The Dog Lover's Guide to San Diego
From yappy hours and off-leash beaches to pet boutiques and dog yoga, here are 52 ways to experience San Diego with your four-legged friend
A Note from the Writer
I wanted a dog for over 20 years. I dreamed about having a dog, cried about not having a dog, studied dog encyclopedias, and read dog training manuals. I was obsessed. But I also knew to wait for the right time and city before making it a reality. College in Chicago wasn’t it, and I learned during my postgrad years in New York City that Manhattan’s cramped apartments and unimpressive dog parks (if you could call them that) weren’t right either.
But then came a move to San Diego in 2013—San Diego with its dozens of parks and multiple beaches just for dogs; hiking, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding that include a four-legged friend; restaurants with liberal treat policies and even dog menus; and a blissful climate that means never having to walk a dog in snow, hail, or even much rain. True, the rental market doesn’t make it easy to live with a dog, especially larger breeds, but when you tally the number of things to do with your pooch (you’ll read about them in this story), you realize that San Diego takes “dog friendly” to the next level.
So three months after moving here, I welcomed my golden retriever, Teddy. At the time I was a newbie with no local friends or family, but Teddy forced me to get outside and, in the process, make friends. (News flash: People love puppies.) Even on the days when I felt completely friendless, he still needed to go outside, so I went, too. He kept me going, and I owe a lot of my acclimation to him.
We arrived in San Diego—him a native, me a transplant—around the same time, so all our San Diego experiences have revolved around each other. And Teddy and I do everything together: We enjoy Saturday mornings at coffee shops, kayaking in Mission Bay, and long walks on the beach. For us, like many dog owners, it’s all about the outdoors. And fortunately, the outdoors here just happen to be some of the most friendly, engaging, and accommodating places to hang with your dog. San Diego, you’re pawsome!
Herb & Eatery
At this casual, dog-friendly counterpart to Herb & Wood, Executive Pastry Chef Adrian Mendoza has created two dog treat varieties—one with flaxseed, short rib, and bone broth, and another with peanut butter and seasonal ingredients, like pumpkin.
2210 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy
Dogs are welcome in the East Village lot-turned-community-park composed of a beer bar, coffee shop, and canteen, but they can also clock in some off-leash fun at the dog run.
1301 Market Street, East Village
The Wine Pub
Beyond a dog menu on the patio, the Point Loma wine bar hosts Woofer Wednesdays, where diners who bring their pups get 10 percent of their bill donated to Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit that trains assistance dogs for people with disabilities.
2907 Shelter Island Drive, Point Loma
The Little Italy restaurant hosts its Doggies on the Deck Yappy Hour every first Tuesday of the month with complimentary dog treats, as well as pizza, beer, and wine (for humans). Proceeds from each Yappy Hour raffle benefit a different local dog welfare organization each month.
1827 India Street, Little Italy
When you order a Double-Double Animal Style, don’t forget about your own animal. Ask for the unsalted Puppy Patty—a secret menu item!—for your pooch. Doggy bags are encouraged.
The dessert pros are sweet on dogs, too. They offer mini sugar-free “pupcakes” topped with yogurt frosting and a bone-shaped sprinkle.
8855 Villa La Jolla Drive, UTC
The Patio on Goldfinch
Pooches aren’t relegated to the outdoor patio at this Mission Hills restaurant; dogs and their parents are welcome in the front half of the building. Waiters promptly bring dog treats made in-house from beef trimmings, peanut butter, eggs, and water.
4020 Goldfinch Street, Mission Hills
The Patio on Lamont
Bring your dog to The Patio’s original outpost in PB, and you’ll receive half off “dogtails,” like the Bloodhound or Pomeranian.
4445 Lamont Street, Pacific Beach
Pardon My French
Hillcrest’s new French restaurant is très dog friendly, with a pup menu that includes eggs, bacon, and chicken breast.
3797 Park Boulevard, Hillcrest
Claire’s on Cedros
While you brunch on their Benedicts and “Clairecakes,” your dog is treated to house-made biscuits on the breezy patio.
