Surfboard paw entrance sign to Ocean Beach

If you're looking for what is arguably the best dog beach to visit this summer, then make plans to unleash your dog at Ocean Beach Dog Beach in San Diego, Calif.

I've traveled with my two dogs, Chipper and Cleo, throughout the country, so I've certainly seen my share of great (and not-so-great!) canine-friendly strips of sand.

That said, here are eight reasons why this spot gets top billing in my book — and why you should look for these stellar features at dog beaches in your area.

Historical Import

Ocean Beach Dog Beach was a pioneer: It opened in 1972 as one of the first leash-free beaches in the country and is proudly known as "The Original Dog Beach" in San Diego.

Ample Real Estate

At Ocean Beach Dog Beach, located in one of Southern California’s last genuine beach towns, pups get to romp on 38 acres of sand that borders the Pacific Ocean and the San Diego River.

Easy Access

This dog beach provides plenty of free parking in a large lot — and it's just minutes off Interstate 5 and Interstate 8.

Roaming Rights

Unlike some beaches that significantly restrict the hours that canines can be off-leash, Ocean Beach Dog Beach allows pups to play off-leash year-round. Plus, it's open 24/7.

Ocean Beach Bulldog on Surfboard

Canine Perks

The large, flat beach offers plenty of room to romp, race and dig in the soft sand. Water-loving dogs have the option of swimming in the Pacific Ocean or enjoying the jetty along the San Diego River. There's also a bonus drinking fountain for dogs. One caveat: The dog beach lacks poop bag dispensers, so bring your own.

People Perks

The pet-friendly Ocean Villa Inn is within walking distance from the dog beach, and several local restaurants welcome dogs, even featuring healthy canine menus. The Dog Beach Dog Wash is located just two blocks from the beach, so beach-goers can easily rinse down their pups when it's time to head home.

Community Support

This dog beach is operated by the Ocean Beach Town Council’s Dog Beach Committee, which has a team of volunteers who keep the beach tidy year-round. At the entrance, there's a paw-shaped bulletin board that posts dog activities.

Special Events

Dog surf competitions that draw thousands of spectators from around the globe are held here, including the West Coast surf event for the annual Purina Incredible Dog Challenge.