Beach days can be a blast when you bring along a canine pal or three, but taking a dog to the beach requires some preparation, know-how and a little common sense -- or should that be canine sense?
Anything that can harm you at the beach can also harm your dog, such as sunburn, riptides, jellyfish, broken glass, sharp shells and aggressive dogs. But a beach day isn't supposed to be about doom and gloom. Having a great day is easy when you know how to prepare for and prevent any potential mishaps. Read on for our best safety tips to help you and Fido find fun and relaxation together in the sun, surf and sand.
Taking Your Dog to the Beach : Happy Everything : Animal Planet
Warm summer temperatures at the beach can pose a threat to a dog's health. Make sure that your dog has a shady retreat under a beach umbrella, tree or picnic bench.
Bring plenty of fresh, cool water and a doggie bowl. Offer refills liberally, making sure that the water does not get hot in the sun.
Remember that the sand can be scorching on sensitive paws, so provide a blanket or towel for your dog's comfort when he takes a break from romping in the surf.
Take caution with brachycephalic (short-muzzled) breeds, such as English bulldogs, Boston terriers, boxers, pugs, Pekinese and shih tzus, because they overheat more quickly than long-snouted dogs.
Watch for signs of overheating in dogs, which include:
- Excessive/rapid panting and drooling
- Coordination problems
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Loss of consciousness Avoiding overheating is definitely an important safety rule, but there are likely some actual laws posted at your local dog-friendly beach -- discover some of the most common ones on the next page.
4: Follow Beach Rules
Remember that beach rules are actually laws, and can be punishable by a citation or fine. Check online to make sure your beach allows dogs before you go and take notice of any rules posted near the beach, which may include:
- Stay off the dunes. Dunes are protected in some states.
- Clean up after your dog. Always carry waste bags and watch your dog in case he takes a potty break.
- Follow the leash laws. Many dog-friendly beaches have an off-leash policy, but always check.
- Supervise your dog. Never leave your dog alone on the beach, even for a moment.
- No aggressive dogs. If your dog is sometimes aggressive, skip the beach.
- Collar and ID tags. Keep these on your dog at all times.
- Up-to-date vaccinations. Check with your vet to make sure your dog is current on all vaccinations and licenses.
- No females in heat. She could cause fighting among intact males -- and create unwanted puppies.
- No puppies under four months. They can become injured or ill and don't have all of their vaccinations yet. There are also some unwritten, good-neighbor rules for dog days at the beach. For example, fill in any holes your dog may have dug before you leave. Don't let your dog harass other dogs, dog owners, picnickers or local wildlife. Remove your dog if he's barking excessively. And always let other owners know if their dog has made a mess, is harassing another dog or is in potential danger.
3: Avoid Sunburn
Short-coated dogs, light-colored dogs, dogs with close summer haircuts, those with pink noses and hairless breeds can sunburn the same way that humans do. Even dogs with thick coats can get a sunburned nose.
Sunscreen made specifically for dogs, generally found online or at your local pet store in the summer months, is non-oily and contains ingredients that are safe for dogs. Do not use sunscreen that contains zinc because it can be toxic to dogs if ingested, and avoid sunscreens that contain fragrances.
Apply sunscreen to your dog's ears, nose, the inside of his back legs and anywhere else that receives direct sunlight. Reapply sunscreen after your dog takes a dip in the water.
For hairless breeds, consider keeping a T-shirt on your dog while he's in the sun and always provide a shady resting spot.
Once Fido is sunscreened, he's going to want to go for a romp. Make sure his free time on the beach is safe, too, by practicing the recall command -- learn how on the next page.
2: Practice the Recall Command
The key to off-leash fun at the beach is having a solid grasp on the recall command -- meaning that your dog comes to you when you call him, every single time. Teach this skill at home, and if your dog still has questionable recall skills, the beach is a great place to work on this critical command around lots of distractions.
Place your dog on a long leash (also called a long line, about 20-30 feet -- 6-9 meters -- long), available at most pet retailers. While at the beach, call your dog and give him a treat and praise every time he returns to you. You can let him play with a ball or toy for a reward as well. Use his name only for something good, like coming back to you for a treat or toy, not for scolding him. After several sessions, test him with a human partner. Stand about 10 feet (3 meters) away from each other and take turns calling your dog, offering him treats and praise when he comes when called.
Allow your dog off leash at the beach only when you are reasonably sure that the recall command has become a good habit -- and always keep treats on hand.
While your dog is having his carefree splash in the sea, keep an eye out for beach hazards -- learn more about what to watch for on the next page.
1: Avoid Beach Hazards
The beach is fun, but it does come with hazards, such as ingesting questionable objects (and even ocean water), cuts and scrapes and even the potential for drowning.
Discourage your dog from drinking seawater by offering him fresh, cool, clean water, and by removing him from the water if you see him drink it. Seawater is a gastrointestinal irritant that can work as a laxative or cause vomiting.
Bring a first aid kit with you in case of cut paws or jellyfish stings. Include cotton balls, ammonia (for stings, dilute with water before applying), peroxide and bandages.
If your dog is a puppy, hasn't learned to swim well or is a brachycephalic or a short-legged breed, consider giving him a doggie life jacket to wear so that he doesn't overtire himself in the water. Always supervise any dog while he's in or near the water and be cautious of rip tides, sharks and deep water.
Salt water on a dog's skin and paws can be irritating, so a fresh-water rinse before leaving the beach or shortly after arriving home will help keep your dog comfy and his skin and coat healthy.
Finally, for your own peace of mind, bring a thick blanket and plenty of towels to line the car seat where your dog sits for the ride home. Your dog will probably fall asleep on the way home, your own reward for a fun, safe, happy beach day.