246 North Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
Sally’s Fish House & Bar
Dogs can sit, stay, and play at this Manchester Grand Hyatt restaurant, where they’ll nibble on treats like carrot peanut-butter muffins and also receive a complimentary tennis ball.
One Market Place, Marina District
Backyard Kitchen & Tap
Sure, they make their own dog treats in house, but the PB eatery also hosts quarterly dog adoption parties with raffle prizes, drink specials (for humans), and goody bags for Fido.
832 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach
Woof ’n Rose Winery
The vintners behind this family-owned Ramona winery pay homage to their beloved shepherd-husky and lab in the dog-themed decor and a few of the vintage names, like the 2013 Happy Tails (a merlot–cabernet sauvignon) and the 2012 Puppy Love (a grenache noir–cabernet sauvignon). And unlike most wineries, Woof ’n Rose allows dogs on property.
17073 Garjan Lane, Ramona
The Brew Project
What’s better than beer? Puppies and beer! Brew Project’s Puppies and Pints event, held on the last Saturday of every month, includes gift basket raffles with puppy toys and treats, beer raffles, and even “pawdicures.”
3683 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest
Encontro North Park
Their new dog offerings read like a pooch’s dream menu, including the Mutt Melt (a beef patty with cheese), hot dogs, peanut butter cheddar biscuits, and Pooch Pops, a frozen blend of shredded ice and chicken. Trust us, they’ll love it.
3001 University Avenue, North Park
La Jolla Brewing Company
There’s the kids’ menu (fish and chips, grilled cheese, etc.), and then there’s the fur kids’ menu. Dogs can dine on burger patties, grilled chicken, and biscuits.
4536 Fay Avenue, La Jolla
Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar
The name is a dead giveaway—this place is more than just accommodating to four-legged friends. The menu includes an entire set of dishes for dogs, including brown rice, grilled chicken, and a hamburger patty.
1202 Camino del Rio North, Mission Valley
You won’t be the only one indulging in carnivorous eats. Slater’s dog menu turns out the signature 50/50 patty, as well as chicken or bacon strips.
2750 Dewey Road, Liberty Station; 110 Knoll Road, San Marcos
Anthony's Fish Grotto
Sit on the peaceful lakeside patio, where pooches can choose from a menu that includes a protein-packed mix of salmon, white fish, and rice.
9530 Murray Drive, La Mesa
With an all-outdoor space, dogs are allowed anywhere at the chicken- and egg-centric eatery, preferably while munching on one of the house-made treats: a blend of rolled oats, carrot, peanut butter, and agave.
2266 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy
The omnipresent coffee shop may be a part of your daily routine, but it can be a special occasion treat for your dog thanks to the Puppuccino, an espresso-cup-size dollop of whipped cream.
Yappy Hour at Hotel Del
Life is anything but ruff for dogs at The Del. Their long-standing Yappy Hour holds court Sundays on the Sun Deck with “dogtail” cocktails for humans (like a Greyhound), and free Evian water and organic treats for dogs.
1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado
Pamper Your Pet
Petco Park’s Barkyard
Last year the ballpark unveiled six semiprivate, dog-friendly viewing booths in left-center field for up to four people and two dogs. The $100 price tag includes four tickets, a pet relief area, umbrellas for sun protection, a complimentary treat for each dog, and a concierge to escort guests and their pups to their seats. Or look for Petco Park’s annual Dog Days of Summer event (typically in June or July) when pooches are allowed inside for a tail-gate party and pet parade.
The local health food store has a 20-year legacy thanks to founder Tori Rosay, who realized early on the connection between pet health and nutrition. She stocks her three locations with raw food, natural brands, and the store’s eponymous line of healthy biscuits baked in Oceanside.
2508 El Camino Real, Carlsbad; 1229 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar; 3773 30th Street, North Park
After you work out your wallet, you can work out Rover at Westfield’s on-site Bark Park, which includes a pergola for shade.
4545 La Jolla Village Drive, UTC
Markim Pet Resort
The heated pool is available year-round for rehabilitation, private swims, and pool parties for up to five dogs. The resort also offers dog parties in their yard with toys, decor, and pool access.
