By Rebecca Ruger-Wightman
Beach days can be a perfect outing for you and your canine pal, or two or three. But taking your dog to the beach does require some preparation, and a little common-sense. In general, anything that can harm you at the beach can also be hazardous to your dog. Sunburn, riptides, jellyfish, broken glass, and other aggressive dogs can all pose problems for dear Fido. Some of these suggestions will not be necessary if you’re only planning on a short hour-or-so beachcombing trip, or if the lake or ocean is your own backyard, but as with all safety precautions, better safe than sorry.
In the Summer
- The heat of a summer beach can be dangerous to your pooch. Certain short-muzzled breeds (English bulldogs, boxers, pugs, and Pekinese, for example) overheat more quickly than long-snouted dogs. Make sure your dog has a shady retreat or umbrella if you plan on making a day of it. Bring plenty of fresh, cool water and his bowl.
- Sand can scorch the paws. Be sure to have on hand a blanket or towel to offer a spot for relief.
- Dogs can sunburn the same way humans do. Even dogs with thick coats can get a sunburned nose. There are doggie sunscreens available, which are non-oily and canine safe. Don’t use sunscreens which contain zinc, as it may be toxic to dogs if ingested. Apply the screen to the sensitive areas—the ears, nose, the inside of the back of his legs, and anywhere else the coat is thin or non-existent.
- Signs of overheating in your dog can include excessive panting and drooling, coordination problems, vomiting and/or diarrhea, and collapse.
In the Winter
- Protect the paws. Your dog's paws are exposed to snow, ice, and salt in the winter, all of which could damage his paws or pads. Check for little snow or ice balls that may get caught in-between his toes or in the foot hair. Consider a pair of doggie boots for your winter beach jaunts.
- Never throw something for your dog to fetch onto ice water. The ice is unpredictable and will have thin spots where your dog can fall through.
- Dogs get cold, too. Signs of hypothermia in a dog may include lethargy, weakness, and shivering, in addition to muscle stiffness and difficulty breathing, and a discerned lack of alertness. For small or thin coated dogs, or for a planned several hours at the winter beach, invest in a good dog sweater.
- Beach rules are actually laws, and can be punishable by a fine or a citation. Keep in mind that not all beaches welcome dogs all year round, or at all. Check online to make sure your beach allows dogs before you go.
- Discourage your dog from drinking too much beach water. Salt water can be a gastrointestinal irritant and may cause vomiting or diarrhea. The water in lakes and ponds may contain micro-organisms that can lead to illness. Stagnant water may contain algae which can lead to liver problems.
- Salt water on a dog’s skin or paws may also be irritating and will require a fresh water rinse before heading home.
- Follow the leash laws. Some beaches or parks have off-leash laws but you should always check. If you are not using a leash, be sure your dog is excellent at recall.
- Keep your dog off the dunes. Most of these are state-protected.
- Clean up after your dog. Carry waste bags and scoop up his poop.
- Not every dog is a natural swimmer, or even lover of the water. Consider a safety vest for your dog if you question his abilities in the water.
- Supervise your dog. Don’t let him eat anything on the beach, and don’t let him harass other beach-goers.
- Common sense rules: don’t bring to the beach your aggressive dog, or your female in heat, or those without proper vaccinations or IDs, and certainly not the always-barking dog. Puppies under four months are also not a good idea for a beach visit—they don‘t have all of their vaccinations yet, and can more easily become injured or sick.
Beach Dog Gear
Our picks for making beach-going with your favorite furry friend that much easier.
Designed and made in Canada, Muttluks dog boots protect from sharp objects, keep paws comfortable in cold or hot weather, and provide a flexible fit.
The Ruffwear Powder Hound is a hybrid jacket that offers the warmth of synthetic insulation with the range of motion of technical stretch fabric.
Beach & Dog Co. Canine Sunscreen is an all-natural, organic formula designed to lower your dog's risk of sun overexposure. $13 at www.beachanddog.com
The Kurgo Collapsible & Portable Travel Dog Bowl for water or food. Pop open to use, collapse when done and stash away.
Got any tips?
Let us know your best beach dog travel tips in the comments!
This article appeared in the Glassing Magazine January/February 2018 issue.