Fun in the Sun: How to Keep Your Dog Safe at the Beach

You’ve planned the perfect getaway with your canine pal. You’re going to hit up all the best dog beaches, pet-friendly patios, and walking paths. You can’t wait to make special memories with man’s best friend — but are you prepared to keep Fido safe? 

Unfortunately, a variety of hazards plague pets on vacation. If you’re like many dog lovers, however, you may be too caught up in the excitement of vacation planning to realize that you need to take extra steps to protect your pooch. 

To help you prepare for a delightful beach vacation, we’ve highlighted the main hazards that dogs may face while hanging out in the sun and the sand. Keep reading to discover the secrets to dog safety at the beach.

When Is the Beach Dangerous for Dogs?

Photo Credit by @thecavapoo_eevee on Instagram

The beach carries its fair share of hazards for humans and dogs alike. Some of these are more obvious than others. The waves, for example, can be both a huge source of excitement and a cause for concern. Drownings are far too common among both humans and dogs, particularly when they aren’t prepared for high surf or shore break waves.

Other sources of danger are less obvious but no less deserving of attention. Sun exposure, in particular, can strike both dogs and humans. It’s also possible for dogs to get heat exhaustion. Finally, other dogs and even some humans can cause problems — particularly when leashes aren’t in the picture. 

How to Keep Your Dogs Safe at the Beach

Photo Credit by @reikotheaussiie on Instagram

The hazards highlighted above may seem frightening, but they shouldn’t automatically prevent you and your dog from visiting the beach. With a little preparation, you and your canine companion can still have an amazing time on the coast. Follow these simple suggestions to stay safe while maximizing your beach-based fun.

Only Visit Dog-Friendly Beaches

First, it should go without saying: it’s absolutely imperative that you confirm whether dogs are actually allowed at your preferred beach. While many locations are dog-friendly (or in some cases, specifically designed for canines), some prohibit four-legged friends. Often, this is for the sake of fragile ecosystems, which rambunctious dogs are more likely to harm. 

It’s impossible to imagine your perfectly behaved pooch causing trouble — but if this were to happen at a beach that’s not particularly dog-friendly, the consequences could be severe. Do yourself a favor and verify that any beaches you visit not only tolerate dogs but actively welcome them. 

Use Plenty of Dog Sunscreen

As you slather your own body in high SPF sunscreen, don’t forget about your beloved pooch. This is more important for some breeds than others, but all can benefit when spending long hours soaking in the sun. Many types of dogs are highly vulnerable to sunburn. Not only is this uncomfortable (or downright painful), excessive sun exposure can be a risk factor for canine skin cancer.

Not just any sunscreen will keep your dog safe. Look for products created specifically for pets — the ingredients in human versions can be toxic to dogs. Specifically, you’ll want to avoid anything that contains para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) or zinc oxide. Be sure to test new sunscreen products on a small spot to determine whether they might cause an allergic reaction. 

Try your best to prevent your dog from licking off recently applied sunscreen. This should be applied between twenty minutes and half an hour before you head outside. You may need to reapply every few hours, especially if your dog likes to swim. 

Try Doggie Sun Shirts

If applying sunscreen is too difficult, consider using protective apparel instead. Sun shirts and suits are especially helpful. These often feature cooling properties, which may reduce the risk of heat exhaustion on sweltering days. Amp up the beach fashion with protective accessories, such as doggie sunhats or even sunglasses or goggles. 

Use a Life Vest or Life Jacket

Does your dog like to swim? Don’t assume that innate knowledge of the doggie paddle means that your pooch is ready to hit the waves. The American Kennel Club recommends life vests or life jackets for breeds that are ill-suited to the water. Bulldogs, in particular, will need help from specially designed flotation devices. 

Choosing the right vest or jacket can be tricky. Look for a D-ring that allows you to attach a leash, as well as a handle to grab when getting acquainted with the water — or in the event of an emergency. Life jackets are generally preferable to vests in unpredictable waves. When in doubt, opt for bright colors or reflective strips that make your dog as visible as possible. 

Stay Leashed When Possible

You’ve seen other dogs running free on the beach and perhaps even envied the joy they seem to experience when roaming the sand. Unfortunately, this can be incredibly dangerous, both for your dogs and any other humans or pets in the vicinity. Leashing is essential regardless of whether the beach in question tolerates or welcomes dogs. If you’re excited about activities that are essentially impossible with a leash, make sure that your dog will return when called, no matter how many distractions are nearby.

Double-Check Your Dog’s Collar

Even if leashed, it can be easy for dogs to wriggle away from their humans in a beach setting. In the worst-case scenario, the knowledge that your dog’s identification information is readily available should bring you much-needed peace of mind. Your dog may already be chipped, but consider also using a collar that includes your pet’s name, your phone number, or even your email address. 

Bring Plenty of Water

Do you think you could comfortably or safely spend an entire day at the beach without your water bottle? Why would you expect the same of your pup? Don’t assume that fountains will be available; bring plenty of your own water, along with a doggie dish. Saltwater isn’t a big deal if your pooch accidentally swallows a mouthful or two, but it should never be consumed in lieu of fresh water — with high quantities, this could be fatal. 

Don’t let the excitement of a beach day cloud your thinking. A little planning can ensure that your beach adventure is both safe and fun for humans and dogs alike. Get ready to have fun in the sun — you’ll quickly find that dogs are the perfect beach companions.