Summer is time for fun and one of the most popular things to do in the summer is go to the beach. If you are one of the millions of people who enjoy spending at least some of your summer enjoying the sand and the surf, chances are you already know how to spend a day at the beach. But what if you are a dog owner? There’s no reason that Rover shouldn’t join you, but a little planning and forethought can go a long way in making sure the outing is enjoyable for everyone involved.
First things first – is the beach you are going to a “dog-friendly” beach? Not all beaches all dogs and some beaches have special rules for dogs (leashed dogs only, dogs in only certain areas, etc.). Most beaches post their rules online, but even a simple telephone call could clarify what the specific rules are regarding dogs on the beach. Bottom line is: with a little research, you can avoid making a wasted trip.
Another tip falling under planning would be to know what to bring along. Obvious items include collars (with ID tags), leashes, plastic baggies, and a bowls. Bottled water should be packed as well, as it is never a given that there will be fountains nearby. Towels for drying off fur or wiping sand off are also helpful (wet, sandy dogs and clean cars don’t mix well). In fact, an old throw or blanket may come in handy for the ride home since all of that sand never seems to brush off. Obviously, toys to play with on the beach or in the surf should be brought along. Bored dogs might try to find their own playthings in absence of actual toys and often things found on the beach make poor or even dangerous substitutions (shells, rocks, unsupervised children’s toys, etc.). Lastly, you might consider bringing along a lightweight backpack or fanny pack just to keep everything readily accessible.
Once you have packed everything, you are ready to be on your way. The best way to travel with a dog, no question, is with said dog in a crate. A crated dog is safer than one loose in a car and an undistracted driver is obviously a better driver. Dogs in crates can’t hang out windows, either, thereby are not subject to injury during a sudden stop. Finally, in the event of an accident, a crate can mean the difference between a safe, secured dog and a lost or injured one.
Arriving at the beach you will want to find a parking spot that does not require you dog to walk too far on extremely hot pavement or over areas that might contain dangers such as discarded fish hooks or broken glass. If any shaded parking is available that would be ideal as cars heat up rapidly in full sun and take a while to cool back down, even with air conditioning (remember, your dog has a fur coat and can overheat more easily than a human). As you arrive on the actual beach, try to scout out the area you will be in for potential dangers (beached animals, broken glass, jellyfish, etc.). Also, try to find an area that is less crowded so you can throw a ball or disc without intruding on another beachgoer’s space.
When playing in the sun, dogs need to be monitored to make sure they do not overheat. Short-nosed breeds like pugs, bulldogs, and boxers are especially susceptible to heat exertion, as are dogs with double coats (collies, huskies, etc.). Finally, make sure your dog gets regular water breaks to help guard against heatstroke and dehydration.
If your dog is not aggressive towards other dogs or people, and the beach’s rules allow for it, you can let your dog off leash. Bear in mind that, dogs, like children, are exceptionally good at finding things they shouldn’t and getting into situations that might not be good for them. For their own safety (and their owner’s liability) even well-trained dogs should be closely supervised when off leash in open, public spaces.
Right after supervision on the “good dog owner” list of responsibilities comes “cleaning up after your dog”. Dog friendly beaches are so because dog owners have been courteous and responsible and cleaned up after their dogs. Abusing the privilege results in more and more beaches becoming off limits to dogs and ruins the experience for all dogs and their owners. Therefore, please keep plastic baggies on your person on your doggie trips to the beach so that you are prepared for the inevitable.
Once home, dirty dogs should be bathed. Even if your dog does not get a post-beach bath, you should check their paws for cuts or burns (from hot sand or pavement) and make sure their ears are dry to avoid infections. Finally, dogs with double coats should be thoroughly dried to make sure damp areas result in skin problems such as “hot spots”.
One of the wonderful things about being a dog owner is the ability to share enjoyable, everyday experiences with your dog. With a little forethought, planning, and common sense, a trip to the beach can be fun for both man and man’s best friend.