We can think of few places better for outdoor-loving dogs than the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s got everything a canine could love: fields to run in, mountains to hike through, and beautiful beaches for swimming.
Most owners think of exercise for dogs as a long walk or a game of fetch, but swimming is a fantastic way to switch things up. It’s a full-body workout that conditions the heart and lungs, helping your pet’s body breathe easier and pump blood more efficiently.
Swimming is also good for a dog’s muscles. The water acts as a light resistance band or weight, and your dog must work harder to make her way around than if she were simply walking. But don’t worry, this resistance isn’t damaging to the joints. In fact, the water’s buoyancy nature helps support those delicate areas. This means—you guessed it!–swimming is also a great choice for senior pets, animals recovering from injury, dogs with mobility issues, or anyone who just needs a gentle yet effective form of exercise.
Ready to get started? Here are three great places (plus a bunch of beaches) to take your dog swimming in San Francisco.
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1040 Palmetto Avenue, Pacifica, CA
By appointment only
The Rex Center offers both rehabilitative treatments and general exercise. Elderly dogs or pets with mobility issues will enjoy the soft, easy pace of a swim in the center’s warm water tubs while still strengthening their muscles and heart while being easy on the joints. Dogs in need of rehab will also receive bodywork by experienced caregivers to increase the benefits of aqua therapy.
Rex also provides basic swim lessons and exercise for healthy pets. Inexperienced swimmers work with coaches, toys, and flotation aids to help develop their swimming skills and increase their confidence. The coaches work directly in the water, so you can rest assured that your pet will have someone competent and capable to rely on as they experience their first swim.
If your dog is already a great swimmer, attends a New Client Swim session, and is approved Rex’s coaches, they can participate in an advanced session. Multiple dogs of the same household may also swim together, but you’ll have to talk to a Rex coach to make arrangements first.
What’s more, all of the sessions at The Rex Center are private, so you can rest assured that your dog will get a VIP experience.
1129 Old Country Road, San Carlos, CA
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Dog Pool Club is exactly what it sounds like: a public pool for dogs! In fact, the only difference between this facility and a standard pool is that no humans are allowed in the water (for safety reasons). You don’t have to make an appointment, so no need to worry about scheduling around your busy day. All you need to do is sign a waiver, follow the rules, and you’re ready to take your pet swimming.
The club does require all owners to stay on the premises while their pets swim. But hey, you wouldn’t want to miss your dog having this much fun anyway.
Moreover, the people at Dog Pool Club care about more than your pup. They also want to make sure you’re having a good time, so the business has a little coffee shop attached. Enjoy a latte while your dog partakes in the fun.
Dog Pool Club has two larger saltwater pools at four feet deep, plus a wading pool for smaller dogs. The small amount of chlorine produced by the salt acts as a natural cleaning agent, and the water is filtered on a nightly basis.
Bay-area residents, rejoice! San Francisco is arguably one of the most-dog friendly coastlines in the country. We’ve got a list of 14—count ‘em, fourteen—beaches where dogs are allowed.
Note that some of these are leash-only or may have dangerous tides at times. Check the list below for locations that are both safe and allow dogs to romp around off-leash:
- Lands End
- Esplanade Beach
- Bolinas Beach
- Rodeo Beach
- Buchanan Dog Beach
- Crissy Field Beach
- Muir Beach
- Point Isabel Dog Park
These beaches have a variety of terrain, from flat sandy shores to hilly spots perfect for climbing. Just make sure to abide by all posted rules and keep your leash handy, as most parks require one outside of designated areas.
What to Know About Taking Your Dog Swimming in San Francisco
There are a few rules and guidelines to follow to make sure you, your dog, and other patrons all have a great time:
- Get vaccinated! Keep your dog up-to-date on her shots so she doesn’t contract a virus or parasite from others.
- Don’t forget the rabies shot. It’s more than responsible dog ownership; it’s often a legal requirement.
- Know how to keep your dog safe in the heat, especially if you plan to spend the better part of a day outside.
- Let your dog play off-leash at a beach only if he’s a strong swimmer. Your pet will be safer, and you’ll have peace of mind. If your dog is nervous, it’s best to stick with pools that have experienced pet supervisors in the water, like The Rex Center.
- Bring supplies such as poop bags, fresh water, and a bowl.
- Watch out for the heat! Pets can suffer from sunburn or heatstroke just like humans. Go to a beach with shady areas or bring a tent. Pet-friendly sunscreen is also available to help prevent burns. Ears and noses are most susceptible, but dogs with light skin or fur should have the majority of their bodies covered.
If this seems like a lot, don’t worry. Rover has plenty of qualified dog walkers in San Francisco to keep your best friend safe, happy, and healthy all year round.