4393 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley; markimpet.com
The new East Village pet boutique is a proponent of organic, all-natural pet diets. They sell raw meals, grass-fed bones, and organic frozen yogurt made from raw goat’s milk, as well as pet blankets, beds, and leashes.
475 10th Avenue, East Village
Animal communicator Jerri Carroll has been breaking down the language barrier between pets and their owners since 2000. During hour-long sessions—conducted either in person or via photograph—Carroll gives the animal a chance to “talk” and owners an opportunity to ask questions, and all conversation between Carroll and the pets are done in silence. Noise fear? Separation anxiety? End of life woes? She’s heard it all. Results vary from the pet pinpointing a specific need (“can my human leave the music on when she’s gone?”) to helping the pet understand the owner’s concerns. She also offers homeopathic remedies.
$150/hour and $100/hour prorated thereafter, with $35 travel fee; animalstalk.net
You don’t know high-end doggy fashion until you step into this boutique stocked with plaid dog coats, bejeweled leather collars, a “Chewey Vuitton” plush toy, and yes, even dog strollers.
7755 Girard Avenue, La Jolla; 227 South Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
Leeds Dog Supply
The Encinitas-based brand is dedicated to doggy style and do-goodery. Their line of patterned, California-made collars and leashes are durable for indoor and outdoor wear, and 15 percent of every online sale is donated to no-kill rescues and shelters. For fashion that good, it’s the leash you can do.
Lucy Postins—founder of San Diego–based The Honest Kitchen, a natural pet food brand that’s even safe for human consumption—just released Dog Obsessed, a playful guidebook for living with your pooch. It includes 45 recipes (turkey frittata with basil and peaches, anyone?), tips for bringing a new puppy home, health regimens (like a diagram of how to clean dog ears), and essentials for the ultimate dog birthday party. There’s even a forward written by actress Jane Lynch. Pawsome!
The Original Paw Pleasers
Birthdays are a specialty at this North Park pet bakery. They bake custom cakes (even grain-free varieties) and a selection of frosted biscuits, and offer a discount on your pet’s birthday. If Fido really wants to get dolled up for his big day, the bakery is also home to Peticures by Tess.
2818 University Avenue, North Park
Three Dog Bakery
Known for their made-from-scratch ethos, Three Dog has a lineup that includes “pup-kin” spiced latte cookies, peanut butter “beg-als,” and more. The bakery uses the same ingredients we would in our own kitchens, like all-purpose and rice flours.
2670 Via de la Valle, Del Mar
Work Out with Your Dog
Leash Your Fitness
Dawn Celapino launched her doggy-and-me outdoor workout series in 2005 when she didn’t want to leave her new cairn terrier behind while she was at the gym. The series offers group hikes, boot camps, running clubs, yoga, and more across the county—all with your dog and obedience training woven into each workout. She also lends and sells leashes that tie around your waist for a hands-free workout.
Fitness pro Corey Butts leads a popular boot camp at Liberty Station—and dogs are welcome. Pups can run alongside during ladder drills, hill sprints, and more.
Yoga teacher Marjorie Nass leads Downward Dog Yoga every month at Yogasmoga boutique in La Plaza La Jolla. Once the initial chaos of the canine meet-and-greet subsides—and after a half-hour training session with Dog Zenergy—sun salutations and forward folds follow. Small pups become a part of the routine (e.g. raised with hands in tree pose), larger dogs sit alongside yogis in triangle, and all pooches get a leg stretch that’s been proven to induce tail wagging. Plenty of water and treats are provided, and proceeds from the donation-based class benefit Canine Companions for Independence. The next class is January 10.
Liberty Station–based SUP Connection leads one-hour weekend SUP Pups classes (reservations required) that begin with your life-vest-clad pooch sniffing the board to get comfortable before pushing out into the water, where you’ll paddle under the North Harbor Bridge and spot dolphins at the Navy’s dolphin training facility. They’ve had every breed from German shepherds to wolf-dog hybrids, and the instructor captures all the fun via GoPro.
