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Life’s a Beach for Some Lucky Dogs

  • This Sunday May 27, 2012 photo shows dogs and their owners enjoying a sunny afternoon at the Huntington Dog Beach in Huntington Beach, Calif. Huntington, also known as Surf City USA, is one of the best known dog surfing beaches in the world. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

    This Sunday May 27, 2012 photo shows dogs and their owners enjoying a sunny afternoon at the Huntington Dog Beach in Huntington Beach, Calif. Huntington, also known as Surf City USA, is one of the best known dog surfing beaches in the world. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

  • This  March 23, 2013 photo provided by Caroline Fenton Photography shows environmental specialist Craig Haverstick getting a kiss from his dog Stanley a 9-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever in Del Mar, Calif. during the DockDogs event. Haverstick has  has been taking Stanley to the beaches around San Diego at least once a week since he adopted him eight years ago. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Caroline Fenton Photography)

    This March 23, 2013 photo provided by Caroline Fenton Photography shows environmental specialist Craig Haverstick getting a kiss from his dog Stanley a 9-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever in Del Mar, Calif. during the DockDogs event. Haverstick has has been taking Stanley to the beaches around San Diego at least once a week since he adopted him eight years ago. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Caroline Fenton Photography)

  • FILE - This June 8, 2012 file photo shows King, a nine-year-old golden retriever rides a wave while surfing in the Incredible Dog Challenge dog surfing competition in San Diego. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, file)

    FILE - This June 8, 2012 file photo shows King, a nine-year-old golden retriever rides a wave while surfing in the Incredible Dog Challenge dog surfing competition in San Diego. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, file)

  • This Sunday May 27, 2012 photo shows dogs and their owners playing in the surf at the Huntington Dog Beach in Huntington Beach, Calif. Huntington, also known as Surf City USA, is one of the best known dog surfing beaches in the world. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

    This Sunday May 27, 2012 photo shows dogs and their owners playing in the surf at the Huntington Dog Beach in Huntington Beach, Calif. Huntington, also known as Surf City USA, is one of the best known dog surfing beaches in the world. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

  • This Sunday May 27, 2012 photo shows dogs and their owners enjoying a sunny afternoon at the Huntington Dog Beach in Huntington Beach, Calif. Huntington, also known as Surf City USA, is one of the best known dog surfing beaches in the world. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
  • This  March 23, 2013 photo provided by Caroline Fenton Photography shows environmental specialist Craig Haverstick getting a kiss from his dog Stanley a 9-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever in Del Mar, Calif. during the DockDogs event. Haverstick has  has been taking Stanley to the beaches around San Diego at least once a week since he adopted him eight years ago. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Caroline Fenton Photography)
  • FILE - This June 8, 2012 file photo shows King, a nine-year-old golden retriever rides a wave while surfing in the Incredible Dog Challenge dog surfing competition in San Diego. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, file)
  • This Sunday May 27, 2012 photo shows dogs and their owners playing in the surf at the Huntington Dog Beach in Huntington Beach, Calif. Huntington, also known as Surf City USA, is one of the best known dog surfing beaches in the world. There are about 95,000 miles of shoreline around the United States and among the most treasured by dog lovers are those where you can unleash the beast. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Los Angeles — When Craig Haverstick approaches the beach with his dog in tow, Stanley instinctively knows he’s in for a treat. His ears perk up and he starts sniffing the salty air.

“Chesapeake Bay retrievers are like plants, they need to be watered every now and then,” Haverstick said of the 9-year-old he’s been taking to the beach in San Diego weekly for eight years. “We have some great dog beaches. Dogs and people both drool over them.”

Dog beaches account for a tiny fraction of the thousands of miles of U.S. shoreline, but they are treasured by pet owners and their pooches.

“Off-leash dog beaches are a canine’s dream come true,” said Lisa Porter, owner of Pet Hotels of America, a travel website that lists thousands of beaches and parks where dogs are allowed on leash or can run free.

Every beach has its own draw. San Diego offers three off-leash options: Fiesta Island in Mission Bay is great for swimming; Ocean Beach Dog Beach is good for dogs to play together; and Coronado’s Dog Beach is described as magical.

Beaches where unleashed dogs are allowed complete freedom are typically fenced, offer drinking water and showers for dogs, bags to pick up dog feces and trash cans.

Dog lovers say the biggest problem is that there aren’t enough beaches for their pets and parking is often scarce.

Efforts to create more pooch-friendly beaches, such as one that died in Santa Monica two years ago, have run into resistance from California State Parks.

Critics say letting beaches go to the dogs threatens species such as shore birds, jeopardizes the safety of visitors, ruins the experience for beachgoers and can pollute water and sand with poop and urine.

Fans who frequent the beaches say they provide a great playground for their hounds and can even be therapeutic.

When Carol Kearney first adopted Buddy, an abused 70-pound, 2-year-old Staffordshire terrier mix, he was afraid of noises and terrified of water.

“When he heard traffic, it was like he was trying to get out of his skin,” Kearney said.

Letting him run on the beach less than a mile from her 14th floor home in a Coronado high-rise was the only way to calm him down.

Now he digs in the sand, chases his dog pals or swims through the waves to retrieve float toys.

East Coast recommendations are Duck Beach in Outer Banks, N.C.; Bonita Beach Dog Park in Bonita Springs, Fla.; and Paw Park in South Brohard Beach, Fla.