Life’s a Beach...So let's get dog-gone!

The beach offers miles of running and strolling freedom

The beach offers miles of running and strolling freedom

.While not the immediate backyard of many Northwest residents, the sand and surf of the spectacular Oregon Coast beckons to those near and far to load up the dog for a day or weekend excursion to the beach.  With miles to run free, the bracing smell of salt, and of course the occasional stinky thing to roll on, dogs adore the ocean shores.  Even in the blustery, ragged months of winter and early spring, people still throng to the beach with their pets, game even on cold, wet days.  In fact, some coast lovers prefer the solitude assured by more biting weather.

“We love to go in the wintertime almost more,” says SE Portland resident Stephanie Engelsman.  She and husband Geoff Tichenor regularly make the 90-minute trek to the beach with their two dogs, Sky and Christie.  “When we go in summer it can be really nice in Portland, but more times than not the beach is socked in with fog so it’s almost disappointing when it’s not beautiful.  In the winter the little motel where we stay offers discounts, there’s not a lot people on the beach, and if the weather is stormy and there are huge waves it’s really fun.  More times than not we get surprised with lots of sun.  We’re not expecting it, so we just love it.”

Recently returning from a coast trip, Engelsman talked about the relative ease of a day at the surf and how her dogs enjoy the outing just as much as she and her husband do.

Christie and Sky eagerly await Geoff Tichenor to launch the ball

Christie and Sky eagerly await Geoff Tichenor to launch the ball

.“Geoff and I got married on the beach, so it’s really special for us, and going out with the dogs is just perfect.  We just welcomed Christie into our home; she’s a German Shepherd/Shar Pei mix, and she likes to swim, but she’s pretty fat at the moment so she just kind of bobs and floats, which is funny to watch.”  Engelsman says they love Manzanita.  “It’s close, never very crowded even in the summer, and super dog-friendly,” she says.  “They don’t have a single sign anywhere regarding leash laws, and they have poopie bags available in case you forget to bring your own.  They also have great dog-friendly lodging.”

Engelsman particularly likes the presence of other dogs to play with her pack.  “There’s always at least a half a dozen other dogs running around and the beach is empty and wide, especially when the tide is out.  There’s always plenty of room to take the ‘Chuckit,’ which my dogs love, and just launch it.  The wind carries it really far so my dog Sky, a Rottweiler/Blue Heeler mix, gets to run a lot.  On this last trip, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Sky so tired — she would not wake up,” Engelsman laughs.  “Coming home, she was just done. She is very ball-obsessed so we just ran her a lot.  It’s great that they can just get it all out on the beach.”

Many dog lovers consider the beach one of the more special places to share with their companions.  Debbie Fox, who lives in NE Portland with her 2-year-old Lab mix, Tiny, goes as often as she can to let her dog work out some of his excessive, youthful energy.  “He’s a monster,” she says laughing,  “He’s such a spaz because he’s still such a puppy and requires a lot of observation and training.  He’ll just run after anything or anyone. He never gets tired, and he’s not the sort of dog who will just sit on the beach.  Not like Prudence, who was happy to just chill with you.”

Mention of Prudence brings fond memories of Fox’s time with her, a Lab/Shepherd mix who passed in 2008 at age 13.  Fox and Prudence spent many long days near the ocean, running and hiking around Indian Beach, Short Sands, Manzanita, and along the Neahkanie Mountain and Pacific Coast Trails near Arch Cape.  “We did a lot of trips to the coast together,” says Fox.  “That’s where she and I would go to recalibrate.”

Fox remembers Prudence’s excitement mounting as they neared the coastal smells.  “She would get super amped up. She loved to run around the beach and play with all the other dogs.  She would get into this ‘dog-frenzy-at-the-beach’ mode — she’d swim a little, crash into the waves, try to eat dead fish, the usual.”

Fox and her friend Venae Rodriguez took Prudence to the coast the day before she passed.  Fox had adopted Prudence as a puppy in her native Indiana and the two had been inseparable.   In her later years Prudence lost the use of her back legs, so Fox obtained a “wheelchair,” allowing Prudence to stay mobile and active.  When considering which beach to visit that last trip, Fox chose Manzanita for its well-packed sand, making it easy for Prudence to maneuver her cart and play with other dogs.  Dogs on the beach are joyful to watch, and recalling the beauty of that day touches Fox today . . . and will forever.

Debbie Fox and Prudence soak up the sun at the shore.

Debbie Fox and Prudence soak up the sun at the shore.

“We just had a really nice spot on the beach,” says Fox.  “She had lots of love and attention because it was a busy day.  There were lots of people out, people flying kites and lots of other dogs, so she got lots of dog playtime.  There was this beach karma feel to the day.  We just laid on the beach forever and soaked it all up.”  Fox is quiet for a moment, remembering the day.  “There is a magical friskiness that dogs get at the beach, so it made the day magical,” she says.  “It was a beautiful day for her.”

Most Northwest beaches are dog-friendly, allowing families to take their pets to beaches such as Cannon, Agate, Indian, Nehalem and Short Sands.  Many are managed by Oregon State Parks, and do require guardians to keep pooches on leash no longer than 6-feet or, if no leash, stay within voice control range.

Some beaches may be a little more lenient in their leash requirements, but it’s proper etiquette to keep an eye on your pet, prevent them from harassing people, other dogs or wildlife . . . or nipping a hot dog from an unwatched grill.  People who like to let their dogs roam should keep close watch on those who like to play in the surf; riptides and sneaker waves can threaten dogs as well as humans. 

Keeping your dog safe and well-behaved allows families and their pets to enjoy all of the joys and freedoms Northwest coast beaches have to offer.

To learn more about some of the best pet friendly beaches, trails and lodgings in the world — within a day’s drive, visit or

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Nikki Jardin is a Portland-based freelance writer who loves to write about people dedicated to making the world a better place for all beings. When she’s not writing, she’s either exploring the great outdoors, traveling, or volunteering with Fences For Fido, a local nonprofit dedicated to giving dogs freedom from a previously chained life.