by Kim Salerno -
Special to the SGN
Now that summer has arrived, it's time to check out some dog-friendly beaches with your four-legged friend. For most dogs, getting to run around in the sand, dip into the waves, and fetch balls out of the water is the best day ever. Here are some tips to ensure that you and your dog have a fun and safe beach experience.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Check with your local beaches before you pack up your dog, since not all beaches allow them. Some allow dogs only during the off-season, but summer is a different story. Call ahead or visit the beach's website for information. It's also important, if you can bring your dog, to find out whether or not they need to be on leash or if they can roam free. Bring a long leash no matter what, but know ahead of time if there will be an area where a leash isn't necessary. If a leash isn't required, only let your dog be without it if you know for an absolute fact that she will respond to your voice commands. Other dogs, people, certain scents, birds, etc., may catch her attention and cause her to tune you out, which could be a recipe for disaster (no one wants a dogfight). Some people on the beach, such as easily frightened children, will be less dog-friendly than others, so be mindful of who your dog might approach to avoid any sort of snafu.
Never, ever, leave your dog unattended. Even the best-trained dog can get distracted. Pay extra special attention to your surroundings and any potential situations that may cause your dog to wander or run off. Follow all of the rules set by the beach. You don't want to be the reason that dogs aren't allowed at that particular beach anymore.
IS YOUR DOG A SWIMMER?
If you've brought your dog to the beach before, you probably know if your furry friend loves to swim. But if this will be your first visit, you may want to read up on her breed just to be sure. For example, Shar-Peis tend to be afraid of water. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but finding out if swimming is characteristic of the breed will be a good indicator of how enthusiastic (or timid) yours might be. When you bring the pup to the water, if she isn't diving right in, take it slow. Don't force your dog to go in. She may feel more comfortable if you head in first and call her. If you're nervous or unsure, purchasing a dog life vest to bring with you would be a safe bet.
DON'T GO TO EXTREMES
Depending on where you are in the country, summer at the beach can bring about two extremes: heat from the sun and a cold, cold ocean. Pay attention to how your dog is acting and responding while she's with you throughout the day, since there could be the potential of either heat stroke or hypothermia (if she's been swimming her little heart out).
Some signs of heat stroke in a dog include rapid panting, a bright red tongue, thick and sticky saliva, weakness, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. If you think that your dog has heat stroke while you're at the beach, take the following actions immediately:
o Move the pet into the shade and apply cool (not cold) water all over their body to gradually lower their temperature.
o Apply ice packs or cool towels to the pet's head, neck and chest only.
o Allow the pet to drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
o Then take the pet to the nearest vet.
Some signs of hypothermia in a dog include lethargy, weakness, shivering, muscle stiffness, difficulty breathing, and/or fixed and dilated pupils. If you think that your dog has hypothermia while you're at the beach, take the following actions immediately:
o Wrap your dog in towels and blankets that have been warmed by the sun.
o Bring extra fresh water in bottles and leave them out in the sun as this warm water can be applied to your dog to bring his body temperature back up.
o If your dog has still not stopped shivering and has continued lethargy, bring her to the nearest vet.
As much as we wish, our dogs can't tell us when they're in pain and not feeling good. The above lists are certainly not all-inclusive, so if you notice anything out of the ordinary with your dog's behavior, get her out of the elements immediately.
A good way to prevent heat stroke is to bring lots of fresh, cool water that your dog can drink. A spray bottle with cool water that you can spray her down with will also help in temperature regulation. A bonus of having fresh water with you is that you can clean her paws of sand and salt water, which can cause irritation and dry out those sensitive pads. Also, since you can't guarantee that you will have access to a shady area, bring an umbrella that she can hang out under.
To make sure that hypothermia doesn't strike, bring lots of towels that you can snuggle your dog in and remove the excess cold salt water. Not only can this warm her up quicker, it also helps in removing the sand and salt water from her fur so she won't be in danger of shaking off on someone else.
BEACH DO'S AND DON'TS
There are hundreds of beaches in the U.S. and Canada that allow dogs, but compared to the number of beaches there are, this is a small percentage. Many beaches allowed dogs at one time, but had to put a stop to it due to careless owners. Follow these rules (in addition to the beach's rules), and you'll make sure that you can bring Fido back as many times as she likes.
o Don't let your dogs go into areas on the beach where they're not allowed. Dunes and grassy areas need to be protected from any sort of environmental damage that a dog might cause.
o Don't let your dog out of your sight. Not even once. Paying attention and being proactive will go a long way in protecting you and your dog. The last thing you want is to be sued for a dogfight or by someone who had a run-in with your dog.
o Don't forget to bring the leash, beach towels, umbrella, fresh water, and doggie sunscreen (yes, you can actually get sunscreen specifically made for dogs).
o Don't leave a mess behind! Don't count on the beach supplying waste bags, so bring your own and be diligent about cleaning up. No one wants to find a surprise just laying on the beach or buried in the sand.
o Do make sure your dog's vaccinations are current and that he's wearing the proper ID. Keep your vet's number on hand just in case something happens.
o Do check the ocean for jellyfish and stingrays. A sting to your dog will be sure to ruin both his and your experience.
o Do bring toys and balls to throw and find sticks to fetch. This is exactly why you are both there: to have fun!
o Do set a time limit for your beach trip. A couple hours might be just the right amount of time at the beach, depending on your dog's activity level. At the first sign of your dog tiring, pack it up and get back on the road.
Whether you're going on a trip or a staycation, finding a beach where you can bring your dog this summer will be a great bonding experience for both your dog and your family. Get out there and soak up that fresh sea air - your pooch will be forever grateful for all the fun!
A HANDY ONLINE RESOURCE
TripsWithPets.com is the #1 online resource for pet travel, and was named best pet travel site by Consumer Reports. TripsWithPets.com offers resources to ensure pets are welcome, happy, and safe when traveling. The website features a directory of pet-friendly hotels and accommodations across the U.S. and Canada, airline and car rental pet policies, pet-friendly restaurants and beaches searchable by route, pet travel tips, pet travel supplies, and many other pet travel resources.
Kim Salerno is president and founder of TripsWithPets.com.
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