1. Make Sure The Beach Is Dog-Friendly And Learn The Local Laws
Before you embark on your adventure, make sure you're going to a beach that allows dogs, since not all beaches do. Even dog-friendly beaches may have specific rules. For instance, some will only allow dogs on-leash and may even have leash length rules, while others only allow dogs at certain times of the day and/or year. There are also off-leash dog beaches, which are like off-leash dog parks but at the beach. Also, make sure you're following the local laws too. For example, some beaches are in states or cities with vaccination requirements, identification laws and sand dune restrictions.
Most cities have their local beach rules accessible to the public online, so you can usually do a quick Internet search. If you can't find the beach policies online, there may be a number you can call. You should have plenty of options, but it's best to do your research so you don't wind up driving all the way to the beach for nothing
Pro Tip: Some beaches that prohibit dogs may not even let you walk your dog on the boardwalk or beach sidewalks.
2. See If Your Dog Likes the Beach
Dogs are unique individuals with their own personalities, so they won't all have the same likes and dislikes. Some dogs may love the beach, while others aren't big fans. Because of this, it's a good idea to take your dog to a local beach (if possible) to determine if they even enjoy it. Some dogs don't like the waves or even walking on sand.
3. Train Your Dog
Since beach trips almost always involve other people and dogs, it'll be helpful if your dog has basic obedience training and knows a few commands. For instance, having a reliable recall for off-leash activities will give you confidence that you can ditch the leash. Another example, is the "leave it" command, which will come in handy when you'll likely encounter items that your dog should leave alone (like trash, shells, dead fish and other sea animals, food, etc.). Also, you'll want to make sure your dog has proper socialization since you'll be around other people and dogs.
4. Be Aware Of Off-Leash Beaches
Some dog-friendly beaches allow dogs off-leash, so you'll want to take this into account for your personal situation. If your pup is leash reactive, fearful or not dog-friendly, you'll want to find an on-leash beach. You'll also want to keep your dog leashed if they have high prey drive and like to chase animals, like birds.
5. Protect Your Dog From The Sun
Like humans, dogs can get sunburned, which can cause pain, blisters, hair loss and even skin cancer. Although their fur serves to protect their skin from UV rays, it not always enough to prevent sunburn. Moreover, dogs have several body parts with little to no fur like the nose, ears (especially the tips), belly, groin, inner thighs, eyelids, lips and skin around the mouth, tip of the tail, etc. In addition, some dogs are more at risk for sunburn than others, including but not limited to: hairless breeds, dogs with short coats or white fur, dogs with light or pink skin.
Though these dogs are more at risk, any dog can get sunburn and precautions should be taken for all pups. Fortunately, there are ways to do so and one of the best options is dog sunscreen. It's extremely important that it's pet-safe sunscreen, as human ones contain toxic ingredients and dogs often lick the sunscreen after application. There are plenty of options, with many having an equivalent SPF of 30+ (the higher the more protective) as well as unscented options for dogs with sensitive skin and waterproof ones for dogs that like to go in the water. A few recommended and highly rated dog-safe sunscreens out there include:
Pro Tip: If you aren't sure what product to go for, consult your vet.
If you're looking for alternatives to sunscreen or your pup continually licks it off, there are some options. These include UV-protective clothing, goggles (or "doggles") and hats (which are highly recommended for dogs with eye conditions, such as cataracts and Chronic Superficial Keratitis). It's important to note that these will not protect all of your dog's vulnerable areas. For instance, you'll still need to protect your dog's nose, ears, belly, groin, inner thighs, tip of the tail, lips and anywhere else skin is exposed.
You may want to completely limit sun exposure during peak sun hours from 10 AM to 4 PM, when the sun is strongest. For more information and tips about this, check our articles on dog sunburns.
6. Protect Your Pup’s Paws
Another element that your dog may need protection from is the sand. This is because it can be coarse, hot or hiding dangerous items (like shells, animals, garbage or broken glass). Dog paws can slice, crack, burn, scrape, blister and bleed. If you want to ensure your dog's paws stay protected, you can use paw booties or paw wax before going on the sand.
7. Keep Them Cool to Avoid Heatstroke
Although sunscreen and UV-protective gear provide good sun protection, they won't prevent your dog from overheating or heatstroke, which can be fatal. Keep in mind that older dogs and puppies are more at risk of these. A few good rules of thumb:
- Limit activity during peak sun hours from 10 AM to 4 PM, when the sun is strongest. The best way to do this is to keep them indoors and next best is to keep them in the shade.
- Provide your dog with breaks and rest between activity and games. If your dog goes swimming, dry them after with a towel to avoid moisture being trapped in their fur and turning to steam (which can contribute to overheating).
- Make sure your dog always has access to fresh, preferably cool, water. This is why it's always a good idea to bring extra water bottles and a water bowl for outside adventures.
Also make sure your dog has a shady spot to retreat to. If there isn't any shade, you can set up a tent, umbrella or sun cover. You can also buy a raised dog bed with a canopy, which not only provides shade but also keeps your dog off the hot ground.
