The Outer Banks is about as dog-friendly as it gets! Our pups are big parts of our lives and you’re sure to encounter dogs just about everywhere you go. You’ll see doggie water dishes outside of stores and restaurants, dogs riding and walking with their people, and of course lots of four-legged fun on the beach. But there are a few things that you need to know if you’re going to be bringing your dog on vacation with you, and following these common-sense tips will ensure that your dog has as much fun on the Outer Banks as you do!
First, let’s break down leash laws by town:
• Duck: No leash laws, but dogs must be supervised and under control at all times.
• Southern Shores: Year-round leash law and during the season, dogs can only be on the beach (leashed) before 9am and after 6pm.
• Kitty Hawk: In season, dogs are only allowed on the beach before 10am and after 6pm. Dogs must be on a leash but it can be removed if the dog won’t disturb other people.
• Kill Devil Hills: Year-round leash law, and dogs can’t be on the beach between the hours of 9am and 6pm, in season.
• Nags Head: Dogs can be on the beach any time, as long as they are leashed.
• Cape Hatteras: Dogs allowed on the beach at all time as long as they are leashed.
You can find more detailed information about regulations in each town by visiting their websites. Unless your dog has impeccable recall, it’s probably a wise idea to keep him leashed at all times. This is for his safety as well as the safety of other people and pets on the beach. Your dog is in a strange environment, with new sounds and smells, and may be more likely to run off or behave differently than he does at home. It’s great if your dog is friendly, but not every other dog on the beach plays well with others. Large, excited dogs can scare little kids and most people wouldn’t want a sandy, wet, slobbery pooch interrupting their beach nap! Just remember, if someone asks you to call your dog, yelling “he’s friendly!” while Rover happily ignores you won’t prevent a fight from happening or keep your 110 pound Goldendoodle from knocking over a toddler.
Another thing to keep in mind: the beach is hot in the summer! In the middle of the day, the sand can reach temperatures of 120 degrees. If it hurts you to walk across it, it’s going to hurt your pooch too. A simple way to test the temperature of the ground is to place the back of your hand on the pavement/sidewalk/sand for five seconds. If it’s too hot to leave your hand there for the full five seconds, it’s too hot for your dog. Their paw pads can burn and blister, which could require an ER vet visit and result in a very miserable dog. Just like humans, dogs can get heatstroke. This can cause major organ damage and even death if not addressed quickly. Signs to look for are excessive panting and drooling, wobbly (drunk-looking, disoriented) movement, vomiting, and a rapid heart rate. Dehydration is also common in the summer, especially if your dog ingests too much salt water or sand. Be sure to keep cool, clean, fresh water readily available at all times. Overweight dogs, the very young and very old, breeds with long hair, and flat-faced breeds (like pugs and bulldogs) are at a higher risk of heat stroke. Don’t assume your dog can swim! Even if they swim at home in the pool or lake, the ocean is a whole different ballgame. Thereare strong currents and the sandy bottomcan drop off suddenly.
Last but not least, pick up the poop! Dog poop is a huge pollutant and no, letting the ocean wash it away or covering it with sand does not count as picking it up. Many public beach accesses have stations with bags and trashcans and, word to the wise, most locals will call you out if they see you leaving the poop behind. Not only is it really unpleasant to step in, but pet waste is full of bacteria that can be harmful to both people and wildlife.
The Outer Banks is a great place to visit with your four-legged pal! Miles of beaches, trails, walking paths, and parks make it simple and fun to get out and explore with your best friend. You’re likely to find a cafe or two that will welcome your pooch on their outdoor patio, and many of our shops even have souvenirs for Fido too. More and more of our rental homes and hotels are becoming pet friendly, making it easier than ever to bring them with you on vacation. There’s no reason to leave your dog at home anymore, and as long as you play it safe and remain respectful of our unique local environment, you’re both sure to have a tail waggin’ good time!
Meg Puckett is a social media specialist, writer, and canine massage therapist who lives in Kill Devil Hills with her two goofy pit bulls, Ruca and Turtle.