Aqua Adventures Kayaks & Paddleboards encourages hydrophilic dogs to join their humans for an excursion around Mission Bay and also provides doggy life vests. (Even if your hound knows how to swim, the handle on the jacket makes it easier to pull larger dogs back into the kayak after they inevitably jump out.) Don’t forget the tennis ball for a game of aqua fetch!
From $22 per 1.5 hours for tandem kayak, aqua-adventures.com
More in dog activities:
North Beach Dog Run
With views of Hotel Del and Point Loma, and the iconic gold-flecked sand to frolic on, Coronado is one of the most scenic landscapes, period. The dog-friendly northern section has litter bag posts, as well as a handy hose-equipped washing station so you don’t bring the beach back home with you.
311 Ocean Boulevard, Coronado
OB Dog Beach
This sprawl, often dubbed “The Original Dog Beach,” adopts the nabe’s relaxed vibe and has waves on the ocean side and a strong current (beware!) along the channel.
5156 West Point Loma Boulevard, Ocean Beach
The petite half-mile dog beach in Del Mar is off-leash Labor Day through June 15. Street parking is $3 per hour closest to the entrance, but free spots abound just north and south. 29th Street to Solana Beach, Del Mar
Recently named America’s best dog park by USA Today, the peninsular park has plenty of space for dogs to run, as well as bonfire rings. It’s also supported by the nonprofit FIDO (Fiesta Island Dog Owners), dedicated to preserving the area as a leash-free zone.
1590 East Mission Bay Drive, Mission Bay
Daycare and Boarding
The bright, super-clean East Village spot has separate sections for small and big dogs, further subdivided for calmer and more hyper pups—all cage-free. Staffers ask that you watch your pooch via one-way mirror for 30 minutes during your dog’s first daycare visit as a temperament test. Then you can spy on him via webcam during his stay.
First daycare session free, then $36/day; boarding from $52/night; doozydogclub.com
Dog Days San Diego
Another East Village option. The knowledgable staff at the cage-free Dog Days are one of its best assets (we’ve asked them for training and behavior advice more than a few times). They also have separate rooms for large and small dogs, as well as grooming and walks for an additional fee.
First daycare session free, then $34/day; boarding from $55/day; dogdayssandiego.com
Snug Pet Resort
Amenities at this Sorrento Valley facility include indoor and outdoor play areas, a pool, on-site vet, live pet cam, training, a midday snack, and nap time. Owners who want cage-free boarding must have their dog pass a test beforehand.
First daycare session free, then $30/day; boarding from $49/day; snugpetresort.com
With seven locations in San Diego County, including Mission Hills, Kearny Mesa, and Chula Vista, there’s likely a CRAM near you. The cage-free facility offers a synthetic lawn, splash pond with waterfall and sun deck, ramps, bridges, dog houses, dog beds, and even a bubble machine. Plus a TV nightcap for those sleeping over.
Rather have your hound stay in a real home? DogVacay’s online interface is similar to Airbnb’s: plug in the location and dates, apply filters like daily budget and whether a yard is a must, and choose from hundreds of local sitters who’ve undergone thorough background checks. There’s 24-hour customer support, daily photos, and insurance with each reservation.
Prices vary, dogvacay.com
Canine Companions for Independence
The Northern California–based group trains assistance dogs for the disabled. At their Oceanside outpost, a pressing need is puppy raisers, who foster the animals temporarily, taking financial responsibility and teaching commands. They also need photographers and help preparing lunches for training sessions. (Our cover models are CCI dogs!)
Helen Woodward Animal Center
Opportunities at the Rancho Santa Fe nonprofit include delivering meals to pets of disabled citizens, fostering orphaned animals, walking and playing with dogs, and taking your own dog to visit patients in convalescent homes, hospitals, shelters, and mental health facilities.
San Diego Humane Society
As part of the Canine Ambassador program, dogs who pass the Canine Good Citizen certification can promote the organization at events, volunteer with Girl Scouts, and partake in a weekly Fur Fix event, when visitors can clock in animal snuggles at the SDHS Morena campus. Other volunteer posts include walking dogs and organizing events.