Dog Friendly Beaches in the Outer Banks – NOT!

It’s hard to find dog friendly beaches close to us, and we had to drive 12 hours one way for our beach dog vacation. We stayed in Rodanthe, which is in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, also known as the OBX, and our beach house was walking distance from the house where the Nights of Rodanthe movie was filmed. We were off to a good start.

Both of our dogs are rescue dogs, and the younger dog Sierra has had a heck of a time adjusting to both people and other dogs, so we’ve been trying to help her overcome whatever ghosts haunt her from before we adopted her. A beach dog road trip to the Outer Banks had helped our dog Dakota let go of bad memories and trust in her new family, so we were hoping a similar trip would do the same for Sierra.

Our first two days on the beach were promising. For the first time since we adopted her, Sierra dog was starting to relax in strange surroundings, and she actually reached out to people when we told her it was okay. This trip was supposed to help her get over the fears, as it had done for our other rescue dog several years earlier. The beach was supposed to be fun for her.

Then came an evil phantom, in the form of a black dog which came charging down from its beach house at us. If the owner hadn’t rushed out and grabbed her dog, there would have been a dog fight, and we wouldn’t have been able to stop it.

Our dogs were on harnesses attached to long dog ropes so that we could give them 25 feet of freedom when no one was around, but reel them in close when we approached humans who might not want to be bothered by dogs, or when other dogs were passing by. However, the black dog was not on a leash, so nobody was there to reel it in and keep it off of our dogs.

By the time the lady reached us, the black dog was right up in our dogs’ faces and we were attempting to back away into the ocean, literally. She grabbed her dog by the collar and took it back to where she was sitting up under the beach house, and we quickly continued down the beach.

It all happened so fast. We weren’t expecting it knowing that the beach had a leash law prohibiting unleashed dogs. We assumed that she’d “get the message” and take precautions to ensure that her dog didn’t get loose again. We hadn’t even passed anywhere near her dog when it ran out, as the beach houses are back from the beach to prevent flooding.

On the way back, the black dog came charging out again, and this time I saw that its teeth were bared as it approached, and it was snarling. The dog was clearly hostile, and rushing at our dogs, so they reacted in kind. We had hold of our dogs and backed them up into the ocean in the hopes that her dog wouldn’t follow us, but again, the black dog was not on a leash and we were literally seconds away from a nasty dog fight. You cannot even hope to prevent a dog fight if any of the dogs are off leash, and the black dog was clearly trying to pick a fight.

Again, the lady ran out, apologized, made up some bogus excuse about how sand had gotten into the latch of the dog leash. I made it very clear that her dog was supposed to be leashed, that it was the law on this beach, and that it wasn’t cool for her to not be in control of her dog. The reason I call her excuse bogus is because we saw her dog running loose every day thereafter, sometimes without a human anywhere in sight, particularly in the morning when she let it out to potty unsupervised. She numbered among the rude, crude dog owners who ruin it for everybody else.

The unleashed dog incident destroyed our chances of helping our rescue dog exorcise the ghosts of her past. From that day forward, she was scared to death to walk down the beach, and so were we. Sierra literally walked down the beach looking over her shoulder with every step, fully expecting some manic dog to come charging at us again. Once that dog had terrorized her, she went from having fun and coming out of her shell, to being scared of people, the sound of waves crashing, everything.

Our beach walks went from leisurely strolls, to scanning for dogs running loose, and at one point we saw another big dog approaching us off leash and we hightailed it for the nearest stairs, and hid out on someone’s deck until the dog was far enough away that it was unlikely to bother us. The dog did appear to be friendly and the owner hollered out that it was okay, and I replied, “No. It isn’t.” We didn’t want to take a chance. Had the big dog been on a leash we might have tried to let the dogs socialize, but it’s just too big a risk with an unleashed dog.

After that, it was as if the floodgates burst loose, and all up and down the beach in Rodanthe there were dogs running loose. The inconsiderate dog owners simply did not care about anyone else except their own little family units. They did not abide the Do Unto Others rule of being cognizant of how your actions affect the people around you.

I’ve read too many stories of dogs ending up in the hospital after being attacked by unleashed dogs, or even leashed dogs where the owner lost control. I personally know several people whose dogs were killed by other dogs, so I’m extremely gun-shy. My neighbor’s dog was killed by a bigger dog who was genuinely friendly, but the big dog accidently injured the small dog, who died. On another occasion, it was the man’s own dogs who ganged up on a dog he’d recently adopted and killed it. So trusting some stranger’s dog running free, a dog I know nothing about, it’s not going to happen.

Every dog owner will tell you the same thing, “Well gee, our dog is friendly, he gets along with other dogs, and he doesn’t bite.” But here’s the thing, every dog who has ever bitten someone, or attacked another dog, or mauled a child, had a first time. At one point, none of those dogs had ever bothered anyone, either. And you can bet that the majority of those attack dogs were probably allowed to run loose, as the first step in their journey toward the destruction of another dog, family, or child.

Not only that, dogs that run loose poop on the beach, and nobody cleans it up. We carry zip lock sandwich bags in case our dogs do the dirty, and we make every attempt to control where they dump their load to keep it away from the beach. No matter where the dogs poop, however, we turn the baggie inside out, scoop the poop, seal the baggie and put it in a plastic handled grocery bag to deposit in a dumpster.

Little kids play on the beach. People lay out on the beach. The beach should be a safe place for everybody, but the rude, crude dog owners who let their dogs run loose turn the beach into a toilet, and they create an environment where both people and dogs are afraid to go out and enjoy the beach.

Rodanthe, North Carolina, is not a cheap vacation. Driving to the Outer Banks is a 12 hour drive each way for us, making it a very long road trip. That’s a lot of driving to have some inconsiderate dog owner ruin your fun.

Dogs running loose is how the beaches get shut down for dogs. The reason it’s so hard to find a dog friendly beach is because of dog owners who completely lack all consideration for others. They let their dogs run free in spite of the leash laws, and the next thing you know, dogs are no longer allowed on that beach, and another dog beach goes dogless.

For the love of God, people, PLEASE don’t be the reason that another beach bans dogs. Leash your dog at the beach! Have a heart for the other beach-goers.


The story of rescue dog Dakota, who’d been bounced from home to home for all of her problems until we adopted her, is told in the book Bad Dog to Best Friend. It chronicles our first year with her, and gives detailed descriptions of how we overcame her potty in the house and destructive chewing. She metamorphed from a dog we couldn’t trust for 30 seconds, into a dog we totally trust with full run of the house. The previous road trip to Rodanthe, North Carolina, with our dog Dakota, was the beach vacation that exorcised Dakota dog’s bad memory ghosts. The book ends with photos of Dakota at the beach, and the heartwarming story of her first road trip with us.

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