- Try using cooling gear for your dog. These include cooling mats that your dog can lie on (most are pressure-activated, meaning they do not require refrigeration or electricity to work) and cooling clothing for your dog to wear (like bandannas and vests, which usually require just water to soak in)
- Monitor your dog for signs of overheating or heatstroke. If you notice they're panting more than normal or seem overtired, you may want to call it a day and head home to some air-conditioning. Take your dog to the vet if they exhibiting excessive panting, extreme lethargy and weakness, red mucous membranes, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
For more information and tips about this, check our articles on summer heat safety and summer essentials.
8. Provide Fresh Water And Avoid Letting Them Drink Saltwater
Drinking water is a great way to cool down on a hot day and there's no shortage of water at the beach. But that water is salty, which can be harmful to dogs in large doses. Drinking too much saltwater can cause gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, dry gums and thick saliva. So don't let them drink any saltwater (even though they'll likely try, as many dogs seem to love salt).
Instead, bring plenty of fresh water. You can bring water bottles (better for the environment if they're reusable!) and a travel dog bowl or, if you have the room, fill a cooler with ice and store the bottles there. If your dog does drink too much saltwater and exhibits any of the aforementioned symptoms, bring them to the vet as soon as possible.
9. Protect Your Dog From Bacteria And Parasites
Bacteria and parasites are a few beach hazards that many of us don't realize exist. But bacteria, like leptospirosis (which can lead to kidney failure), may be found in the pools that collect on the shore when the tide is out. So don't let your dog drink from these pools (or any standing water in general). You can also talk to your vet about the leptospirosis vaccine for dogs, especially if you frequent the beach.
In addition, protecting your dog from fleas, ticks and heartworm is always a good idea when they're out and about. Sand fleas live and burrow in sand, particularly in areas on the beach that stay consistently wet due to the tide and waves. Some beaches require walking through tall grass and vegetation that can host ticks, which can carry Lyme disease. And mosquitos, which gather near water, can carry heartworm. So it's important to stay up to date on flea, tick and heartworm prevention.
Pro Tip: You can also add dog-friendly mosquito repellent for an extra layer of protection. Again, only use a repellent specifically made for dogs because of the toxic ingredients in human ones.
10. Pack Extra Essentials (Poop Bags, Leashes, First Aid Kits, Towels)
It's always a good idea to pack extra essentials when taking your dog anywhere. For starters, your dog's probably going to poop and maybe more than once. So having extra poop bags on hand is a must. Dog poop isn't good for beaches (or any environment) as it's full of bacteria and pollutants that can cause sand, soil and water contamination as well as other problems for wildlife and humans.
In addition, if you're going to a beach that requires your dog stay on leash, you may want to pack an extra one just in case yours breaks at the beach. Just make sure to have the correct length leash if the beach has a specific policy.
11. Watch For Dangerous Items
13. Clean Your Dog After The Beach
Whether your dog was swimming, digging, lounging around or walking, beaches can be messy and cleaning up after your trip is usually necessary. Rinse your dog to remove sand, ocean water, salt, smell and anything else that may have gotten stuck on them. This is also important to do because sand and salt can cause skin irritation and itching in dogs. Make sure to get all the crevices like between their toes, under their tail, where their legs meet their bodies and their ears. Speaking of ears, you may need to clean and dry them to prevent ear infections. This is especially true if your dog went swimming, as leftover moisture becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. When you get home, you may want to give your dog a true bath with pet shampoo to really make sure you got everything.
Pro Tip: Use a cloth and gently wipe sand from your dog's face. You can do this periodically during your trip to keep sand out of your dog's eyes, nose, and mouth.
14. Know Your Dog’s Limits
Knowing your dog's limits goes a long way in keeping them happy, healthy and safe. Some dogs don't realize how tired they are and it may be up to you to call it quits for them. You may have to limit the amount of time they spend swimming, walking, laying in the sun, playing, etc. This is just one more reason why it's important to always monitor your dog.
15. Bring The Right Toys
Although we may not think about what dog toys to bring, some are actually better suited for the beach than others. This is because certain types can unintentionally cause our dogs to ingest more sand or salt water. For example, felt tennis balls and other soft cloth toys can get coated with sand (especially once wet). Better options include rubber balls, frisbees, and aquatic toys. If you do bring toys that end up collecting sand, make sure to frequently rinse them with fresh water regularly during your trip.
16. Follow Proper Etiquette
As always, it's important to remember to be mindful of others around you and the environment. There are some unspoken rules and proper etiquette to follow when it comes to bringing your dog to the beach. These include, but are not limited to:
- Removing your dog if they're barking excessively or harassing other people and dogs.
- Don't let your dog take food or toys from others.
- Fill in holes your dog created, as holes can cause injury to people or dangers to local wildlife.
- Don't bring a puppy that's too young and hasn't had all its vaccinations.
- Always watch your dog when off leash and stay close.
Keep these in mind and you'll help ensure that everyone else has a fun time at the beach too!