There’s nothing like the beach in the summer: lying on your towel reading the latest thriller, splashing in the surf - or running through the sand catching a Frisbee in your teeth.
But if you’re a dog, it’s gotten harder and harder to find a place where you and your human companions can enjoy the shore together.
The travel Web site Dogfriendly.com reports that dogs are allowed at fewer than 15 percent of the 1,500 beaches that they contacted in North America.
What’s more, “dogs allowed” isn’t always a straightforward matter. For one thing, the vast majority of these beaches prohibit romping off-leash. And rules for access may differ even on the same stretch of coast.
For example, you may feel like you need a scorecard to visit the Delaware shore: Some state beaches allow dogs all year round, some never, some at certain times of year. Town beaches mostly prohibit dogs in season, but each town defines the season differently: It’s April to October in Rehoboth, May 15 to Sept. 30 in Bethany.
Then there is Dewey Beach which does allow dogs in season, but only before 9:30 a.m. and after 5.30 p.m.
In addition, some beaches require permits, often purchased in advance. And the rules differ for these as well.
For Dewey Beach, a $5 town permit is good for the life of your dog. In other places, permits need to be renewed annually, such as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Cook County, Ill., where a special tag is required to use off-leash areas including the dog beaches in Chicago and Wilmette.
Clearly, beach access for dogs is seen by authorities as a privilege rather than a right. In some places, dog lovers have banded together to increase their options.
Justin Rudd, community activist and beauty pageant coach, led the charge to designate a beach for dogs in Long Beach, Calif.
“I was living one block literally from the beach. I couldn’t take my dog on it, not even on leash,” says Rudd. “Selfishly, I did it for my bulldog Rosie. Dogs need a place to run.”
But places for dogs are also places for dog people.
“I also did it because people need a place to socialize,” Rudd adds. “I did it for the dogs and the people.”
Designating special beaches is good for non-dog-people too. If you don’t want your sunbathing interrupted by a soggy four-footed chase across your beach towel, you know exactly where not to go.
“We only have 235 yards out of 4 miles of coastline,” says Rudd. “Dogs are pack animals, they like to play with each other. So it’s rare that one is going to run off the dog beach.”
If you don’t live on the coast or the Great Lakes, you can still enjoy the beach experience with your dog - with some advantages.
Austin was recently named one of the top 10 cities to visit with your dog by travel Web site www.dogfriendly.com. According to Jason Massey, who runs the Web site www.Austinexperience.com, the varied geography at Lake Travis in Pace Bend Park includes deep water coves where dogs can dive as well as sandy, gently sloping beach. This variety accommodates dogs of different types and abilities.
When Massey’s Lab, Phoenix, was young, “she’d take a flying leap off the rocks into the lake going after a tennis ball. As she got older, it was important that we find a place with easier access for her.”
And don’t forget another advantage of lakes: “We always camp under the trees, or set up at a picnic table in the shade,” says Massey. “It is nice getting a break from the sun.”