Beach Safety for Dogs

One of the greatest things about living in Florida is the beach.  What dog doesn’t like to run along the sandy shore and dip their paws in the salty surf?  Many of my canine friends absolutely love exploring the sights and smells along the coast. But, for all its excitement, the beach can spell trouble, too. Taking time to prepare and knowing what to expect once you get there can make your outing fun – and safe.

Know the Rules

After choosing a hot spot to hang out, check the rules:  remember that beach rules are actually laws, and can be punishable by a citation or fine.

Some beaches only allow dogs on the beach in the early morning and after chow time while others grant round the clock access.  Also, make sure to follow the leash laws – not all dog-friendly beaches have an off-leash policy.  Not picking up poop can harm our coast, so always bring waste bags to clean up after potty breaks.  And stay off the dunes – prohibiting foot, and paw traffic helps protect our shoreline.

Not All Dogs Can Swim

Some dogs woof with excitement for water while others – not so much. Humans assume that all dogs can swim when the truth is, they can’t. You can test and see if your dog is capable of swimming by finding calm water to let him practice his doggie paddle before hitting the waves. When in doubt, it’s best to put them in a life vest for protection. And never let your pet enter the water unsupervised.  Pet parents should always be prepared to save their pets from dangerous conditions – and vicious sea creatures.

Don’t Drink the Water

It can be tempting for your dog to take a quick sip while walking along the shore, but guzzling too much salt water is a bad idea.  It can lead to beach diarrhea and make for a messy ride home.  Pack plenty of fresh, cool water to rehydrate your dog after romping around in the sand.

Block the Rays

Dogs are prone to sunburn just like humans, particularly those breeds that have short hair, white fur, and pink skin. Apply doggie sunscreen (yes, it’s a thing) to the nose, ears, and body at least half an hour before going outside. Do not use sunscreen that contains zinc – it can be toxic to dogs.

Also make sure to have a shady retreat.  Although it may not protect your pet from sunburn, it can help beat the heat.

Protect Your Paws

If the sand is too hot for your feet, chances are it’s also hot enough to burn your pup’s paw. Sharp shells, broken glass, and rough rock also pose a risk.  Use a paw balm or wax for pawtection and inspect your pet’s paws for cuts and scrapes when you get home.

Rinse Well

At the end of the day, rinse off your pet before heading home.  Remove salt and sand from their coat and give the insides of their ears a quick wipe to remove excess water.

Staying safe and maintaining consideration for other beach users, whether human or canine, is the winning combination for an enjoyable time at the beach.

The First Coast has miles of beaches for you and your pooch to spread out and relax. But there are new guidelines to consider during the pandemic. Beach visitors should stay at least 6 feet away (both in water and on land) from people who are not family. Face coverings should be worn when possible and are most essential at times when social distancing is difficult. And hand hygiene should be performed frequently to reduce the spread of bacteria and infectious illness, like COVID-19.