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What to Know for a Day at the Beach With Your Dog

Spending a day in the surf and sand is a wonderful way to destress and get some exercise. For dog parents, bringing your canine companion along to the beach is a big part of the fun. Nothing beats seeing your dog’s face light up as they frolic down the shore or jump into the surf.

Before you pack up the car and head to the beach, it's important to prepare by packing the right gear, brushing up on dog beach safety and finding the appropriate beach for a shared adventure.

Dog Beach Essentials

One of the best ways to help make your next trip to the beach a swimming success is to pack the essentials. Be sure to prioritize items that can help keep your dog comfortable, safe and protected.

Dog Beach Safety Basics

While the water is a great place to cool off, pet parents need to help keep their dogs safe from the heat and sun whenever they spend more than a few minutes outside.

Dr. Whitney Miller, Petco's chief veterinarian, warns against sun damage and skin irritation in addition to possible heatstroke.

“Just like people, dogs can also get sunburns,” says Miller. “Hairless dogs, dogs who are trimmed short, dogs with white fur or hair, and dogs who normally have thin hair coats may be at risk for sunburn anywhere there is not a full covering of their skin by fur.”

To help avoid this, use pet-friendly sunscreen as a preventive. These come in many different forms, including wipes and sprays.

“Apply a pet-safe sunscreen to their ears, nose and anywhere else they have bare skin or thin fur,” says Miller. “We recommend using sunscreens with SPF 15 or greater, including those developed specifically for pets and those containing titanium dioxide as the active ingredient.”

And remember that just like on our own skin sunscreen needs to be reapplied after your dog has had a romp in the water or has been at the beach for an extended period.

Additionally, just because your dog has long hair doesn’t mean they don’t need sunscreen. Dog’s noses, lips and underbellies are susceptible to sunburn no matter the length of their fur.

If your dog does get sunburned, visit a veterinarian to discuss proper treatment. “Consult your veterinarian, who will evaluate the extent of the burn and advise you on what treatment is necessary,” says Miller. “Do not apply ointments or other remedies unless directed by your veterinarian.”

Miller recommends making sure your dog has access to a shaded area, like a tent or umbrella, where they can rest and recover from the sun. Lay down towels or blankets so they can get off the hot sand.

Additionally, be sure that your dog has access to fresh drinking water at all times.

Beach safety isn’t just about time on the sand. It also applies to time spent in the surf. Whether you have an Olympian swimmer or a timid wader, you need to pay attention when your dog's in the water.

If you aren’t sure whether or not your dog is a natural-born swimmer, take time to acclimate them to the surf, using the following tips:

  1. Regardless of whether your dog loves to swim or is hesitant around water, put them in a life vest. For dogs who don’t know how to swim or are unsure in the water, a life vest will help keep them afloat, and for an avid swimmer, a life vest can help keep them safe if they become overtired or wind up in rougher waters than anticipated.
  2. Begin with a short walk through shallow water, allowing them to get a feel for it.
  3. If your dog seems interested in pushing farther into the water, test out a short swim, remaining alongside them as they try out their doggy paddle.
  4. Keep your dog from drinking ocean water. Saltwater is extremely dehydrating to dogs and can cause gastrointestinal upset and loose stools. If your dog consumes a large amount of ocean water, contact your veterinarian. They may suggest using a digestive aid—such as one with pumpkin—to help settle their stomach and firm their stools.

The temperature of the sand and other surfaces can become hot enough to burn your dog’s paws within minutes. Consider dog booties if they will be walking through hot sand or on asphalt in beach parking areas or hotels.

Additionally, look for ways to protect your dog’s eyes from the sun’s damaging rays.

“There are eye protection options available that are specifically designed for dogs and should definitely be considered whenever a dog will have high, direct sunlight exposure, or reflective sun exposure like during water activities,” says Miller. “Dog goggles also have the added benefit of protecting eyes from foreign objects and/or trauma.”

Often, dog-friendly beaches will have a station where pet parents can wash their dogs off after time in the ocean. Whether you do this before you leave the beach or when you get home, this rinse is important for removing salt and sand that may irritate your dog's skin.

Heading to a Dog-Friendly Beach

Armed with the right gear and knowledge, all that is left is to find a dog-friendly beach to visit. While you may naturally think that all beaches allow dogs to frolic and swim in the sea, the truth is that every beach has different rules when it comes to canine visitors.

Some beaches limit the time of day or months of the year when dogs are allowed, some permit dogs as long as they are properly leashed and others do not allow dogs at all.

Consult online resources such as BringFido.com for lists of dog beaches in each state.

You can also contact the township or municipal office where your destination beach is located for additional information.

Also, be sure to check if there is toxic algae or red tide before committing to a beach.

A day at the beach can be the perfect bonding experience for you and your furry pal, whether you lounge together under a shady umbrella or swim until you are both worn out.

Traveling to the beach? Check out our travel guides: