The sun! The sand! The surf! Beach days are even more fun when your furry friend is along for the ride. Taking some time to prepare for your outing together and knowing what to expect once you get there makes for a safe and happy excursion.
Pack Proper Gear
Arriving at the beach without preparing for your pup’s basic needs can put a damper on your day. Lather him up with sunscreen specifically formulated for dogs at least 30 minutes before heading out—paying special attention to his ears, nose, and areas where he has less fur, like his belly, which can get burned by reflected light.
Bring multiple gallon-sized jugs of fresh water and a bowl for him to drink out of. Drinking salt water can cause your dog to vomit and also act as a laxative, so make sure you’re providing ample fresh water for your pooch. Use whatever water is left over to rinse off the irritating salt water when you’re done for the day.
Put together a dog first aid kit of bandages, cotton balls, ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide in case of jellyfish stings or cut paws. If your buddy is a puppy or isn’t very skilled at swimming, purchase a dog life jacket to keep him buoyant as he splashes around.
Bring a thick blanket for him to lie on, both on the sand and in your car on the way home, and some towels to dry him off. A large beach umbrella will provide him with some shade from the hot sun.
Prepare for Surprising Behavior
Your dog may be ecstatic—bordering on delirious—as he romps on the beach and barks at the surf.
Since you probably haven’t had a chance to work with your dog amid the novel distractions at the beach, be aware that he might not be as responsive to you as he is in your yard. Don’t let your dog off leash until you’re confident that he’ll respond to your training cues like “come” and “stay,” and will refrain from raiding other people’s food and supplies. Another factor is the crash of the waves and shouts of giddy kids, which may drown out your own voice and make your cues inaudible. If danger is lurking in the surf, you may have trouble alerting him to it so he can remain safe.
When you get to the beach, keep your pup on a dog leash as you scope out the situation and assess the circumstances. Ask yourself important questions: Is the area overly crowded with small children who could get knocked over by an exuberant pup? How many other dogs are on the beach, are they playing appropriately together and what’s the size difference between the dogs? Is the beach littered with trash he can eat or broken glass and beer caps that can cut his paws? If it seems like the environment might be challenging for your dog, keep him on leash until the situation calms down, or move to a less populated part of the beach.
Remember that your first priority is your dog’s wellbeing, so don’t get so caught up in your own good time that you forget about your furry best friend. Always keep an eye on your dog and make sure that he’s happy and safe.
Also, make sure to pay attention to warning flags that may be flying at lifeguard stands or along the boardwalk. Purple flags indicate marine pests such as jellyfish, stingrays, or even sharks, while red flags inform the public of rough conditions such as riptides, strong surf, or bad currents.
If you have a brachycephalic breed, an out of shape pooch or a senior, be aware that the heat and stress of prolonged beach running might overwhelm your dog. Make sure to take frequent hydration breaks underneath the shade of your umbrella. Don’t forget to watch for signs of overheating, such as rapid panting or excessive drooling, problems with coordination, diarrhea or vomiting, collapse, and losing consciousness.
Bring a Long Leash
A well-trained dog is a pleasure on outings and minimizes worry that he’ll run off or get into something harmful. Your dog absolutely must come to you when you call for him (called the recall cue) every single time without fail. If he has not mastered this command, keep him on a long leash, about 20 to 30 feet, while enjoying the sand and surf. He’ll still have enough room to frolic and run, but you’ll be able to reel him in if necessary. Bring tasty treats with you to get in some really great practice of the recall command on-leash with the distractions of nature and people. Lay the praise on thick with each instance of success and give him a treat every time he obeys. Soon you’ll both be going out for your beach day without the need to leash.
Other Rules to Follow
Many beaches have individual laws that can leave pet parents with a fine or citation if not obeyed. Below are a few more rules to look for before hitting the sand and surf:
Puppies under four months not allowed: Young dogs are especially vulnerable to overheating and could face lifelong behavioral challenges if they have a negative experience with another dog. It’s best to leave your little friend at home.~~~~
Vaccinations must be up-to-date: Contact your vet to make sure your dog is current on all his licenses and vaccinations to keep him—and the other pooches he interacts with—safe.
ID tags on a collar: Micro-chipping is a good idea, but the quickest and easiest way to identify your dog to others is your pooch’s name and your phone number on his ID tags, worn on a waterproof collar.
Obey leash laws: Many beaches allow off-leash fun, but not all. Check the posted rules for specifics about what time of day dogs are allowed on the beach, and if they need to remain on leash. ~~~~
Bring dog poop bags: Keep an eye on your pooch to clean up after his potty breaks.
Keep off the dunes: Most dunes and the sea oats that grow on them are protected. Keep your dog off the dunes to avoid any trouble.