch is welcome on the grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts, where you can see the Greco-Roman colonnades and rotunda, a secret lagoon, and a path you can explore. The Rotunda is one of the more photographed sites in the city. And the MUNI allows pets anytime except for the busy hours on weekdays from 5 AM to 9 AM and 3 PM to 7 PM. The ferry is also pup-friendly as long as they are in a carrier on your lap.
If you want to take your fur baby to play in the sand and splash in the water, Baker Beach lets dogs play off-leash anywhere north of Lobos Creek. One of the most popular, Lands End Beach, is in the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, where dogs are welcome off-leash anytime.
Fort Funston Beach is another off-leash swimming spot for your cuddly buddy to play.
Also, at Fort Funston, there are several trails for you and your pup to explore, but some areas require a leash, so keep it handy. Lands End also has a dog-friendly trail. It is 3.4 miles along the coast with some fantastic views. The city also has pup popular events like the Lafayette Art & Wine Festival on September 23rd at Oak Hill Road, DogFest Bay Area on October 21st at Jack London Square, and Barktoberfest on October 29th at Point Isabel Dog Park.
Daycare and Boarding
No matter how dog-friendly San Francisco is, there are still places you cannot bring your fur baby. Some of these include Alcatraz Island, the SkyStar Wheel, and the Museum of Modern Art. Luckily, there are over 50 dog daycare and boarding establishments like Wag Hotels, which offer grooming, training, boarding, and walking. DogWalks.com has been doing more than just walk dogs since 1999. Also, Home But Not Alone has won awards for pet care in homes and hotels.
Dog Care and safety
Just in case, it is good to know some of the reputable vets in the area, as well as a 24-hour animal hospital. This city even has a mobile veterinary service called VetPronto that will come to you wherever you are! Banfield Pet Hospital does everything from emergency care to refills, and they have several locations. If you need someone after hours, San Francisco Animal Medical Center is open 24-7.
If you take your pup to the beach, watch out for rogue waves and undercurrents. Even if you are just walking on the sand, some beaches have huge waves that can pull your dog out in the water. Find out where these areas are and use a leash. You should also watch out for jellyfish, stingrays, sharks, and eels if you are going in the water.
On land, you should also be on the lookout for snakes, scorpions, and spiders, as well as bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, bears, and skunks. Although it does not really get too hot in San Francisco, NEVER leave your fur baby in the car alone for any amount of time. Not only is it dangerous, it is also against the law. If you need to refill your pup’s medication or just get something off the counter, there are several Petco stores, PetSmarts, and other animal pharmacies.
Best time to visit San Francisco with your dog.
San Francisco is a popular tourist attraction, so it can get pretty crowded during the high season. For the best time to bring your pup to the city, check out these seasons and their highlights.
- Shoulder Season: (April – May and September – November): For warm days and mild nights, the best time to visit San Francisco is during shoulder season. This is the months between the low season and the high season.
- High Season (June – August): The busiest season in San Francisco is from June through August. This is when the daytime temps are in the upper 70s or low 80s and nights are in the 50s and 60s.
- Low Season (December – March): If you are looking for the least crowded time to visit, go during the low season. However, it will be cold at night so bring warm clothes for both of you. The nights can drop into the upper 40s.
- January: Plan all your outdoor activities during the afternoon, the warmest part of the day. Daytime highs are close to 60, and lows are in the upper 40s.
- February: Another cold month, so pack your coats and plan accordingly. But do not worry about snow because that is a rare thing here.
- March: The days are getting warmer, but nights are still cold. Take your pooch to the dog park in the morning or a brisk walk in the woods in the afternoon.
- April: It can be rainy and foggy during April, but the highs are typically mild, with mid-60s during the day and low 50s at night.
- May: Everything is blooming now, so take your pup on a walk through any of the parks, like the Golden Gate Park, where they have several gardens.
- June: Perfect weather for a day at the beach. It may not be warm enough to swim, but you can play fetch or frisbee at one of the off-leash dog beaches.
- July: July is almost perfect, with highs in the lower 70s and lows in the upper 50s. You cannot go wrong no matter what you decide to do during this month.
- August: The final hurrah of tourists is at the beach now, so maybe enjoy a nice meal at one of the dog-friendly eateries or do some shopping.
- September: This is the perfect month for swimming at the beach with your fur buddy because the tourists have mostly gone home, and the temperatures are at their warmest, with highs in the 70s.
- October: Take your pooch to the pumpkin patch or local farmer’s market to get some fall flowers and other decor.
- November: The temps drop rapidly now, with evening lows in the low 50s. Dress warm and take a hike.
- December: If you take your cuddly canine companion out to see the Christmas decor, be sure you are both dressed warm. Lows are in the upper 40s.
San Francisco Neighborhoods
Since San Francisco is so large, it has a lot of different neighborhoods and communities. Just like any other city, some of the areas are more dog-friendly than others. Here are some of our top choices.
- Mission Bay: Located along the Central Basin of the Bay, you will find lots of dog-friendly parks like Bay Front, Mission Creek, Huffaker, and Crane Cove Parks, as well as the off-leash Mission Bay Dog Park. You can also enjoy some great views of the Oakland Bay Bridge.
- Noe Valley: In the middle of the peninsula, this small community is full of pup parents and young families with kids, so it has plenty of fun for everyone. There are two dog parks here, including Joby’s Dog Run and Upper Douglass Dog Play Area. They also have Noe Valley Pet Company, where you can get some dog toys, treats, and food..
- Lakeshore: On the western side of the peninsula, Lakeshore is home to Lake Merced Park, where you and Fido can explore the trail spread out over the 615 acres. Then there is the lake where you can do some fishing and boating.
- Parkmerced: Running along the eastern side of Lake Merced, Park Merced is a fantastic place for pups with three dog parks, including the Dog Agility Park, Brotherhood Mini Dog Park, and Parkmerced Dog Park.
- Golden Gate: More than just a neighborhood, this is a park that spans over 1,000 acres and has four different off-leash dog parks. Your pooch is also allowed in the rest of the park as long as he is on a leash.
- Colma: A large neighborhood between the San Bruno Mountain State & County Park and Interstate 280, Colma has its own dog park called Bark Park, where all dogs can play off the leash.
You cannot go wrong in any of the San Francisco neighborhoods because they are all dog-friendly. But no matter where you and your pup go, you will need a supply of doggie bags to pick up after him. Also, pack plenty of water for you both and some snacks.
The Final Woof
You can see why San Francisco is the number one dog-friendly city in the US after reading this guide because there are so many hotels, parks, beaches, and restaurants where they are welcome. We listed our top choices for these as well as some important safety tips, rules and regulations to follow, and a few vets and animal hospitals. Also listed here are the best times to visit San Francisco with your canine companion, the most dog-friendly neighborhoods, and some doggie daycares and boarding in case you need someone to watch your pup while you go out and run around the town.