Running around in the sand, splashing in the waves, feeling the gentle breeze—there are few things to do with your dog that are better than a beach day. And let’s face it, a trip to the shore with a happy pooch is probably on your (sand) bucket list, too. Here are some tips to make it the best day ever:
Not every beach is pet-friendly—or even allows dogs. Search for a dog beach that will allow your pup and confirm your pick on the beach’s website, since rules change frequently, and some beaches may only be open to pets during certain times of the year or hours of the day.
You’ll also want to find out whether your dog is required to be on a leash or can roam freely. Try to get an idea of how rough the surf usually is, too. Search for a beach with more gentle waves, especially if it’s your pet’s first time.
Once you have a couple dog-friendly beaches picked out, check their water quality at the Environmental Protection Agency’s site. You’ll find out which beaches have health advisories that prohibit swimming, or have been closed recently. It’s a smart idea to avoid troublesome beaches, because you don’t want to gear up for a beach day only to find out that it’s unsafe to go in the water.
Before you head out, be sure to stash a pet first-aid kit in the car so you’re prepared in case something goes wrong.
Going to the beach is a good thing to do with your dog only when he can consistently follow your commands. Test the waters, so to speak, at other social outings first. And even if he’s well-trained, ease into your day. “Introduce him to the water away from a busy off-leash area to make sure he is comfortable,” says Megan Stanley, vice chair of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. Put him in a life jacket; the Outward Hound PupSaver Ripstop Dog Life Jacket has dual handles so you can easily grab your dog in an emergency, but is comfortable enough to allow your pooch to happily splash around in the water. It’s available in several sizes, based on your dog’s weight. Some breeds are naturally more comfortable in the water than others, so take swimming at a pace that’s right for your pet.
Have a Ball
Dog-friendly beaches are a perfect place to play. Bring dog toys that float for the ultimate game of fetch. The Chuckit! Water Skimmer Flyer is like a flying disc that floats, and it’s designed with material that’s easy on a dog’s mouth. “Make sure the toys are brightly colored so your dog can easily spot them,” says Stanley.
Throw Some Shade
Hairless dogs require sunscreen, so remember to re-apply regularly, especially after getting wet. And every dog on the beach needs breaks to drink cool water and soak up some shade (dogs can get heatstroke, just like humans). Bring along a bottle to spritz cool water on your dog (it helps with temperature control) and a beach umbrella or other equipment for cover. It’s also wise to pick a dog beach that has some naturally shaded areas that are also pet-friendly. Once you notice that your dog is starting to get tired—even if you’ve only been there an hour or two—it’s time to go home.
After a day of fun with your dog on the beach, you want what’s left to be memories—not mess. Bring dog poop bags to clean up after your dog. If the beach you’re at has an outdoor shower hose, you could rinse off yourself and your pooch. Pack a couple of towels to dry off and lay on your car’s seats to prevent them from becoming wet and dirty. A genius alternative: You can hang Solvit’s SmartFit Waterproof Hammock Seat Cover (it attaches to the headrests) across the backseat of your car to protect the upholstery and carpeting from water and sand. Once you’re at home, do a comprehensive cleaning of your dog’s fur to remove specks of sand and dirt. Earthbath Ear Wipes help gently clear away sand and water from near your pooch’s ears. Towel dry your dog and use the appropriate brush to groom your dog’s coat.