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Our Best Summer Safety Tips for Beach-Lovin' Dogs

A day at the beach can be great fun. But you need to know what can go wrong and how to react.

 |  Jun 21st 2013  |   1 Contribution


For most dogs, getting to run around in the sand, dip into the waves, and fetch balls out of the water is the best day ever. My dog Tucker’s tail has not stopped wagging because he knows beach season is upon us. Before you and your pooch head out to the beach, check out these tips to ensure your day is safe and fun. 

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Me with Tucker, looking forward to some beach time.

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 to find out whether they need to be on leash or if they can roam free. Bring a long leash no matter what. 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. 

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Tucker loves to play fetch at the water's edge. Photo courtesy Kim Salerno.

Never 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 this is the first time your dog will be swimming, you may want to read up on his breed to know if he'll enjoy it. 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) your dog 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, bringing a dog life vest might be a good call.

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 cold from the ocean. Pay attention to how your dog is acting and responding, since there could be the potential of either heatstroke or hypothermia.

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Dogs can get heat stroke at the beach, too -- make sure you give them some shade. Woman and Samoyed by Shutterstock

Some signs of heatstroke in a dog include rapid panting, a bright red tongue, thick and sticky saliva, weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you think that your dog has heatstroke, 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, and then, if you're still concerned, take him to the nearest vet. 

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If your dog can't control her bladder, consider taking her on shorter walks rather than runs. Woman walks dog on beach by Shutterstock

Some signs of hypothermia in a dog include lethargy, weakness, shivering, muscle stiffness, difficulty breathing, and fixed and dilated pupils. If you think that your dog has hypothermia, wrap your dog in towels and blankets that have been warmed by the sun. If you brought extra fresh water in bottles and left them out in the sun, use this warm water to bring his body temperature back up. Then, 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 not feeling good. 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 heatstroke is to bring lots of fresh, cool water your dog can drink. A spray bottle with cool water to spray him down with will also help in temperature regulation. Also, since you can't guarantee that you will have access to a shady area, bring an umbrella.

To make sure that hypothermia doesn't strike, bring lots of towels you can warm him in and remove the excess cold salt water.

Tips for visiting the beach with your dog

There are hundreds of beaches in the U.S. and Canada that allow dogs, but compared to the total number of beaches there are, it's still a small percentage. Many beaches allowed dogs at one time, but careless owners put a stop to that. Follow these rules (in addition to the beach's rules), to be sure that you can bring Fido back as many times as he likes.

Dog beach don'ts:

  • Don't let your dogs go where they're not allowed. 
  • Don't let your dog out of your sight. Not even once.
  • 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. 

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Don't let your dog out of your sight at the beach -- and watch out for potentially dangerous sea critters. Girl and dog at rockpool by Shutterstock

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 couple hours might be just the right amount of time at the beach. 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! 

Whether you're going on a trip or a staycation, 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 the sun -- your pooch will be forever grateful for all the fun! 

About the Author: Kim Salerno is the President & Founder of TripsWithPets.com. She founded the pet travel site in 2003 and is an expert in the field of pet travel. Her popular web site, which was named best pet travel site by Consumer Reports, features pet friendly hotels and accommodations across the U.S. and Canada, along with other helpful pet travel resources. Her mission is to ensure that pets are welcome, happy, and safe in their travels. 

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