DOGS AND BEACHES DON’T MIX? (Musings on Why Dogs Aren’t Allowed on Beaches)

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On the way home from my first foray into the world of travelling with my dog, I decided to stop in Goderich. I figured a stroll on the town’s impressive beach hugging the amazingly blue Lake Huron would be ideal for a needed break from the car. Though I’d enjoyed a few previous visits there—before Tessi, my memory didn’t easily give up the info on how to find it again. When I finally sighted the sparkling water, I was dismayed and annoyed to be greeted with “No Dogs Allowed on the Beach” signs.

Added to the insult was seeing, beyond the signs, the numerous geese clearly feeling quite at home on the sandy stretch. So, assuming the ban is due to issues of excessive abandoned dog poop—because any other reason was beyond me—what about the scads of goose poop?

I left feeling quite unimpressed with the town of Goderich and their canine-unfriendly status.

Poopy Reasoning

I couldn’t understand such a policy specific to these areas.

As Tessi and I continued to travel over the years, I would realize dogs are typically not allowed on beaches. As a first time dog owner, I couldn’t understand such a policy specific to these areas; our four-legged buddies are tolerated in forests, parks and other natural settings. If dog excrement is the problem, pet owners are just as negligent in those places. I eventually came to the conclusion that since beach goers are more likely to run around in bare feet, they chance stepping on the nasty stuff directly.

Wildlife Protection

I’ve also come to understand canine visitors are prohibited in an effort to protect wildlife—even leashed dogs apparently can be disruptive. From the restriction of her leash, Tessi just stares intently at any wildlife that appears in her vision—once she realizes she can’t chase after it. I suppose others of her kind probably bark excessively.

The Human Factor

Nice beaches are usually family beaches. When picturing these popular summer spots in my mind, I’d see the kids playing in the sand with their pails and shovels and the parents relaxing at their sides. Part of the image includes other sun lovers playing Frisbee with their Labrador retrievers. I guess that’s too ideal.

Too many untrained dogs and their uncaring owners show up and intrude upon families trying to enjoy their sun time. The animals charge up to children and scare them or blast them with wet sandy spray when they shake too close to them.

Problems and resulting policies seem to come from conflicts between people who like dogs and people who don’t. Really, they should be between the inconsiderate dog owners and everyone else. If those owners were respectful with their charges—pick up their waste and keep them from bothering other visitors and wildlife— acceptance would be more prevalent.

To exclude just canines for offensive behaviour doesn’t seem fair. How about considering other human transgressions—litter, still-lit cigarette butts and broken glass. In that case, many humans should be banned.

The Pristine Factor

I almost suspect the more pristine the sand, the less likely pooches will be allowed on it. That time we made our delayed journey through Goderich, we had been travelling from the Bruce Peninsula. We had explored much of the rocky shorelines of Georgian Bay without coming across any specific policies. Yet, the sandy Lake Huron side of the peninsula is reportedly restricted to humans.

To add to the theory, our leashed furry pals are welcomed on our nearby Lake Erie beach, which happens to be made of courser granules flecked with pebbles and small stones.

Dog-Friendly Exists

In a continual effort to include Tessi in all my travels, I tend to eventually find designated dog-friendly spots—sometimes it takes a bit of investigation, whether its through fieldwork or via the computer beforehand. It’s convenient for us that I don’t care if the terrain is sandy or rocky; I just want to be by the water.

At many of the country’s regions we visit, because I love tranquil rural settings, I frequently stumble across places where I can let Tessi run.

Locals often know of hidden spots. (Some may be technically dog-free, but since they’re hardly used by the public, those locals overlook the policy—often making use of these spots for their own daily dog walks.)

With a little research, I eventually found two dog-friendly sections along the shore in Goderich, a stony one tucked in between the sandy areas, and a rugged shore—rocky, muddy and covered in half-dead vegetation—at the end of the roadway. The discovery didn’t help in my original visit, but a few years later made me think better of the town.

Resources for Dog-Friendly Beaches

For Further Reading

 © Cheryl Smyth, 2014

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