Dog-Friendly Guide to San Diego, CA

san diego

Population: 1.41 million
Off-leash dog parks: 17
Accommodation: Excellent
Restaurants, pubs, & cafes: 560
Most popular dog breed: Siberian Husky

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In San Diego, the third most dog-friendly city in the nation, about two-thirds of all households own dogs. That’s a lot higher than the national average of 53%. Even crazier is the number of dogs you can have if you live in San Diego. Throughout America, the maximum number of dogs you can own on average is just two. But San Diego triples that, allowing you to keep up to six dogs without a special kennel license.

Of course, that alone wouldn’t earn San Diego a top-three spot on the most dog-friendly cities list. All of the dog-focused attractions sure help though. In this city, you have 17 off-leash dog parks to pick from, plus, an off-leash dog beach meant just for four-legged friends to frolic in the waves. If that’s not enough water for your pooch, you can even take your dog out to sea on a boat, kayak, or canoe!

san diego
Credit: Trevor Fairbank, Shutterstock

Interesting Facts

  • According to San Diego Animal Control, more than 2,500 dog bites are reported in the city each year.
  • Dogs in San Diego can be declared “Dangerous Dogs” or “Public Nuisance Animals.” If this happens, you’ll have to pay extra fines and fees for licensing your dog. If a dog has attacked two people within a time span of 48 months, it’s considered a “Dangerous Dog.” To be labeled a “Public Nuisance Animal,” the dog must kill or injure another animal, violate local laws, or damage the community in some way.
  • San Diego has far different favorite breeds than the rest of the country. Throughout the US, the Labrador Retriever reigns supreme as the clear-cut favorite for many years. In San Diego, the Siberian Husky earns the top spot, followed by French Bulldogs, Poodles, Pugs, and Maltese.

Leash Laws & Licensing

All dogs within San Diego must be licensed. Licenses can be renewed on an annual, bi-annual, or three-year basis. While most of the San Diego suburbs follow similar licensing laws, some of them have their own fees, fines, or regulations. Vista and Oceanside, for example, both have their own fee schedules related to licensing.

Every dog in San Diego must also be vaccinated against rabies between the ages of three and five months. There are costly fines associated with failing to get your dog vaccinated during this time.

Dogs must be controlled when on the owner’s premises, either by voice, electronic containment system, or other restraint, such as a leash or enclosure. Dogs in public must be restrained on a leash that’s no longer than six feet by a person that’s able to completely control the animal. When dogs are traveling by car, they must be protected by a harness or similar device that will protect them from falling, jumping out the window, or being thrown.

Living in San Diego with a Dog

There might be no better city to live in for those who can’t have enough dogs around them. In most US cities, two dogs is the maximum allowed in a household.

Walking the pack of dogs on city sidewalk
Image Credit: katz, Shutterstock

San Diego makes that number seem paltry by allowing anyone to have up to six dogs in their home! This only applies to areas within San Diego city limits. Carlsbad, for instance, only allows residents to own up to three dogs.

Once you get your dog, you’ll have some responsibilities in this city. For instance, your dog must be licensed and vaccinated against rabies within 30 days of the time you either acquire the dog, move into the area, or the dog reaches four months of age.

One thing you’ll never be far from in this city is pet health care. Animal hospitals abound, and they’re located all across the city, which is a rather large place. Pet stores are also numerous, though the city is surprisingly lacking in premium pet stores. Most of the pet shops in the area are big-box chains, though a few smaller, health-conscious stores exist; you’ll just have to drive a little way to reach them.

Despite being a concrete jungle, for the most part, San Diego has many places you can take your dog for a walk, including 17 off-leash dog parks scattered about. But if you want something a bit more coastal, check out Dog Beach, the aptly named beach meant for dogs to enjoy the water and sand in a safe, off-leash environment. This is something you can’t get in most US cities!

Traveling in San Diego with a Dog

Traveling to San Diego with your dog might be even better than living there. Paying for pet accommodations can be quite pricey in this city, with large pet deposits and high fees for pet rent. But if you’re just looking for hotels, there are many options to pick from with some great offerings for pet families.

Looking for a hotel that charges no pet fees, allows multiple pets, and won’t turn away big breed dogs? Well, you’re in luck. In San Diego, there are more hotels with such pet-friendly policies than you’ll find in most cities. A few examples include the Hotel Indigo San Diego Gaslamp Quarter, the Hotel Solamar San Diego, the Kimpton Hotel Palomar Gaslamp District, and the Pendry San Diego. These hotels all allow big breeds and multiple pets with no pet fees!

Average Cost of Ownership

Pet ownership in San Diego is on the pricey side, just like everything else about living in this city. You’ll have to figure in extra cost for your living accommodations, plus the cost of licensing fees. Since San Diego is such an expensive city, everything related to your pet costs more as well. Pet care, for instance, costs an average of $13.75 per hour, just for dog walking and dog sitting services. You can expect healthcare and food for your pet to be similarly expensive as well.

Licensing your dog isn’t too pricey, luckily. You will have to renew your dog’s license since they only come in one, two, and three-year time frames. A one-year license for an altered dog is $18, or it’s $36 if your dog isn’t fixed. For two years, a fixed dog costs $33, and a license for an unaltered pooch goes for $66. If you want a three-year license, you’ll spend just $36 if your dog is fixed, or $90 if not.

Though San Diego is a very pet-friendly city, finding dog-friendly living accommodations can still be a bit of a battle since there are so many people in the market for pet-friendly homes. Because of this, pet rent and deposits can be prohibitively pricey here. It’s not uncommon to spend between $500 and $1,000 just in deposits to keep your pet in your home with you. Don’t forget the $25-$50 per month of additional pet rent, which adds up to a total yearly cost of $300-$600. And this is all for just a single dog. If you’ve got more in tow, you can multiply these figures by the number of dogs in your household, which means multi-dog families can spend an awful lot on their living accommodations.

Shelters & Rescue Centers

When you want to add a new dog to your family, the many animal centers, rescues, and shelters in San Diego make that easy to do. Places like Second Chance Dog Rescue and PAWS of Coronado make adoption accessible to everyone who qualifies. Depending on where you go and what age dog you get, you might spend anywhere from $30-$500 to adopt a dog in San Diego.

Of course, one of the best places to go for your dog adoption services is the San Diego Humane Society. They make it incredibly affordable to adopt a new best friend, with some dogs’ fees costing a mere $30.

San Diego, California
Image Credit: sanguin2, Pixabay

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As the third most dog-friendly city in the US, San Diego is a great place for any dog lover or dog family to live or visit. Living here can be pricey with a pet though, as pet deposits and pet rent can add up to quite a lot. Traveling here with a dog is ideal, thanks to the many hotels that allow large breeds and multiple pets with no pet fees!

Of course, the attractions for dogs in this city are many. Not only are there 17 off-leash parks to enjoy, there’s even an off-leash dog beach where your dog can get a beach experience you can’t find anywhere else. Whether you’re just visiting or you’re a permanent resident, San Diego is one of the best US cities to live in with dogs.

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Featured Image Credit: Dancestrokes, Shutterstock