For many of us, one of the great things about being at the beach is seeing the boundless joy of dogs as they dig in the sand, splash in the water, and run. This kind of running, mind you, is like no other. Free from concrete, car danger, and leashes, they run for the pure enjoyment of it: sometimes in a beeline towards nothing in particular, sometimes in haphazard zigzags and circles. Dogs on the beach can be an excellent source of entertainment.
Sounds great, right?
Not to everybody. We all love our dogs, but some are not as well-mannered as we like to think they are. In order to keep dogs, their people, and everyone else happy, everyone must follow some basic rules of etiquette when having dogs on the beach.
One of the most debated issue is whether or not dogs should be on a leash while enjoying the beach. A Bureau of Land Management brochure as well as the Bandon City Police imply that leashes are not mandatory for dogs on the beach. However, they both emphasize that dogs should either be on a leash or under voice control. Dog lovers know that when our beloved canine friends start following a scent or are extremely motivated to run off to greet another dog or person, sometimes it’s very difficult to call them back.
Dogs on the beach taking off from their people to go see someone can cause unanticipated problems. A dog owner may know the dog well enough to be sure he or she won’t start a fight or bite, but a dog running full-speed at another dog or a person can be perceived as a threat, scaring a person or causing another dog to go on the defense. Be respectful of others; as great as your dog may be, many people have had bad experiences with dogs, and not all dogs play well with others. If you see another dog on the beach who is leashed, take that as a sign that that dog may get aggressive with yours, and leash your pet.
Keep in mind that there are all kinds of animals and plants that call the beach their home. Although it can be fun to watch Fido scatter a flock of birds, steer your dog away from them, and consider using the leash if the chase impulse is too strong. It’s not uncommon to see a bird resting on the beach, and others nest in the grasses at the shoreline. Be very careful to keep your dog away from these birds. Some beaches, including the beach south of the Tish-A-Tang access, are protected nesting sites for the western snowy plover. Dogs are not allowed at all in these areas from March 15-September 15. On this BLM brochure is a map showing these areas.
At times of the year, some of the resident harbor seals make their way up the beach for a rest in the sun. Watch for these; they are not sick, injured, or dead, but it is important to protect them from curious dogs. The seals also enjoy resting on the rocks in front of Elephant Rock near the Coquille Point stairs. All humans and dogs on the beach must keep their distance and not approach these seals.
Another important rule of etiquette is to be responsible for dog waste left on the beach. It may seem harmless to leave it on the beach in the open air, but just like on the sidewalk, no one wants to step on it and bring it into their cars or homes. Especially when walking barefoot!
If you have concerns about humans on the beach not following these basic rules of dogs on the beach, it’s a good idea to call the local police right away to report the issue, especially if you or your dog has been attacked by another dog. Try to get the name of the dog owner and a description of the dog.
Discussing rules to follow sometimes feels like taking the fun out of enjoying our dogs on the beach. However, everyone being responsible only makes it possible for everyone to have a good time and take in the beauty of the beach that helps make Bandon such a great place to be!