The Safest Way to Beat the Heat During the Dog Days of Summer

Kaitlyn Nafziger

As a dog owner, one of your favorite experiences may be a happy pup chasing after tennis balls on the beach or splashing in the waves. As fun as it is to watch your dog enjoy these moments, it’s important to remember that there are other critters that also share the beach.

Many seabirds and shorebirds nest on sandy beaches, and make pit stops here to fuel up before their long flights to warmer areas where they wait out the winter months. They are often camouflaged and can be hard to spot darting across the sand, chasing after insects, or incubating their well-hidden eggs. While allowing your dog to roam free seems like a good way for them to enjoy they beach, it can have some unexpected consequences.

Your well-behaved pup may not seem like it’s posing a threat to the birds as it splashes in the ocean, but Fido is viewed as a predator by the birds and can still cause harm. Even if it’s not actually chasing the birds, they will still be spooked by your pet if it unknowingly gets too close. This can cause them to abandon their nearby nests or chicks, leaving them defenseless and open to predators and exposing them to extreme temperatures. 

And romping through sand dunes may seem like a good way to let your dog get some exercise, but there are also endangered plant species in addition to nests that could be harmed in the process.

If you are going to the beach during the summer months to beat the heat, the best way to help protect the local wildlife is to keep your dog on a leash. This minimizes the impact they have on the birds and plants.

Make sure you pay attention to any signs posted around the beach. In areas where threatened or endangered birds are nesting there are usually signs posted to inform beach goers what areas are off limits during the breeding season. They also tend to have pictures of the birds so you can get an idea of what to be on the lookout for.

If you have an energetic pup who needs to let loose and let out some energy, you can also look up local, designated dog beaches where they can play to their hearts' content. Good luck beating the heat this summer!

For information on designated dog-friendly beaches in San Diego and Orange Counties, visit these websites:

*Kaitlyn Nafziger worked as part of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research Terns and Plovers Program field crew at Naval Base Coronado. The Program focuses on monitoring, research, and management strategies to aid the recovery of coastal birds such as California Least Terns and Western Snowy Plovers, two federally-listed species. In San Diego County, the Team works in partnership with Naval Base Coronado and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, where some of the largest remaining populations of these species remain along the Pacific Coast. Kaitlyn studied breeding success, survival, movement and the ecological needs of these species at Naval Base Coronado.