The Coast Guard says the man and his wife were walking on the beach near Point Reyes on New Year's Day when a wave overtook the dog. Point Reyes is a popular tourist destination about 30 miles northwest of San Francisco.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports the couple went into the water to rescue the dog but the man was swept away.
His body was found about three hours later.
The wife and dog made it safely to shore.
Names haven't been released.
In November, three people drowned in roiling surf while trying to save their dog at Big Lagoon state beach near Arcata.