Dos and don’ts for dogs at the beach

a dog and it's owner at the beach during sunset Ditty_about_Summer/shutterstock

Watching a dog romp around in the waves at the beach is definitely smile material—for most people. For others, a dog at the beach is about as welcome as a mosquito in a tent. Want your pupper to be greeted with happy grins, rather than dirty looks? Follow these tips.

Know your dog

This is probably the easiest way to avoid an unfortunate situation at the beach: if your dog has a tendency to be aggressive (even occasionally), avoid the beach. It’s as simple as that. There’s no sense in putting your dog in a situation where they’re going to risk being punished for bad behaviour.

Find a dog-friendly beach and follow the rules

Do a little research in advance and find out whether there are dog-friendly beaches you can go to in your area. Some places will allow dogs at certain times of day or in the off-season, but not all the time. Other spots have specific areas reserved for dogs. You’re much less likely to get frowns from pooch-free beach-goers if you demonstrate that you’re following the rules.

Keep your dog leashed unless they’re in an off-leash area

Even if there are no posted rules regarding dogs, keeping your dog on a leash—especially when there are other people around—is a good idea. Even the best-behaved pups get distracted and forget their manners, and that’s a bad thing for all concerned. If your dog isn’t under voice control, don’t let them go off-leash anywhere. Also, many beaches have environmentally sensitive spots—like dunes and grassy areas—that can be damaged by an enthusiastically romping dog. Finally, keep your dog’s collar and tags on at all times.

Pick up after your pooch

Yes, you have to stoop and scoop at the beach too. (And burying the poop in the sand doesn’t count—nor does trying to float it away in the water. Gross.) Bring along enough bags so you don’t get caught short. If you’re in an area that doesn’t have a lot of garbage cans, a large Ziploc bag is handy to store used poop bags until you can throw the whole lot out on your way home.

Stay alert

Keep an eye on your dog at all times—not only so she doesn’t get up to mischief, but also to keep her safe. Many beaches have strong currents or undertows that can pull a dog away from land, creating a hazard even for strong swimmers. Also, be aware of potential hazards in the water—sharp rocks, shells or discarded fishing hooks can end your dog’s fun pretty quickly. Watch for any limping as your pup comes out of the water.

Watch for signs of overheating

It’s easy for dogs to get overheated at the beach, especially breeds with short snouts like bulldogs, pugs, shih tzus and Pekinese. If your pupper starts panting rapidly (more so than usual), drooling, vomiting, pooping uncontrollably, or collapses, get them cooled down with some wet towels and take them to a vet.

Decide whether your dog needs a swim vest

Even strong swimmers can benefit from a life vest, since they’ll be able to spend more time in the water without getting tired. (And if you’re boating with your pooch, a life vest is a must.) For small dogs, a vest with a handle on the back can be handy for lifting them out of the water. If your dog is nervous around water, don’t force them to swim—just enjoy the time on the sand.

Stay visible

If you’re going to be on the beach at night, make sure both you and your dog are visible. A light-up collar or reflective vest will make sure your dog can be seen. Consider carrying a laser pointer as well—your dog may not be able to hear or smell you as well on the beach, and the light of the laser pointer can help them find you in the dark.

Follow good dog etiquette

Fill in any holes your dog may have dug. Remove them if they’re barking too much, or getting overly friendly with other dogs or people. And (nicely) let other dog owners know if their own dogs are causing problems or have made a mess—they may not be aware that their dog is misbehaving!

What are your tips for enjoying the beach with your dog?