Dog-friendly beaches are great because they incorporate keeping cool with play. There are always other dogs around to run and chase sticks with, and one brave swimmer can lead an entire pack into the water to enjoy a good swim. As long as your dog is well socialized, and you introduce your dog to the other dogs and their owners your dog should have a great time interacting with other dogs, getting cooled off in the water, and getting a good dose of exercise in too!
But just because everyone uses the beach for their dogs, doesn’t mean it’s allowed. Know the laws of your city, and the rules at that specific beach. If there are leash laws, bring a long leash to allow your dog to still run in the water while being safely on leash. And always bring poop bags! You don’t want to be that person who doesn’t pick up after his pup… on the beach!
And some breeds simply can’t swim, however. These dogs (typically the more stout breeds, like pugs, bulldogs, etc.) are perfectly fine to run along the shoreline, but if you want to play it safe and give them more freedom in the water, you can always try them out with a doggy lifejacket. Keep in mind, a busy day at a crowded beach probably isn’t the time to test out a lifejacket. You’ll want your dog to get used to the feeling of having it on their body, and again with the feeling of keeping afloat with it. A kiddie pool in the back yard may serve best for testing out a new lifejacket on your pup! (See Publisher Letter on that pool idea!)
Spending so much time in the sun, even when in the water, can still be draining and can lead to sun stroke–which happens to dogs, just as it does with people. Be careful about how much time you allow your dog to spend out in the sun and water, and be ready to call him back for a break every now and again. Bring a beach umbrella or find some shade for a rest before you head back out for the second (or third!) round of play.
And while on subject of water… If you’re swimming in the ocean, remember to bring fresh water for your pup! Likewise, some dogs may not be comfortable in drinking lake water so it’s a good idea to remember to bring a some water for your pup.
Many boat owners are now choosing to take their dogs and cats with them onboard so before you head out on the high seas with your dog or cat…
- Put an ID tag on your them including: Your boat’s permanent marina location and slip number. A phone contact for when you’re afloat. A secondary phone number (a relative, or land based friend).
- Consider having an ID microchip implanted in your pet. The chip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, is inserted at the scruff of the neck and contains a number linked to a national registry.
- Get a personal flotation device (PFD) for your dog or cat, available at most boating stores for $20 to $80. Regardless of how good a swimmer your pet is, a sudden dunking can cause panic. Tip: get a brightly colored life jacket with a handle on top. Get the dog or cat used to wearing the PFD before setting out.
- Teach your dog basic safety commands, such as stay, sit, on boat, off boat, or the all time favorite “do your business”. If you can teach your cat these commands, well, you’re a genius, so let us know how!
- Get seasickness medication for your pet if necessary. Some of the same medications used for humans, such as Benadryl and Dramamine, also work for pets, please consult your vet before giving your pet ANY medications.
Training your dog or cat for the boat
- The best way to introduce your pet to boating is to spend some time together on the boat when it’s tied up to the dock. Training goes something like this: An hour on the dock, a few hours on board then start the engine. To adapt them to the noise and vibration, try a quick trip around the marina or a daysail.
Dogs Only: Practice swimming and rescue drills with your dog. Figure out your plan well in advance. Don’t forget to practice your drills on a nice day, when it’s “fun,” so everyone knows the procedure.
Cats Only : While docked, rig up a self-rescue system, such as a coiled line or carpet strip hanging into the water at each corner of the boat, to make it easier for an overboard cat to climb back on.
Dogs and cats at dock
- Be extra alert at dock, this seems to be where most accidents happen. Make sure your cat or dog knows not to get off the boat without permission.
Dogs or cats on board
- If you tether your pet on the boat, do it in a secure area, and on a short lead. A body harness with a lifting strap is helpful when your pet is tethered. Never leave a tethered pet unattended on deck or dock.
- Consider your boats traction on deck. Is there anyplace your dog or cat is slipping and sliding? Do something about it. Bathroom non-slip backings help.
- Make sure your pet has a shady place to sit on deck.
- Secure the pet’s water dish. A large one kept half full will spill less underway.
Bathroom issues : For dogs a piece of AstroTurf, or a box of sod can work as a substitute when landfall is not possible. The problem isn’t where to go, it is getting your dog to understand it is OK to go. This can be tricky to do with an older dog. Start training on the boat as soon as possible.