First Things First
Check with your local beaches before you pack up the dog, since not all beaches allow them. Depending on the time of year, some beaches allow dogs during the off-season, but summer is a different story. Call ahead or visit the beach's website for information. It's also important if you can bring your dog, to find out whether or not they need to be on leash or if they can roam free. Bring a long leash no matter what, but know ahead of time if there will be an area where a leash isn't necessary. If they don't need to have a leash, only let them be without it if you know for an absolute fact that they will respond to your voice commands. Other dogs, people, certain scents, birds, etc, may catch their attention and cause them to tune you out, which could be a recipe for disaster (no one wants a dog fight). Some people on the beach (as well as easily frightened children) will be less dog-friendly than others, so be mindful of who your dog might be approaching to avoid any sort of snafu.
Never, EVER leave your dog unattended. Even the most well-trained dog can get distracted; pay extra special attention to your surroundings and any potential situations that may cause your dog to wander or run off. Follow ALL of the rules set by the beach. You don't want to be the reason that dogs aren't allowed at that particular beach anymore.
Pro Swimmer or Doggie Swim Vest?
If you want to bring your dog to the beach, you probably have a good idea that your furry friend loves to swim. If this is the first time your dog will be swimming, you may want to read up on his breed just to be sure. For example, shar peis tend to be afraid of water. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but finding out if swimming is characteristic of the breed will be a good indicator of how enthusiastic (or timid) they might be. When you bring the pup to the water, if he isn't diving right in, take it slow. Don't force your dog to go in. He may feel more comfortable if you head in first and call him. If you're nervous or unsure, purchasing a dog life vest to bring with you would be a safe bet.
Be Wary of Temperature Extremes
Depending on where you are in the country, summer at the beach can bring about two extremes: heat from the sun and a cold, cold ocean. Pay attention to how your dog is acting and responding while he's with you throughout the day, since there could be the potential of either heat stroke or hypothermia (if he's been swimming his little heart out).
Some signs of heat stroke in a dog include:
- Rapid panting
- Bright red tongue
- Thick, sticky saliva
If you think that your dog has heat stroke while you're at the beach, take the following actions immediately:
- Move the pet into the shade and apply cool (not cold) water all over their body to gradually lower their temperature.
- Apply ice packs or cool towels to the pet's head, neck and chest only.
- Allow the pet to drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
- Then take him to the nearest vet.
Some signs of hypothermia in a dog include:
- Muscle stiffness
- Difficulty breathing
- Fixed and dilated pupils
If you think that your dog has hypothermia while you're at the beach, take the following actions immediately:
- Wrap your dog in towels and blankets that have been warmed by the sun.
- Bring extra fresh water in bottles and leave them out in the sun
- This warm water can be applied to your dog to bring his body temperature back up.
- If your dog has still not stopped shivering and has continued lethargy, bring him to the nearest vet.
As much as we wish, our dogs can't tell us when they're in pain and not feeling good. The above lists are certainly not all-inclusive, so if you notice anything out of the ordinary with your dog's behavior, get him out of the elements immediately. A few ways to prevent heat stroke is to bring lots of fresh, cool water that they can drink. A spray bottle with cool water that you can spray him down with will also help in temperature regulation. A bonus of having fresh water with you is that you can also clean the sand and salt water from his paws, which can cause irritation and dry out those sensitive pads. Also, since you can't guarantee that you will have access to a shady area, bring an umbrella that he can hang out under. To make sure that hypothermia doesn't strike, bring lots of towels that you can snuggle him in and remove the excess cold salt water. Not only can this warm him up quicker, it also helps in removing the sand and salt water from his fur so he won't be in danger of shaking off on someone else.
The Dos and Don'ts of the Beach
There are hundreds of beaches in the US and Canada that allow dogs, but compared to the number of beaches there are, this is a small percentage. Many beaches allowed dogs at one time, but due to careless owners, had to put a stop to canine patrons. Follow these rules (in addition to the beach's rules), and you'll make sure that you can bring Fido back as many times as he likes.
Dog Beach Don'ts:
- Don't let your dogs go into areas on the beach where they're not allowed. Dunes and grassy areas need to be protected from any sort of environmental damage that a dog might cause.
- Don't let your dog out of your site. Not even once. Paying attention and being proactive will go a long way in protecting you and your dog. The last thing you want is to be sued for a dog fight or by someone that had a run-in with your dog.
- Don't forget to bring the leash, beach towels, umbrella, fresh water, and doggie sunscreen (yes, you can actually get sunscreen specifically made for dogs).
- Don't leave a mess behind! Don't count on the beach supplying waste bags, so bring your own and be diligent about cleaning up. No one wants to find a surprise just laying on the beach or buried in the sand.
Dog Beach Dos:
- Do make sure your dog's vaccinations are current and that he's wearing the proper ID. Keep your vet's number on hand just in case something happens.
- Do check the ocean for jellyfish and stingrays. A sting to your dog will be sure to ruin both his and your experience.
- Do set a time limit for your beach trip. A few hours might be just the right amount of time at the beach, depending on your dog's activity level. At the first sign of your dog tiring, pack it up and get back on the road.
- Do bring toys and balls to throw and find sticks to fetch. This is exactly why you are both there: to HAVE FUN!
Online resources can help you plan your activities, including finding dog-friendly beaches throughout the country. Whether you're going on a trip or a stay-cation, finding a beach where you can bring your dog this summer will be a great bonding experience for your dog and your family. Get out there and soak up that fresh sea air - your pooch will be forever grateful for all the fun!